Recently I was exposed to NCLab and online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) aimed at Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students. This enables students to explore and investigate various technologies used in their disciplines. The site mimics an actual desktop, and with the various icons to indicate the various subcategories.
This seems like a very effective way of conveying ideas, concepts and techniques to students, and has been used by educators for primary and secondary students. Collaboration and co-operation is heavily encouraged on the site, as free users are obliged to share (and allow for cloning) all work they produce through the site’s modules, and generally benefits all in the process.
NCLab looks to be a breakthrough in Education. People can gain knowledge through the free resources (such as e-books and wikis), experimentation through the online lab, as well as help from fellow members with no impact on or influence by, the users computer.
VLEs are nothing new to the education sector. I personally have used them in some shape or form both in Secondary School and University. However, this takes it to the next level. Most traditional VLEs make use of just one of the key features that NCLab exhibits: online resources. I have also experienced environments where collaboration is encouraged through Wikis. There are even several online laboratories to help students, so what is the breakthrough?
This idea that now online resources are truly accessible and versatile is the major selling point. Now irrespective of platform, make or specifications means that students can use sites like NCLab in any location, on any (internet-connected) device.
The Future of Education
I think that the future of education may be severely influenced by this new type of VLE. I believe that it will take the pressure of the the teacher and onto private learning, whether from home or in the classroom. The way I see it, using this type of website on a school level, will enable teachers to put work, tutorials, videos (anything really, as there is no restriction as to what type of resources can be accessed by students), and then see and mark any work that is done.
When put like that, it does seem that incorporating Cloud technology does not do much for the future of education, but what has to be understood is that doors are opened and limitations reduced. In my opinion the best part about it is that NCLab is still in its infancy, with only 10,000 registered users, which means that the full power of Cloud Computing is yet to be harnessed in education.