Last week I began counting down the ten most disruptive technology trends impacting higher education institutions. In this blog, I’m going to take a closer look at the five remaining technologies I predict will radically transform campus networks.

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Academic Big Data: The Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

In my last blog, I focused a lot on science big data and business intelligence, but now I’d like to transition into talking about academic big data and the importance of using data to drive learning, achievement and student assessment. If you’re the parent of a child who’s a junior or senior in high school, perhaps you are already considering where they will be attending university in the next year or so. Undoubtedly, you will want to send your child to an institution that will prepare them for the future in a global economy without depleting the family bank account or leaving your child with years of college debt. Higher education must be affordable, and graduating must be attainable for all students. Universities are facing increasing pressure to make sure college is both affordable and to ensure students can graduate in a timely fashion, as many students are now graduating within 5 to 7 years. One of the ways colleges are confronting this challenge is by analyzing data to see what the success factors are for keeping students in college and getting them to graduate within 4 years. As an IT professional in higher education, I encourage you to visit the College Affordability Scorecard and see how your school ranks and to assess whether there is some way you in your role can help your university to achieve better learning and assessment goals.

Cloud Computing and Service-Oriented Campus Computing Ecosystems

At this point, cloud computing certainly isn’t new for anyone, but as higher education has become increasingly complicated, universities can no longer afford, nor do they have the time to write all of their own applications. We now turn to other companies to provide a variety of programs, services and applications to support our university environments. Today’s colleges must be agile, service-oriented and must deliver a cohesive set of applications that look good and function well, on all devices. University IT managers should be firming up their cloud strategies, especially when it comes to network security, and should be considering how the campus network can best serve the needs of all users at the institution, no matter if they are using on-premise or cloud-based applications.

The Ubiquity of Social Media

The most recent NMC Horizon Report indicated that nearly 2.7 billion people – 40% of the world’s population now use social media. The report states that it will be another two years before the impact of social media on learning is known, but given its popularity, clearly educators are looking for ways to leverage and use social media for pedagogical purposes as well as for marketing. Network managers need to understand the ramifications for poor network performance, and balance current policy against a radically evolving trend that extends far beyond students’ preferred recreational activity. Social media may in fact have a very astonishing effect on student learning and engagement.

Student Shift: From Content Consumers to Content Creators

Students now consume over seven hours of Internet content daily, and much of this content is video. There is now a growing body of evidence to support that students are more engaged and learn more effectively if they also create their own videos for assignments, regardless of the content. Campus network managers need to be more strategic when it comes to managing network traffic across campus locations. We can no longer conclude that all video traffic is for recreational purposes, when more and more videos are being shown in class for legitimate academic needs, and more students are creating their own videos. If you are in charge of a campus network, you need to be aware of the faculty that recommend or require student created video as part of their assignments. You also must assess whether you have sufficient bandwidth to support the doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling of your network resources from the surge of video content.

The Explosive Demand for Online Education

Online education is the single most important trend on this list that will transform our networks, if not our lives. The transition to a variety of online, hybrid and collaborative learning environments, whether they are MOOCs, or online modules within existing courses on campus, need to be well supported by every part of the organization, including our networks and systems. Nascent technologies often underserve their customers, so my challenge to you is to not underserve your customers – your faculty, staff and students – but rather exceed their expectations for network reliability, security and performance by optimizing real time flows such as voice and video, and understanding how your students (those who live on campus and those who don’t) connect to the university network and understand what their quality of experience needs to be in order for them to be successful.

Campus Networks Power Student Success

To wrap up my two-part series, I want to reiterate that nothing is more important than student success: preparing students to participate in the workforce in a global economy and graduating students in a timely fashion. And these days, student success is closely tied to a network that can support an explosion in mobile devices and surging demand for anywhere, any time connectivity. Campus network managers have an important role to play in keeping pace with these dramatic changes and trends in emerging technologies. Through stewardship of the university’s data network – which is the primary conduit for communication, discovery, teaching, learning, and research – network managers make daily contributions to the success of the university. In fact some of the most important discoveries, achievements, theories and inventions are the direct result of research conducted at your university campus, through the timely and appropriate management of the campus network. By staying on top of trends that impact both the academic and the business bottom lines of the university, network managers have the opportunity to enact transformative change for the next generation of students and society.

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What educational trends are affecting your campus network?