Instruction and assessment methods have changed considerably as the pandemic pushed schools, universities, and colleges to teach online. Students and teachers shifted to new modes of teaching and learning; homeschooling and distance education took place via links, e-books, chat boards, and interactive video calls.
Now that students are back to in-person learning the pressure on networks hasn't been alleviated. Students are now used to learning through new technologies, and their expectations for connectivity remain high.
In-person and digital classes– or a mix of both– continue through network-reliant interactive environments. More classrooms, libraries and laboratories need bandwidth and capacity. Computing applications, which are now front and center in education, must be available 24/7, continually updated, and free of interruptions.
An increasing number of user endpoints and wireless devices combined with exponential bandwidth demands and rising cybersecurity risks are changing how information technology (IT) departments in the education industry plan, build and manage campus networks. Traditional cloud solutions can no longer meet the demands made by these networks, and multi-cloud and hybrid cloud solutions are seeing greater uptake.
Beyond this, forward-thinking institutions are on the path to sustainability and are installing smart classrooms on campuses while prioritizing energy management.
Furthermore, universities also are deploying apps and location-based services to manage the capacity of shared spaces and help students better navigate their campuses. These are valuable tools in the post-pandemic world, and they bring efficiency to students’ lives, making it easier for them to locate classrooms or determine if there's a free desk in the study hall before they arrive.
Meanwhile, education providers can use machine learning and the Internet of Things to monitor room temperatures to create optimal learning environments, or alert students automatically by text messages about where to find the best parking or how long the queue is at the campus coffee shop.
Better campus network management is one way of ensuring availability and uptime so that teachers and students have the performance and bandwidth they need. Automation, artificial intelligence operations, and predictive analytics take the pressure off university IT departments and deliver many perks.
Another point that should be considered is that education and research institutions are among the top targets for cyberattacks – from ransomware to data breaches. Campus offices hold significant amounts of sensitive data for which software-defined security platforms can provide visibility of breaches and immediately, without human intervention, prevent harm from being done. Automation within platforms and systems is the hero of securing data, storage, and networks.
Improving network visibility through an online management tool also means universities can boost their network performance without lifting a finger. Apps and systems using power or capacity that doesn't serve the user experience can be easily redirected. Sensors can be programmed to reroute network capacity to optimize costs.
Modern networks deliver more than just a better user experience. Using insights and data for operational learning can create valuable opportunities.
Digitizing and implementing better network management can increase an organization’s overall profitability. Besides the operational cost efficiencies gained in bringing digital systems together, universities can become more competitive in applying for grants when, for example, a modern network is seen during the bidding process as critical to attracting and retaining students.
University students are among the most demanding digital consumers. Faculties that modernize their networks to exceed students' expectations will evolve and thrive. Optimizing access, speed, bandwidth, and performance is the new standard in enterprise technology, and the education industry is no exception. Taking advantage of intelligent new technologies will attract and retain high-level educators and discerning students.
Written by Moshe Karako (CTO) and Grant Donald (Networking Technology Director) at NTT.