e-Learning in the Cloud

e-Learning in the Cloud

Niall Sclater (The Open University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1770-4.ch002
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Abstract

Elearning has grown rapidly in importance for institutions and has been largely facilitated through the “walled garden” of the virtual learning environment. Meanwhile many students are creating their own personal learning environments by combining the various Web 2.0 services they find most useful. Cloud computing offers new opportunities for institutions to provide dynamic and up-to-date Internet-based, e-learning applications while ensuring high levels of service, and compliance with institutional policies and legislation. The cloud is rapidly evolving in its architecture, the services offered and the logistics of deployment. It brings with it risks but also possibilities for learners and for educational institutions to reduce costs and enhance services. It is likely to severely disrupt the business model developed by existing vendors of VLEs who provide an integrated suite of e-learning tools, installed and maintained by the institution’s IT services department.
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The Cloud Hovers Over The Elearning Landscape

Google’s cloud is a network made of perhaps a million cheap servers distributed in data centres across the World, storing numerous copies of the World Wide Web. This massive, distributed architecture makes searching extremely fast and provides a high degree of resilience, enabling individual servers to be replaced with faster machines after a few years with no impact on overall performance (Baker, 2007). Google and a few other companies with very large high speed distributed networks of computers, notably Microsoft and Amazon, realized that their computing resources were of value to other organisations and could be made available to them for a wide range of applications.

As with the term “VLE”, Cloud Computing has various definitions. Vaquero et al. (2009) examined more than twenty of them and proposed the following:

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