The Growing Trend toward Cloud-Based Learning

By Sameer Bhatia (Profile)
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Wednesday, July 31st 2013
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Businesses in all sectors are in a rush to adopt cloud-based computing. In education, this trend is booming as more and more activities and courses move online and go mobile.

According to Garnter research, cloud computing is now a more than $100 billion industry. Nearly nine out of every ten businesses use at least one cloud-based application, and that number is predicted to grow. The education sector is no exception. Providers at all levels—K-12, higher education, continuing and adult education, and even corporate training—which have traditionally been plagued by low budgets and high costs, are starting to realize the benefits of cloud-based learning. It is estimated that by 2016, schools in K-12 education will spend 27 percent of their IT budgets on cloud computing, while players in the higher education market are expected to spend 34 percent.

Most cloud-based learning applications fall into the software-as-a-service (SaaS) category. From there, though, the options expand into many areas. Schools and training companies are starting to take advantage of global individual applications, like Gmail, collaborative document programs, and web conferencing. In addition, many specialized learning applications are making their way onto the market, from single programs, such as Learning Catalytics, an interactive classroom application, to complete cloud-based learning management systems like ProProfs’ Training Maker. These applications allow educators, especially in online courses, to perform their jobs much more efficiently so they can spend more time actually teaching and less time on class administration. As the Hatsize blog put it: “Cloud-based learning isn’t a redefinition of the electronic learning experience; no, it is more like a better vehicle for the job.”

What are the main benefits of cloud-based learning and how can companies take advantage of this expanding market?
The benefits of cloud-based learning are numerous:

Cost Savings

Education is not unique in that there is tremendous pressure to save money. Budgets are being slashed across the board, from school districts losing federal funding to companies reducing their spending on learning and development. Currently, more than half of schools’ and companies’ IT budgets are spent maintaining infrastructure like servers and storage devices. Moving applications to the cloud can save an average of about 21 percent: the schools and companies no longer need dedicated support staff, and many cloud-based learning applications operate on a subscription basis, so there is considerably less investment required up front. Many cloud-based learning applications also offer free trials of the software, so educators with limited resources can try before they buy.

Time Savings

Cloud-based learning means learning on the go. Unlike brick and mortar classrooms learners do not have to travel to set locations to take classes. They can take the web-based courses from anywhere, at anytime as long as they can connected to the Internet through any mobile device. This is a huge time saver. Especially for companies that albeit involved in high-churn environments (such as construction companies) still have to meet employee compliance standards. Such companies, by adopting cloud-based training programs can easily meet training requirements without stalling production. Online training programs consisting of web-based courses can be taken by employees from their homes or during off hours, which save companies days if not weeks spent conducting traditionally long, drawn-out training programs.