What will higher education look like in 2020?
By Gary Newbold February 9, 2015
- Pervasive and reliable WiFi a criterion for students when selecting schools
- Campus networks must support much more than just student and faculty devices
THE BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend is gaining popularity in Asia Pacific, and the region will continue to witness strong growth, driven by burgeoning consumer demand for smartphones and tablets.
In 2013, mobile devices utilised under the BYOD model accounted for 22.5% of all consumer smartphone sales, followed by notebook PCs (11.7%) and tablets (4.9%), according to IDC.
This trend is also evident in educations institutions. Today’s college students are mobile. Whether they are in the classroom, exercising at the gym, studying in the library, or even sleeping in their dorms, they want to be constantly connected.
Critically, pervasive and reliable WiFi will be the prerequisite for providing a quality computing experience and a criterion for students when selecting their schools.
Simultaneously, pressure on colleges and universities to provide the best achievable campus computing experience to both students and staff is continuing to grow.
This is driven by not only the students – who expect to be constantly connected – but also the need to reduce costs through new technology.
The campus network at the core
The trend of students and faculty bringing more of their own devices onto campus will continue to increase dramatically, bringing with it new challenges for educational institutions.
Indeed, with network traffic rising exponentially in schools, the ability to access the network, exchange both structured and unstructured data seamlessly and quickly from anywhere on campus, will be essential.
In fact, it’s a basic requirement for students: The campus computing environment has already become an important consideration for students when evaluating colleges. Students have come to prefer blended learning environments with high digital content, which require a strong network backbone.
The campus network of the future must be capable of supporting much more than just student and faculty devices.
The growing concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) means vast numbers of machines and sensors will be populating campus networks. IDC predicts that there will be 212 billion things on the Internet by the end of 2020.
These devices include building monitors, medical sensors, door locks, cameras, displays, lights, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) equipment, and all the appliances throughout campus living groups. This proliferation of network devices requires denser, more reliable, and easier ways to manage WiFi connections.
In addition to mobile, the megatrends of social, cloud, big data, and apps will have a large impact on colleges and universities.
Just like all businesses, higher education is undergoing a digital transformation. Traditional methods of communication, marketing, and management are being replaced by digital, online, and highly-integrated versions.
The campus network must be able to handle the growing volume of digital content, as well as monitor the flow of university data with network analytics.
The Educause Centre for Analysis and Research (ECAR) study, for instance, shows that 74% of college students already use e-books in their classes and half say e-books are important for their academic success.
The same trend is also prevalent in Asia Pacific: Singapore’s Republic Polytechnic, for instance, makes extensive use of technology. The recently-opened institution decided to move away from book, paper, and pen to create a unique learning environment, with the aim of producing industry-ready professionals.
Era of global students
To make it easier for visiting students and faculty to access the network and Internet when they are at other schools, more campuses worldwide will be connected by eduroam. The eduroam system enables visitors at participating campuses to use their home-campus credentials to log onto the network.
Eventually, Student Retention Systems – which are already helping some colleges identify students who are at risk of failing or leaving the school – will improve and gain more widespread usage. These systems will become a vital part of the student dashboard available to advisers and professors.
In the future, network analytics is also expected to be used to compare student study patterns with those of successful students and provide alerts whenever problems are discovered. Such tools will help reduce student attrition, increase student graduation rates, and help with fundraising.
Learning 2020 and beyond
By 2020, learning will take place literally throughout the campus. The look of classrooms will continue to evolve and may not be recognisable by 2014 standards.
The emphasis will be on flexibility and configurability, enabled by pervasive wireless. Content will be displayable on devices ranging from wireless panels and projectors to personal and wearable devices including 3D full immersion virtual reality displays. Real-time digital content including video will be constantly sharable among global classrooms worldwide.
University IT departments can ensure they are prepared for this future by building flexible, scalable, open standards-based network infrastructure.
To be future-proof, the infrastructure must be capable of providing reliable, high density WiFi and should provide comprehensive application usage analytics.
As the year 2020 approaches, universities who partner with network vendors who can help lead their digital transformation will have a strong advantage.
Gary Newbold is Asia Pacific vice president at Extreme Networks.
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