Online Blogucation

Head in The Cloud

Recently, I was working with one of Pearson’s latest and greatest new products, OpenClass. Here are a couple of talking points about OpenClass for consideration:

  • In The Cloud — Our cloud-based architecture gives us the unique ability to evolve rapidly and incrementally – without the need for large-scale upgrades or major upheavals in user experience. New releases are instant, with no need to schedule downtime or interrupt your service. But we also recognize that control and customization are important, so we'll always announce when new features are available and provide you with the option to test-drive them before ultimately rolling them out to your institution.
  • On The Go — OpenClass is already extending the experience of learning to mobile phones and tablets, and mobile functionality is improving every day. Dedicated apps for Apple iOS and Google Android are in development and we'll be opening up our mobile API's for institutions to advance and customize as they choose.

Okay, so that’s the commercial for OpenClass. Let’s talk about these two concepts — the cloud and mobile technology — as they relate to building courses in OpenClass and indeed how it will relate to many mobile-based solutions going forward.

Flash back briefly to a blog post I wrote in September 2011, “Why the iPad Didn’t Work for Me.” One of the features (or lack thereof) that I didn’t like was that in trying to build content in my courses, I couldn’t browse to files, such as images, and upload them to my course. That is, I had no equivalent of the “Finder” on my Mac or “Libraries” on my Windows 7 computer. So, when I wanted to insert an image, I had no way to actually grab it and put it in my content page.

Now, flash forward to today and the rapid expansion of the use of tablets. Recently, eMarketer wrote an article estimating of tablet usage through 2014. Here’s a chart of their results:

Chart of Growth in Tablet Usage Through 2014

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that our nation’s population will grow to 321 million by 2014. That means that approximately 28% of all men, women, and children in the U.S. will be using a tablet within two years. Staggering!

Why should we care? Apple revolutionized the use of the tablet when it did not include a file manager system in the iPad. Google’s Android OS is similar. If you want to access a file, you need to have it already on the Web somewhere — in other words, in The Cloud. There are literally thousands (maybe millions?) of apps that already do this. I can take a photo on my Droid and upload it to Flickr. I can shoot a video on my iPad, edit it with iMovie, and upload it to YouTube. I can apply really neat effects to a photo with Instagram and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and a bunch of other sites.

All of these services are in the cloud. In fact, if I wanted to have one of these files locally, I would first have to download it from the cloud. Very little of my mobile computing experience is actually transferred to my computer anymore, and I expect your experience is similar.

It is therefore appropriate that my learning management system would also be cloud-based, which brings me back to OpenClass. Recently I was writing a Share post in OpenClass. The Share tool is kind of a combination blog and twitter feed with lots of other bells and whistles that make it easy for students and instructors to share ideas with their class, across classes or other groups, or even across the entire institution. I noticed in the Visual Editor in Share I have the option to enter URLs for photos and videos. What’s the point of that?, I wondered. Why wouldn’t I just browse to the image on my hard drive?

Then it hit me: mobile…cloud… Ah, yes! I can create my Share post on my iPad, and I can use Share’s Visual Editor to paste in links to YouTube videos, images on Flickr, and so on. So, if I keep my content in the cloud, I can access it on my mobile device or my computer (or even on someone else’s computer), without any trouble. It’s in the cloud; it’s always there.

So, the more I move my learning materials to the cloud, the easier it will be for me to access them from mobile devices and share them with my students — more and more of whom will be accessing courses on their mobile devices. It’s an inevitable shift. How might you make the cloud work for you?

Rob Kadel, Ph.D.
Pearson Academic Training & Consulting

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