Every year begins with promises and predictions about technology and its role in education, and 2016 is no different. In a guest column for EdTech Digest, Christian Gilby shared his insights into trends facing higher education institutions in the new year, and infrastructure strategies schools can adopt to help facilitate students' experience on campus. You can read the original article on EdTech Digest.
1) Accelerated Embrace of Digital Instruction
Once-reticent faculty members have now gained proficiencies with modern learning technologies, ranging from streaming video to online testing tools, turbocharging classroom Wi-Fi bandwidth demands. In many cases, the performance and capacity needs of the campus network far exceed what many higher ed IT departments anticipated just a few years ago.
2) Supporting Conference and Event Revenue
Fewer educational facilities stand empty during off-hours and academic breaks as institutions increasingly leverage their brick-and-mortar assets to generate revenue. Naturally, providing quality mobile connectivity is critical to the success of these efforts, particularly when catering to corporate clientele.
3) Students Live Online
To attract and retain students, institutions with residence facilities are acutely aware of the escalating mobile connectivity demands. Streaming video devices, like Apple TV, Fire TV and Chromecast, have become as ubiquitous as gaming devices, wireless audio gear, smartphones, tablets and laptops. With wearables also quickly joining the ranks, the average per-person device count is pushing beyond five or more.
4) Students Want a Better Campus Experiences
As competition for students heats up, higher ed institutions are looking for new ways to enhance campus experiences. Mobility-enabled services, such as wayfinding, are offering solutions to improve navigation around campus.
5) It’s All About Density
As fast as higher education institutions completed projects to blanket facilities with Wi-Fi coverage, the paradigm has shifted to addressing exploding device densities. In other words, very high-density wireless deployments are moving from isolated projects in the largest lecture halls to more commonly occur in spaces wherever multiple individuals gather to live and learn.
Infrastructure Solutions to Match Skyrocketing Demands
Given the skyrocketing data demands across campus, higher education institutions are responding with investments in more robust and manageable networking infrastructure during 2016 and beyond. These initiatives include:
Transitioning to All-Wireless Spaces
The paucity of mobile devices with a wired port makes all-wireless deployments both practical and, increasingly, cost-effective. For example, at Pennsylvania’s West Chester University, where 5,000 mostly-existing student residence units were converted to all-wireless, the institution reported saving over one million dollars by eliminating wired ports for end users.
Rolling Out Mobile Engagement
By leveraging their wireless infrastructures, along with mobile apps and Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons, institutions are enhancing the “always connected” experiences of students and visitors alike. This includes services such as turn-by-turn directions to points of interest, ranging from resources within buildings to external architectural features or even scheduled activities.
Deployment Approaches to Fit Any Budget
To make Wi-Fi modernizations manageable, institutions will not only continue using phased deployments but also leverage tiered approaches. In short, a tiered approach matches use cases with the corresponding APs. For example, cost-effective Wave 1 APs are appropriate for many campus spaces, while Wave 2 APs are more suitable for high-density areas such as lecture halls and conference facilities.
Regardless of your institution’s specific situation, it’s an exciting time for mobile connectivity. With improved infrastructure options, the coming year will see higher ed institutions offering their constituencies with better instructional and recreational connectivity than ever before.