Students starting external courses at the University of Alberta this week are the first users in a pilot project to deliver online course materials from the cloud.
The University has teamed up with NAIT and Athabasca University to develop a shared pool of computing resources, called a cloud, for hosting learning management systems, such as Moodle, Blackboard or D2L, which are now ubiquitous in education.
'The cloud environment is transforming the way people think about the services they deliver, and this includes universities and schools,' says John Shillington, Vice President of Technology at Cybera, the Alberta agency that built the pilot cloud infrastructure for the three partner institutions. 'The cloud provides much more freedom for individual schools because it is a massive shared resource that, by design, can be easily scaled up or down, or adapted as needs change.'
The Learning Management Cloud project, which begins this week in the University of Alberta's eClass external courses, is one of several inter-institutional projects underway in Alberta to increase efficiency in the education sector by aggregating computing and networking services.
'Technologies are emerging that make it possible to improve services within our own classrooms by collaborating with other institutions,' says Jonathan Schaeffer, Dean of Science at the University of Alberta. 'The cloud is a perfect case in point.'
The concept of the cloud in computing has become popular in the commercial sphere but is not yet well developed for use in research and education, especially in Canada. Because many partners share a large-scale resource, each has access to a much more powerful pool of computing resources. Traditional bottlenecks that cause slower service during peak periods can therefore be eliminated.
'A collaborative initiative like the Learning Management Cloud paves the way for future joint systems development,' says Brian Stewart, Vice-President of Information Technology at Athabasca University.
All University of Alberta learning management course materials are scheduled to move to the cloud this fall. NAIT will also pilot the Learning Management Cloud with the start of the fall semester. Athabasca University will begin its pilot in 2013.
Communications Manager, Cybera