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  • 2 February 2015 13:53

What higher education will look like in 2020

By Gary Newbold, Vice President, Asia-Pacific and Japan, Extreme Networks

The BYOD trend is gaining popularity across Asia Pacific, and the region will continue to witness strong growth driven by burgeoning consumer demand for smartphone and tablet.

According to IDC, mobile devices utilised under the BYOD model accounted for 22.5 per cent of all consumer smartphone sales in 20913, followed by notebook PCs (11.7 per cent) and tablets (4.9 per cent) – and IDC expects strong growth to continue into 2015. This trend is evident in educational 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 Wi-Fi 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 trend is driven by both the students and their educationalists who seek to reduce costs through new technology.

A new style of learning is emerging, and the new tools are expected to change the face of universities and colleges dramatically by 2020.

Campus network at the core

The trend in which students and faculty bring more of their own devices on to campus will continue to escalate, 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, this is already a basic requirement for students: the campus computing environment has become an important consideration for students evaluating colleges. They 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 equipment, and all the appliances throughout campus living groups. This proliferation of network devices requires denser, more reliable and easier ways to manage Wi-Fi connections.

In addition to mobile, the megatrends of social, cloud, big data, and applications will have a dramatic 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 expanding volumes of digital content, as well as monitor the flow of university data with network analytics. The Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) study shows that 74 per cent of college students already use e-books in their classes and half say that e-books are important for their academic success.

Era of the global student

To make it easier for students and faculty to access the network and Internet when they visit other schools, more campuses worldwide will be connected by eduroam, a system that enables visitors at participating campuses to use their home-campus credentials to log on to the network.

Eventually, Student Retention Systems – which are helping some colleges to identify students who are at risk of failing or leaving the school – will improve and achieve wider use. These systems will become a vital part of the student dashboard available to advisers and professors. In the future, network analytics is 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 to reduce attrition, increase student graduation rates, and help with fund-raising.

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 Google Glass and 3D full immersion virtual reality displays. Real-time digital content including video will be shared constantly among classrooms worldwide.

University IT departments can ensure they are prepared for this future by building flexible, scalable, open standards-based network infrastructure. Styles of education are evolving rapidly and Extreme Networks keeps ahead of emerging trends, having been selected recently by Bay of Plenty Polytechnic (New Zealand) to enhance performance and reliability of the school’s network.

To become future-proof, the infrastructure must be capable of providing reliable, high density Wi-Fi and should supply comprehensive application usage analytics. Already network coverage has been extended to athletic facilities and sports stadiums to enhance the student athlete and fan experience. In the future, wearable athletic sensors will provide data to trainers and coaches. As 2020 approaches, universities who partner with network vendors who can help to lead their digital transformation, will have a strong advantage.


David Frost, PR Deadlines, for Extreme Networks. +61.2.4341 5021

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