Expert Educator Columns, Featured
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Koen Timmers- Beware! Courseware in the Cloud!

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by Koen Timmers
Expert Educator Columnist, Belgium

As I teach web design, students need to have the right images and pieces of code to create a webpage. At first, I shared these files on our school’s intranet network, which of course can’t be accessed by students who weren’t able to attend my class. The implementation of cloud services seemed to overcome this problem. OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) solved my problem- all students, including those who happened to be ill, were able to access the needed documents and assignments.

After a while I went a step further– I began to share digital courseware on OneDrive. As a  computer science teacher, I strive to create a paperless classroom. I believe digital courseware can offer a lot of benefits and opportunities. Using digital courseware over paper takes some time to be accustomed to; ten years ago, only one student in a large group preferred a digital course. Nowadays, only one student prefers to receive a paper version.

Digital courses are searchable, accessible from anywhere, usually up to date, can promote m-learning (on smartphone and tablet), can be interactive or contain multimedia elements, are cheaper (to be spread in color), and have, generally speaking, better quality (resolution).

Another problem is the fact that books can be outdated. There is also a major difference between a textbook, which describes information, and good courses which offer a well grounded pedagogical structure. Sometimes students can’t find specific information in their textbook. This made me decide to hand out general courseware at the beginning of a course and write specific couseware during my lessons. While I teach my students, I create a word (online) document, on which the progress of exercises is captured and extra information is gathered. At the end of the day, week, or month, students can rehearse and learn by referring back to their courseware, which is an exact copy of the information provided during the lessons. Students can also add their own ideas as well as print out and access the information anytime, anywhere.

Sometimes, the implementation of a new tool has unexpected side effects– in my experience, students began to share their own written tutorials in a shared folder. As this folder is shared to different classes, there begins to grow collaboration between different groups, as they can consult each others’ documents easily and collaborate. A nice side benefit of this process is there’s a nice digital library of resources and information, the result of digital collaboration through OneDrive, that students in future classes can also refer to easily. Now that’s the power of the cloud!

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