Feb 01 2023

Does Your University Have the Infrastructure to Support Modern Learning?

As universities look to incorporate more technology to bolster the learning experience, they need the technical backbone to support it.

An increase in remote learning, more student and staff devices, and more physical bodies returning to campus all can stress a university’s IT infrastructure. In turn, higher education institutions are looking to incorporate more technology to provide the services students and staff are after, from dipping into the metaverse to enhancing video solutions.

Universities must have the technical backbone to support all these new developments and be ready to build upon it when more bandwidth is needed. Does your university have an adequate infrastructure in place? We’ve seen the many stresses placed on campus networks as we’ve worked with our customers. We’ve also explored solutions to these new network challenges while looking ahead to what’s on the horizon.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

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Major IT Overhauls and Lack of Funding Strain University Budgets

Many universities lack the support they need to keep networks up and running and to improve them consistently. The pandemic has spurred rapid budgetary changes, leading to resource management challenges.

The pandemic also has spurred rapid staff changes. Universities are asking staff to come back onsite regularly, particularly when students are onsite. At the same time, some instructors and other staff want to work remotely, which has caused difficulties in getting the right people in place to support the technologies.

There’s also the challenge of modernizing network infrastructure in aging facilities. For universities with buildings built in the 1970s, building specs might not lend themselves to certain upgrades. In these cases, modernization isn’t as simple as putting up some monitors and cameras. Some schools need to tear down walls and make major structural changes.

DIG DEEPER: Five things to consider before modernizing your classrooms. 

The Rise of Hybrid Learning in Higher Education

Even as more college students return to in-person education, remote learning is here to stay. We even hear from universities that students who want an on-campus college experience still want the option of attending classes remotely.

This hybrid learning environment puts a new emphasis on classroom and network modernization, as universities may need to accommodate hundreds or even thousands of students both on- and off-premises. The return of students to campus also means maintaining and improving networks in dorms, which is an area some universities may not have invested much in over the course of the pandemic.

Universities Look to Solidify Temporary Pandemic Changes

In early 2020, schools at every level scrambled to make remote learning a possibility with on-the-fly tech solutions. Now, university leaders are looking to permanently implement those changes.

More universities are shifting to a longer-term focus, solidifying three- to five-year plans around tech modernization. Universities must assess where they are today and determine where they want to be down the road.

WATCH: How one university designed future-focused learning spaces.

First on the to-do list should be determining how to bolster your network and how you’re going to support it. It’s important that universities set up their networks in such a way that they can be nimble and pivot when necessary.

Rethinking Network Infrastructure in Higher Education

More complex systems will require more storage and computing power, and a more robust network infrastructure can do the trick. CDW’s higher education team has the full-stack solutions that can help universities thrive post-pandemic. One such solution, hyperconverged infrastructure, combines elements of a traditional data center — computing, storage and networking resources — into a unified system.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

Darya Gribovskaya/Getty Images
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