Education: Future of School on Cloud
A vision of a school that will have a personalized education delivery system, leveraging research in personalization, feedback mechanisms, network architecture, computing, storage, virtual school provisioning, and education service delivery.
- January 2011
- By TR Editors
The industrial revolution in the eighteenth century gave rise to a model of education, with the school as a factory for mass production. The model has scaling problems, quality problems, and the notion of “one size fits all”. According to the Central Board of School Education, India has a current shortage of 200,000 schools. To build 200,000 schools will require a long time and a lot of capital. Also, building a school by itself does not ensure quality education. Unless personal attention is provided to the individual student, the quality of learning is unlikely to improve. The schools have not been able to address the problem of personalized learning, though teachers have tried to do so to some extent by giving private tuition and opening tutoring institutes. Now there is pervasive deployment of new information technology resources (computer, cell phones, other handheld devices) in the educational systems to address the pressing issues of the education sector.
The Indian government has launched major initiatives to promote education through information and communications technology. The major problems in using ICT to promote education are: difficulties in scaling up, inability to provide real-time feedback to the teacher, the cost of access devices at the user-end, and more. To overcome the challenges, the government has been steadily increasing the allocation of public resources to education. Moreover, with the enactment of the Right to Education Bill, there is a strong need to increase the number of teachers in schools. It is also necessary to improve the effectiveness of teachers by making available the right tools and technology. There is a need to offer students opportunities to learn by themselves for example, by watching television, using computer, studying online content. Unfortunately, these facilities are not yet available to majority of students.
THE FUTURE SCHOOL
Hewlett-Packard has developed a new vision of how a future school will look like. It will have a personalized education delivery system dependent on cloud platform, leveraging research in personalization, feedback mechanisms, network architecture, computing/storage, virtual school provisioning, and education service delivery. The future school will provide an online school hosting service where anyone who wishes to create an online virtual school can use the infrastructure (servers, storage, communication, and e-learning software) required for hosting and running an online school. This will also address the problem of synchronization of educational content with latest developments and industry trends. The school will facilitate teacher-student interaction for every learner to utilize services of the best teachers to get quality education from anywhere at affordable cost while encouraging a competitive environment for teachers to innovate new techniques in teaching. The interaction facility will also support institutions and teachers to offer tuition over the Internet. The future school’s facilities will include audio/video sessions or online chats that would enable a convenient and effective environment for learning. In addition, there will be a facility to use educational content enrichment tools for authoring, reviewing, and publishing to promote creation of new content.
The future school will result in a large cloud platform for educational service delivery that offers personalized education with a school-like experience. On the client side, the research will focus on how to use video and personalization to automate the delivery of the routine educational content, thereby enabling teacher interaction to be focused on the content the student has trouble understanding. The future school will enable virtual classrooms, collaboration, educational networking, and service delivery aspects to provide a good learning experience. On the server side, HP’s research will focus on creation of a cloud based, multi-instance hosting platform where multiple online schools can simultaneously run.
HP plans to focus on enhancing user experience through personalization with user selection of preferred media – text, video/audio, slides, and more. The student’s learning style would be taken into account to choose the appropriate method of instruction. The system will provide for student-teacher interactions to occur over the network, to handle situations in which the student is unable to learn a topic without human help. The solution will support virtual classrooms in which groups of students can be given presentations.
The Future School project will need to be carried out in phases beginning with pilot projects and creation of the technical infrastructure in parallel with relevant research and training as well as building up of large groups of educational content and service providers. Collaboration between brick and mortar institutions and online schools would be required to provide the right blend of educational resources—human and technical, physical and virtual. This project aims for a nationwide reach using Internet connectivity available over large parts of India as well as the cellular network which has a broader coverage. The system will support a variety of wireless Internet access technologies such as GPRS, 3G, CDMA, WiFi and WiMax, in addition to broadband connections over landlines.
Facilities for supervised evaluation will support virtual schools prior to certification of students. Online schools could also prepare students to benefit from open school systems that certify students on the basis of their tests/examinations. The solution will also give access to all open educational resources as well as to commercially available content. Moreover, courses offered/supported over the network can be frequently updated. Educational content on the Web has enormous variety, supporting every learning style.
Addressing the problem of a talent gap in the population, the future school will enable students to learn what they need and when they need it. Students will be allowed to study in job-oriented courses along with academic courses if they wish to, after attaining a specified minimum of academic requirements.
The fact that everyone involved in the system can share in revenues to the extent of their contribution will offer incentives to good teachers and organizations to participate. Students would be free to choose among the many institutions and teachers on the system and this will promote quality and affordability.
HP has visualized the system with an infrastructure covering technical as well as organizational/business requirements. It will allow a large number of players, individual teachers as well as organizations, to share the technical facilities without being regimented about their objectives, area of work, style of teaching, or fees. It will enable teachers to contribute individually or through organized institutions, groups, and companies. It also allows learners to get private tuition without having to commute.
The first challenge is the creation of a specialized infrastructure of educational software systems and tools, providing ease of access to quality educational content. This infrastructure should enable every group sharing the infrastructure to benefit from advanced personalization facilities as well as evaluation and feedback mechanisms. The second challenge is to create a huge cloud-based system providing computing, storage, and communication resources on a massive scale. It should support the operation of a large number of separate groups to benefit from the common infrastructure; it should also offer them the freedom and flexibility to grow at their own pace on the technical resources involved. In other words, virtual school provisioning should be easy, enabling flexible assignment of requisite types and quantities of computing resources to each group. It should also enable users to choose specialized software and middleware for running an online school.
Another challenge is the availability of a large number of affordable, easy-to-use, robust, and easy-to-maintain devices for Internet access that will be needed for use by students; a large fraction of these will be owned by families, schools, and other teaching institutes. The complexity of current operating systems and their interfaces is a major impediment to the use of ICT in education. Hence, devices with simpler interfaces are required for students to use them intuitively at various levels.
The education sector is a fast growing segment because a large and increasing fraction of the population (30%) in the emerging markets is of school and college students. Non-availability of qualified teachers is another impediment to the spread of quality education. An increasing number of students are availing distance education, but level of educational achievement possible with distance education remains low in India. All these factors indicate that there is a need for new channels of education service delivery to large student population which can give quality education. The challenge is to invent new models for public-private partnerships to serve the education field. New taxation and regulatory policies will be required and a regulatory mechanism will need to be created.
The Future School will provide a perfect platform to connect government policies and India’s middle class expectations in return for their willingness to pay for good education.