How a Seemingly Basic Technology is Driving the University of the Future
December 15, 2017
eCampusNews, Rick Gaumer
Investment in Wi-Fi -enabled technologies has university reaping significant results in recruitment, enrollment and retention.
At Emory & Henry (E&H), technology is not only transforming our campus into one of the most digitally-connected environments, it is also laying the groundwork for education of the future—thanks to Wi-Fi.
With our recent technology initiatives—including triple-digit speed Wi-Fi—we have built a strong foundation for our vision of the campus of the future; including the ability to realize our strategic vision where “blended learning” is a reality, where learning is accessible, personal and affordable to diverse groups of students. This is learning that our students can fully leverage for bigger success pre- and post-graduation.
Why is Blended Learning the Future?
Our 2013-2020 strategic plan set in motion a deep planning and implementation overhaul of our technology to help enhance teaching, learning, research and the overall campus experience. Our vision is to create a blended, digital-in-person experience for students. They will learn wherever and whenever they like. If they need a deeper dive into areas where they need help, they will venture onto campus. And they’ll do all this seamlessly.
We believe this “blended learning experience”—one which combines online and offline—will be the new learning process to engage students.
Online students want more of an in-person experience and in-person students want more of an online experience. We are seeing this trend not only in higher education, but globally. A recent white paper from higher education managed service technology provider Apogee reports that “massive online-only companies like Amazon are venturing into the brick and mortar space through the acquisition of firms like Whole Foods. In time, our consumer experience will be blended–a seamless oscillation between online and in-person.”
One clear takeaway is this: technology is playing an increasingly mission-critical role that will make or break universities as they strive to find better ways to educate future generations and empower their campuses for the future.
How to Prepare for the Campus of the Future
There is a great deal of uncertainty about the technology that will be needed on any given campus in the future. How many devices will need to be networked? How much bandwidth will need to be purchased? What data storage and usage policies, including around security, will need to be developed? What processes for managing a more expansive network will need to be defined?
The best way to be ready for this worldwide phenomenon is to start planning and preparing as thoroughly as possible…now. First steps include:
- Invest in the foundational components already present today–internet and Wi-Fi
- Create a predictable funding model for innovation
- Have a network scalable enough to handle the fast pace of technology innovation
Delivering our Vision for the Campus of the Future through Wi-Fi
The promise of technology is that things can get done better, faster and cheaper. But to make that happen, collaboration needs to happen among all the different groups of decision makers on campus. Technology cannot be siloed. It is not a technology issue that can simply be handed to the CIO to solve.
At Emory & Henry, decision making involved IT, finance, housing and business. We looked at our technology dollars very closely. We realized how challenging it was to meet our goals: exceed student demand for seamless wireless performance, innovate within a sustainable financial model, and refocus our IT efforts on other strategic initiatives.
To better meet these challenges, we decided to partner with Apogee, to set-up and manage the new network. Partnering also gave us the opportunity to make this large capital expenditure on a recurring basis, rather than a “one and done” initiative—a nice option when installing new technology that requires a large capital infusion.
Our investment in cutting edge-Wi-Fi, offering speeds of up to triple digits per device, now provides a reliable and scalable network with on-site, 24/7 support to more than 1,200 students and 300 staff of our 180-year-old college. This high-speed Wi-Fi network, deployed campus-wide in academic, administrative and all 20 residences, is foundational to our vision to create a blended learning experience.
In addition to Wi-Fi, Apogee also provides IPTV services, managed social media, a digital signage solution, and a Campus Life Channel – creating a complete suite of benefits to further drive student satisfaction, engagement and our strategic goals.
Staying Ahead of the Technology Game
Of course, it’s all well and good that our new technology infrastructure will support today’s challenges, but will it be ready to take on whatever lies ahead?
Future-proofing our campus was a key priority in our technology overhaul planning. And so, creating a predictable funding model for innovation was a critical parameter for us to achieve our vision of the campus of the future. With managed services, we now have a scalable strategic infrastructure able to handle the fast pace of technology innovation, 24/7 support, ongoing reporting/analytics and upgrades.
As technology continues to evolve to higher, more advanced attributes, we’re assured that we won’t be stale or fall behind.
In addition to laying the foundation for our vision of the future, we’re reaping significant results from our new technology: recruitment has ratcheted up, more students stay on campus on weekends to do homework, and student complaints about Wi-Fi has decreased significantly—hard-core gamers and data-heavy researchers included. This direct impact on enrollment and retention alone has made this investment both strategic and cost-effective.
Add to that, this comprehensive service is backed by an around-the-clock Texas-based support center, where students and faculty can reach support via phone, chat, text and email.
Higher education has a distinguished past and an intriguing future. With great challenges and great opportunities looming, many institutions are at critical junctures.
What’s your vision for the future? Is your technology framework laying the foundation for a new learning experience, a connected campus, empowered educators, informed administrators, and students who have the tools they need for success in a new digital world? If not, it’s time to start planning.