For a long time, the word “telephony” meant traditional forms of communication, including phone and email. If a student missed a class and needed to reach a professor, he or she would be able to call the professor’s office phone or send an email. However, the sweeping technology innovations enabled by mobile and cloud computing have changed the way people communicate across the world, even on academic campuses.
Ten years ago, the iPhone was introduced, followed by the iPad three years later. This jumpstarted the smartphone and tablet industries and brought texting, instant messaging and video calling into the hands of students.
Because of these and other innovations, telephony has gone through a massive transformation. It has moved away from a singular communication method to technology that requires multiple methods of collaboration. Educational institutions now must assess how best to support the next-generation methods of communication that students are using.
The telephony tools of the past will not be sufficient for students moving forward. Students today expect high-definition video, send thousands of messages from their mobile devices and rely on virtual assistants like Siri. Access to any subject-matter expert anywhere in the world via HD video, virtual field trips and even virtual reality in the classroom is available today or in the near future.
To meet students’ needs, universities are transforming traditional tools like email and telephony to platforms that include instant messaging, video calling, multi-touch virtual collaboration and more.
However, to make sure they are getting the best outcomes, universities should consider the following requirements.
1. Consider Rapid Iteration When Choosing Tools
Collaboration tools delivered in an education environment will need to constantly evolve with new capabilities to keep pace with student expectations.
When collaboration is delivered from the cloud it enables the rapid iteration of features and capabilities, allowing applications to update continuously while removing the burden of manual software upgrades and software management tasks.
The cloud, in turn, helps eliminate the artificial boundaries of a campus environment, enabling collaboration with anyone else who is connected to the cloud.
2. Ensure High-Quality Collaboration Tools Are Available
To facilitate distance learning and global collaboration, colleges and universities need to be able to bring anyone into their classrooms, from anywhere in the world, via high-definition video.
If these capabilities are not provided by the university, then students, faculty, researchers, departments and administrators will download alternative tools to get their work done. When users use alternative tools to communicate, instead of the tools approved by the IT department, they create shadow IT that compromises security and inhibits seamless collaboration across the education environment.
Amazing collaboration experiences are easy to use; as good if not better than being there in person; and leverage HD video, virtual whiteboards and other advanced capabilities to enable teams to work across geographic boundaries in ways never possible before.
3. Embrace Mobile Possibilities for Working Together
Mobile devices and applications are an integral part of students’ lives, so colleges and universities need to be prepared to embrace these devices.
A next-generation collaboration solution will need to be designed from the ground up to embrace and leverage mobility.
Campus networks need to be prepared to handle the bandwidth and application prioritization that is required to deliver real-time voice and video collaboration.
4. Choose Interactive Whiteboards and Video Tools for Classrooms
Colleges and universities need to enhance classroom collaboration with interactive whiteboards and high-definition video, where the professor, students or subject-matter expert can be anywhere in the world.
There should be no boundaries regarding the location, the number of collaborators or the collaboration tools colleges and universities choose to leverage. Additionally, digital copies and/or recordings of all communication should be easily and instantly available for easy recall of information and further offline collaboration.
5. Take Advantage of Next-Generation Messaging
Messaging has become the communications tool of choice for millennials. As such, mobile messaging solutions have evolved to integrate security and IT requirements that now make them viable for education environments.
6. Remember to Keep IT Basics Top of Mind
In addition to the above requirements, there are three overall concepts to keep in mind when setting up a collaboration platform for the education environment:
- Simplicity: Next-generation collaboration solutions should be simple to deploy, manage and evolve. End users shouldn’t need a manual to use them.
- Security: Next-generation collaboration solutions will need to be architected with security at the forefront and have it tightly integrated across all of the new collaboration capabilities.
- Open Platform: Next-generation collaboration solutions should be standards-based and provide a suite of application programming interfaces for real-time voice, video, messaging and other core capabilities. This functionality ensures compatibility with other solutions in the market and enables real-time integration into other mission-critical applications on campus.
What we used to think of as telephony has now evolved into collaboration, with capabilities to help students, faculty and administrators connect from anywhere in truly innovative ways.
Collaboration will power the next-generation classroom and unlock the unlimited potential and innovation within the modern student. It is an exciting time with unlimited possibilities ahead, and next-generation collaboration is within our grasp.