Should chemical educators embrace the cloud?


SUNY, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Oneonta, New York, USA


Cloud computing is the latest buzzword in instructional technology, and it has obvious applications in chemical education. Just as the Internet created new types of connectivity and collaboration, like Email, Learning Management Systems, on-line resources, and social media, the cloud expands these opportunities even further to connect machines, individuals, devices, and processes. This creates new possibilities for collaboration between individual students, faculty and students, and faculty with each other.


Many factors are encouraging the adoption of cloud computing in higher education. Campus administrators find the cloud is an effective way to cut costs and redirect Instructional Technology staff to different priorities. It is becoming common for students to hand in assignments on cloud software like Dropbox or Google Docs. Software companies prefer a cloud subscription model because it creates better cash flow than selling individual downloads of the software, and it also diminishes the need to support previous software versions. The question is not whether chemical educators will use the cloud; it is when they will exploit the full potential of the cloud.   


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” In simple terms, this usu ...