As tools such as Google, YouTube, and Twitter grow in popularity and usage, youll see repeated reference to software thats available in the cloud. Software, companies like Microsoft and Adobe are offering their entire product catalog as a cloud-based subscription service. Hardware vendors are also taking notice to the development of tablets and other portable devices as the requirement for local storage declines.
The cloud and its close relatives, web-based software, and Software as a Service (SaaS) are quickly becoming ubiquitous in the information technology lexicon. But what do they mean, how are they used, and what is their role in the delivery of an LMS solution?
Lets first define each of the related terms because they are, in fact, different although the lines are beginning to blur.
Cloud Computing describes the use of the internet to access hardware, software, and other services on demand. Cloud computing may or may not include a cloud-based application. A typical cloud computing solution offers:
- lower hardware costs
- pay only for what you use
- flexible scalability
- Examples of cloud-based services are Google Documents, YouTube, and Amazon Web Services
Web-based software requires use of a browser to access a software application over the internet. The advantages of a web-based application are:
- no client software to install or maintain
- real-time data is accessible from anywhere
- cross platform compatibility
- Examples include Mint financial management application, Quantify Collaboration software, and your online banking application
Software as a Service describes software that is delivered on demand over a network. Its typically rented through a subscription model. SaaS tends to be used in smaller scale applications. The features of SaaS include:
- rapid installation and roll-out
- lower up-front fees
- minimal ongoing maintenance requirement
- SaaS examples include Adobes Creative suite, Salesforce, and Hubspot
Having cleared the air (so to speak) on what cloud computing is, it’s pertinent to examine the benefits on the cloud-based option as a LMS hosting solution.
In the past, learning management systems were typically of a homegrown variety and safely tucked away on your server. That architecture offered some peace of mind because your data was securely stored behind your firewall. When cloud-based hosting options first appeared, security of data was often cited as one of its major shortcomings. However, as cloud-based solutions matured, the advantages became too obvious to ignore.
There are four main advantages of using a cloud-based LMS that you really need to consider.
Integrated Single Platform
A fully scalable cloud-based LMS is one that integrates effortlessly with existing technologies such as authoring and scheduling tools. This makes it possible for learning professionals to deliver training, assess and analyze student and course performance, and apply that knowledge to improve their content and course design.
Hosting an LMS inhouse is an expensive proposition. Hardware and software costs are not inconsequential plus payroll costs for programmers, database administrators, support and maintenance staff will be ongoing. With a cloud-based solution, most of those costs disappear. Instead of spending money on infrastructure and salaries, you can invest in elearning content and human capital.
A cloud-based solution encourages collaboration. Learners can interact with each other and share knowledge. Communities of interest become an invaluable source of feedback for content authors, instructional designers, and elearning providers. Many cloud-based solutions like MoodleRooms are open source and contributions from the community are essential to their continued applicability and growth.
Cloud-based LMS solutions make it easy to add online services from multiple sources. Especially web based resources like Pinterest, Youtube, Dropbox and Linkedin become resources that support collaboration and can provide digital assets for course creation.
It’s not an overstatement that cloud based software solutions, in particular LMS solutions, will become the norm in 5 years time. More and more elearning companies are adding that to their offering and the benefits are simply too great.
A cloud-based LMS is highly-recommended but do the rest of the features of the LMS you’re investigating or currently using stack up? Read our free ebook What’s The Difference Between an LMS and an LCMS for more information.