Cloud Computing at NC State: Equitable Technology for all students?

National Communication Association“What’s really interesting for communication scholars is the distance that we can go in a digital communication world.” In her presentation entitled “Cloud computing, virtual computing labs, and technologically facilitated communication: The promise of advanced technologies in teaching, learning, and the community,” Sarah R. Stein of North Carolina State University discussed connections between teaching, learning and the adoption of cloud computing technology. Her roles in EDUCAUSE; the Teaching, Learning and Technology Roundtable; the Virtual Computing Lab; and 2 other grant projects informed her presentation.

Cloud computing is the process of providing software and content to users on demand through the Internet. Information is stored in a central server (in the cloud) and students, professors, and others can access the information at their convenience. The major benefit of cloud computing remains the removal of technical barriers to information.

Stein attempted to dispel the myth that “technology is just the tool; success depends upon how you use it.” For example, the stylistic constraints of learning systems’ discussion boards do not inspire students to collaborate. Instead, a moderated blog might better inspire conversation.

The cloud computing solution created at NC State improved instruction in three ways:

  1. Efficiency: Maintenance occurred for personal computers, but information was stored in the cloud.
  2. Equity: All users on various computers of all ages could access the cloud through the Internet.
  3. Economics: Cloud computing created little cost for refreshing lab computers.

Cloud computing is positioned to open the doors of access to instruction. For example, I use this website to host course material for many classes in a manner that allows me to better control the visual design. Is cloud computing the future for instruction? And, in what ways will cloud computing impact instruction?


  1. Fascinating final thought from Susan R. Stein: “Most of the barriers to technology today are not technical, they are cultural.” Cloud computing removes technical barriers, to a degree, but cultural barriers remain. How can we continue to remove barriers to information?

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