By Jim Shimabukuro
At the Aligning the Ubiquitous Campus Conference 7.0 (Nov. 17-19, 2010, Wyndham Conference Center and Hotel, Plainsboro, New Jersey), three Brookdale Community College (Lincroft, New Jersey) staff members made a presentation that should have had a seismic impact of at least 9.0 on the higher ed community. I wish I had been there — or at least had the chance to review the transcript or the recordings, if there were any. Instead, all I have is the preview,* but that’s enough to rock my world.
The three are Greg Liano, Associate Professor, Mathematics, Ben Broder, Director of Technical Services, and Patricia Kahn, Executive Director Information Technology Services, and the title of their presentation was “Cloud Computing at Brookdale Community College — The Solution to a Multitude of Challenges.” I’m not sure if their intent was to present their solution as a model for change, but it serves this purpose very well. In the following list, I added the text in bold to emphasize the phases of change:
- Leave the ground: “away from a siloed IT environment”
- Settle in clouds: in “an environment where permeable boundaries are created and increased engagement is fostered through the cloud”
- Grow on clouds: “[expand] on cloud computing initiatives already in place (i.e. student Gmail and Google Docs)”
- Build cloud classrooms: “[provide] access to virtual classrooms that [alleviate] the challenges associated with classroom space and scheduling”
- Explore the silver lining: take cloud classrooms “one step further [toward] true innovation [by] expanding virtual access to students and faculty from off campus remote locations”
What makes Liano, Broder, and Kahn special is that they are able to see beyond the immediate uses and forms of cloud computing and cloud classrooms. Yes, they have their immediate campus-based uses, but they also point the way to uses that transcend the physical time and space limitations imposed by non-cloud, or physical campuses. They say, “Brookdale has taken this cloud initiative one step further, by allowing students to access these desktop applications from the comfort of their own home.” The future is a cloud campus, and Brookdale has already taken the first steps in that direction. Here’s how they describe their effort:
This is where Brookdale has demonstrated true innovation, where students were offered the same cloud computing experience as if they were in front of the classroom or library computer. This remote instance of cloud computing provided an enhanced learning experience for the student without the constraints of physical limitations. Instructors provided students with assignments and projects that used the same applications being used during class time. In the past, student projects were limited because resources that were needed to complete these assignments could only be accessed on campus. Now these same resources are accessible from a remote location, so students are no longer limited.
Clouds, MOOCs, virtual learning environments — we’re experimenting with many different ways to raise learning off the ground, but the goal is the same — to release it from the constraints of buildings and classrooms to make anytime-anywhere learning a reality.
* WebCite alternative.
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