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The cloud has become a widely used term in academia and the industry. Education has not remained unaware of this trend, and several educational solutions based on cloud technologies are already in place, especially for software as a service cloud. However, an evaluation of the educational potential of infrastructure and platform clouds has not been explored yet. An evaluation of which type of cloud would be the most beneficial for students to learn, depending on the technical knowledge required for its usage, is missing. Here, the first systematic evaluation of different types of cloud technologies in an advanced course on network overlays with 84 students and four professors is presented. This evaluation tries to answer the question whether cloud technologies (and which specific type of cloud) can be useful in educational scenarios for computer science students by focusing students in the actual tasks at hand. This study demonstrates that platform clouds are valued by both students and professors to achieve the course objectives and that clouds offer a significant improvement over the previous situation in labs where much effort was devoted to setting up the software necessary for course activities. These results most strongly apply to courses in which students interact with resources that are non-self-contained (e.g., network nodes, databases, mechanical equipment, or the cloud itself), but could also apply to other science disciplines that involve programming or performing virtual experiments.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2011