Students looking up their course grades or reading materials online today at the University of Alberta and NAIT are taking part in a novel cloud initiative.
The institutions have teamed up to develop a shared pool of computing resources, called a cloud, for hosting their learning management systems, in this case Moodle. Athabasca University will be joining the pilot project this spring.
"The cloud is transforming the way services are delivered, particularly at 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. "In this case, the cloud should provide cost savings for the individual schools, as 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 has now been rolled out for all classes at NAIT and the University of Alberta, is one of several inter-institutional projects underway in Alberta to increase efficiencies in the education sector by aggregating computing and networking services.
"Our knowledge-inspired economy grows faster with a technologically-inspired education and innovation system," says Stephen Khan, Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education. "Great ideas, great products and services, great careers and great discoveries all build a dynamic society and the Learning Management Cloud makes Campus Alberta and the Alberta Innovates system leaders in collaboration and sharing of critical information and services."
The concept of the cloud in computing has become popular in the commercial sphere but is not yet fully utilized 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 tools. Traditional bottlenecks that cause slower service during peak periods can therefore be reduced.
"Our Learning Management System is a critical IT resource fundamental to faculty and students. Moving Moodle to the Learning Management Cloud helps NAIT ensure that we can meet the expectations of users as their reliance on Moodle at NAIT continues to grow," says Helen Wladyka, CIO at NAIT.
The University of Alberta piloted the project in its eClass external courses this past summer. Athabasca University will pilot its learning management system on the cloud this spring.