Higher education institutes are constantly trying to improve today. Quality has become the focus of every institute, in the competitive world. They are trying to use innovative techniques and technology for providing education; creating a major shift in the way the education is given. IT has become more learner centric, as compared to instructor centric. Collaboration communication and sharing have become central to the learning experience. One of the key technology models used for this is Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing presents a huge opportunity in the field of education through various apps, which are paid as well as free. One such app, which can be used in education, is Google Apps. In this paper, some of the Google Apps, which can be used for education, have been presented, additionally the strategy for implementing them has been detailed.
Google Apps, Cloud Services, Higher Education, Google Vault, Google Docs, Google Sheet.
The number of students seeking higher education in India is increasing exponentially and India has the largest higher education (HE) sector. There are 14.6 million students, undergoing HE, in India, as of 2011, and this number is expected to be 40 million, by 2020 . The recommended student-teacher ratio, as per government norms is 5:1, but currently this ratio is very high at 26:1 . This high ratio is highly detrimental, in providing quality education. The quality of education is very poor, as we are still following the traditional method of instruction. In any attempt to impart education, the faculty is at the centre; and the one way interaction provided is limited to a select few. Most of the time, the students are passive and spend a considerable amount of unguided time, outside the classroom, to understand and retain the content, imparted to them. The faculty member needs to have effective speaking skills and writing skills in order to get his/her point across .
One way to solve the above issues could be collaborative learning, which means learning in teams. Collaborative learning is an approach in which groups of learners work together, to solve a problem, complete a task or create a product. Learning takes place, through active engagement, among peers, either face-to- face or online. The benefit of this approach is that students engage in subject specific discussions with peers and learn how to work cooperatively and support each other. As a result, they assimilate multiple views that deepen knowledge and promote critical thinking .
Another form of collaborative learning is discussing in an online learning community, using text, audio, video or other internet supported tools, through which students and teachers connect freely. The scope of collaboration broadens, in this type of learning. Such kind of online collaborative learning environment has been possible because of the birth of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 or the “read-write” web has the ability to contribute content and interact with other web users. This interaction and contribution has dramatically changed the landscape of web based learning . This has also led to a change in the learning and teaching methodologies, as compared to those in the web 1.0 era, which was the “read-only web”. Web1.0 offered very few ways for user interaction or content contribution. Higher education too has transformed from the so-called H.E. 1.0 to H.E. 2.0 era. Students and faculty members are extensively using some of the Web 2.0 applications, such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter, to create and share educational content.
Cloud computing has the potential to play a vital role in education transformation. According to a Gartner survey of higher education institution CIOs, 49 percent of institutions have already been involved in some type of cloud sourcing, with this having increased to 67 percentage by 2012 [R5]. According to a 2011 study by CDW, only 5% percent of U.S. college and university respondents were not considering cloud migration. About 29% had developed a written strategic plan, for the adoption of cloud computing, with 28 percent in the midst of implementation . In February 2011, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) developed a new programme that would invest up to £10 million in cloud computing, shared IT infrastructure and support to deliver virtual servers, storage and data management applications, for universities and colleges .
1.1 Advantages of Cloud Adoption to the Education Sector The cloud can transform the educational sector, by providing tools, such as Learning Management Systems, Online Portals, and Virtual Remote Classrooms . Adoption of these tools could be done at reasonable costs, using the cloud. The advantages include:
Despite the enormous advantages offered by a cloud, there remains a need to distil it into a practical, consistent, accessible framework for education. To understand cloud computing, in the context of education, it would be useful to begin by understanding the notion of “service.” A service is a type of software function or capability that is accessible anytime and anywhere, via a compute device, such as a laptop, desktop, handheld PDA or a cell phone. Some of the more common examples of cloud services are Google Apps, Amazon EC2 and SalesForce.com. Other, more generic services include wikis, blogs, and email. From a user’s perspective, a cloud can make all of these (and more) services available in such a way that the user does not have to be concerned with where the services originate or even where the services are running. The services are just “out there” somewhere, in the cloud; and the user can access them at any time, from any device .
Google Apps was launched by Google in 2006. Since its inception, there has been considerable growth and adoption of the suite. The last reported numbers state that there are over 5 million organisations using Google Apps, with 50 million users; and it seems like more organisations go Google everyday .
The education sector has perhaps adopted Google Apps more quickly than any other. For Educational institutions, Google provides Google Apps free of charge, so it’s almost a no brainer, when looking at price (or lack thereof) and existing familiarity of many students with Google products (Gmail, Chat, Calendar etc.). Over 20 million students use Google Apps, for education, around the world. So too, almost 72 top US universities are using Google Apps, including Princeton, Brown, Northwestern, Georgetown and Vanderbilt. In 2013, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education adopted Google Apps for Education, for 10 million students [R11].
Google Apps for education is leading the way at no cost. Google Apps is built around a set of cloud-based services that include email, hosting, word processing, file storage and file collaboration tools. The benefit for institutions is clear - Google Apps allow colleges and universities to ‘plug and play’, leveraging valuable technology, without huge investments, in planning and development, data centers, and IT staff . With its accessibility, growing popularity, and flexible uses, it is the perfect time to examine the specific services of Google Apps, while exploring their benefits for students and faculty alike.
Google Apps for Education don’t end here. Additional tools include Apps Marketplace, Google Moderator, Google Scholar, Google Desktop, etc.