May 31 2024

How Remote Work Can Help Universities Achieve Sustainability Goals

Completing network modernization projects with a trusted, experienced partner can have many benefits, including a lower carbon footprint.

Going green is a major theme in higher education these days.

“A growing number of universities and colleges are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050,” says Jenay Robert, a senior researcher at EDUCAUSE. To that end, they are “finding and using renewable sources of energy, adopting green technology and making curriculum changes.”

Remote work also can help schools to achieve their overall sustainability goals.

Environmental benefits of remote work include “reducing an institution's carbon footprint, especially by minimizing commuting,” says Donald Nieman, professor of history and provost emeritus at Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York system.

On campus, remote work boosts green targets by “reducing energy consumption in heating, cooling and lighting,” says Josh Prigge, formerly Hawaii Pacific University’s first sustainability coordinator and now owner of Sustridge Sustainability Consulting and North Star Carbon Management.

Strong connectivity is crucial to making the remote work experience successful in higher education. To realize the environmental benefits of work-from-anywhere, colleges and universities need modernized networks and a partner such as Citrix that shares higher education’s sustainability goals.

DISCOVER: Explore the full catalog of Citrix solutions for sustainable networking.

How Modern Networks Support Remote Work in Higher Ed

In a remote work environment, “universities must ensure continuous, reliable and secure access to university resources,” said Curby Alexander, associate professor of professional practice at Texas Christian University.

“Most faculty can do most of their work using a word processor, an internet browser, email and teleconferencing software,” Alexander says. “Because course-related services are managed through the course management system, faculty must be able to access the software as easily as possible while maintaining system security.”

Robust networks also are a must for people trying to connect with one another remotely. “Strong connectivity is critical for using platforms like Zoom because faculty, staff and students will only buy into it if it is consistent and reliable. Otherwise, the technology itself becomes the issue, rather than the work people are doing,” Nieman says.

Reliable, continuous and secure networks in support of remote work “guarantee that faculty, staff and students can maintain productivity and engagement with minimal disruptions,” Prigge says. “This aspect must be robust to support various forms of digital communication and collaboration essential for modern education.”

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Network Modernization Tips for Higher Education

As they look to realize the environmental benefits of remote work, institutions need to “build infrastructure to support the needs of programs that are not fully onsite,” Robert says. That will likely include upgrading and modernizing networks, where a number of best practices apply.

First, make it a team effort. At Binghamton, this means having “a very strong, transparent partnership with our IT leadership and staff,” Nieman says. Close coordination will ensure the network solutions adopted by IT meet the actual needs of those working off campus.

It helps, too, to take a deep dive into usage requirements, as schools look to build out stronger and more capable network solutions.

To support “the increased load from videoconferencing, cloud computing and other online activities,” universities should be “prioritizing bandwidth and security, and investing in high-speed internet connections and robust cybersecurity measures,” Prigge says.

To that end, Prigge adds that universities “could conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to evaluate existing infrastructure, identify gaps and explore scalable solutions to grow with their needs. Partnerships with tech providers who understand the educational landscape can also be invaluable.”

It’s important, too, to consider the end-user experience in the midst of a network upgrade.

“IT departments must be thoughtful about issues like timing out of these services and having to log back in using two-factor authentication,” Alexander says.

“Providing continuous access for up to 24 hours after two-factor authentication can help users avoid having to repeat this process throughout the day,” he adds.

Remote workers may need to access file-sharing services, teleconferencing software and library resources, such as research databases, electronic journals and interlibrary loans. “These services allow for continuous access, and once authenticated, faculty can focus their time on the work of the university,” Alexander said.

RELATED: University libraries evolve to support future needs.

How Citrix Can Help with Sustainable Network Modernization

For a remote workforce to be effective, schools need reliable, continuous and secure networks. Citrix solutions help make that possible, ensuring remote employees have real-time access to the files, software and technology they need to be productive.

If schools rely on point solutions to support videoconferencing, content collaboration platforms and virtualization, there’s a risk that technology sprawl will overload IT and detract from the remote work experience. It makes sense instead to build out a secure digital-workspace experience, one that pulls together all the needed tools.

From Desktop as a Service to secure access and application delivery, Citrix provides a full range of solutions that empower organizations to support a remote workforce and secure the potential sustainability gains inherent there.

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