In the business sector, forward-thinking companies are embracing digital transformation, an integrated strategy to leverage connected devices — and the data they generate — to drive efficiency, customer engagement and revenue. Their experiences preview some of the innovations that will likely hit campus as these trends make their way to higher education.
What is emerging as the “connected campus” varies from institution to institution, but the one constant is technology: tools and solutions that facilitate and transform learning and collaboration.
We’re already seeing pedagogy evolve in response to these new capabilities, and operational changes are not far behind. In a recent Gartner survey, 59 percent of higher education CIOs said they expect business models to shift significantly as a result of digital transformation. And 86 percent of leaders said they believe the connected campus is the campus of the future, according to a 2017 Center for Digital Education survey.
The connected campus is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Individual institutions will develop the best strategy for their communities, and these will evolve in response as new challenges and opportunities emerge. In general, however, leaders believe the following technologies will play a key role in the campus of the future. Understanding these trends is important, because they will drive the IT investments required to support them, particularly in networking, security and analytics software.
1. Connected Classrooms Increase Engagement
Gone are the stagnant classrooms of the past, where students sit in fixed rows and listen to a lecture. Today’s classrooms are flexible, put students in the center of the action and facilitate immersive, interactive learning. Such spaces may have connected lecterns, interactive whiteboards, projectors and the ability to support sharing of materials between students and faculty. At institutions that are already creating connected campuses, smart classrooms are the most common type of adoption, according to the CDE survey.
2. Collaboration Spaces Are Key to Learning
The New Media Consortium’s most recent “Horizon Report” identified collaborative learning — with students or educators working together in peer-to-peer or group activities — as a trend that will drive ed tech adoption in the next two years. Libraries, in particular, are adapting their mission to provide a home for creativity and collaboration as much as solitary study. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business has been using a collaborative structure since 2015, when it replaced computer workstations with round tables that seat six to create a collaborative learning space.
3. Data Analytics Improves Campus Decision-Making
Georgia State University began using predictive analytics to track student performance risk factors in 2012, making it possible for advisers to proactively reach out to students who have underperformed in a prerequisite course. Among other measures of its success, Georgia State is graduating 1,700 more students each year than it was before embarking on the data program, including increases among African-American, Hispanic and low-income students. In Gartner’s survey, CIOs identify data-driven analytics as one area that has potential to help institutions differentiate themselves and more effectively achieve their missions.
4. Digital Signage Applications Expand in Higher Ed
For most institutions, the connected campus is a work in progress, and it’s often one that IT leaders tackle in small, manageable steps. That’s one reason digital signage is one of the most popular types of smart technology in place. The University of Illinois has 350 such signs on its campus and is investing in more. As the CDE notes, these are a relatively inexpensive and easily connected technology to implement — and the improvements they bring to campus emergency communication may be a huge selling point.
5. Smart Devices Drive Cybersecurity Investments
In the past year, 60 percent of institutions have experienced a data breach, according to CDW’s “Cybersecurity Insight Report.” For many IT pros, educating users about security policies and procedures remains their top cybersecurity challenge. Security concerns will become even more critical as the number of connected devices in higher education continues to grow. Smart assistants, interactive whiteboards, digital signage, IP-enabled video cameras and other tools all add ease, efficiency and safety to campus communities, but they also increase points of vulnerability to attack. That’s why many IT leaders are making plans now to ensure that as the Internet of Things expands, they step up security accordingly.
This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.