May 07 2021

Higher Education Doubles Down on Preparedness

When preventive measures fail, preparation might prove equally valuable for higher education business continuity.

An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but when preventive measures fail, preparation might prove equally valuable.

Even before last year’s massive and expedited transition to remote learning, colleges and universities around the nation were taking steps to modernize their network infrastructures. The pandemic, however, turned modernization from a wish list item to a nonnegotiable necessity. It’s not a lesson limited to higher education, but one that higher education certainly embraced over the past year: In volatile situations with high stakes, you have to be ready for anything.

More than ever, universities found themselves in need of flexible, scalable, robust networks that could accommodate an influx of traffic from remote users, not to mention the myriad new applications and online resources needed to ensure educational continuity. “From what I’ve seen, just about everyone had plans to modernize before COVID, and now they’re just doubling down,” says Rob Clyde, an advisory board member for the Data Analytics and Information Systems Department at Utah State University, in an interview with EdTech: Focus on Higher Education.

IT Networks on the Highway to Readiness

At Kent State University in Ohio, CIO John Rathje had already been working with his IT department on a two-year-long network modernization project. The endeavor paid off when COVID-19 swept across the nation. “The way we’ve designed and engineered our network,” Rathje tells EdTech, “we’re going from a two-lane road to a six-lane expressway that can handle any type of vehicle with ease.”

Kent State hasn’t been alone in its modernization endeavor. The IT Division at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was in the midst of its own network transformation initiative when the team realized it would need to prepare to go remote, while Utah State University worked to ensure it had the VPN and cloud provisions it needed to keep students connected.

This trend won’t subside when the pandemic does. As classroom doors continue to reopen, more and more universities are taking steps to ensure their networks are ready to handle anything that’s thrown their way, whether tomorrow, next month or next year.

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