There have been many conversations around digital economies and digital transformations, but there is one conversation that should anchor all these – digital education.
This year, schools and higher learning institutions across Asia shifted to online learning amidst the pandemic. Many have had to adopt the quickest and most available online learning solutions, taking to video conferencing to continue to connect with students and carry on with lessons.
Transition with struggles
The transition was not without its struggles. Some students were challenged with connectivity issues while others did not have access to the right equipment. Besides technical challenges, teaching staff also had to scramble and adapt to conducting classes online instead of in a traditional classroom setting.
This accelerated digitalization of learning may be a catalyst to what is to come in the future of education. Students today belongs to the first truly digital-native generation. Many grew up with connected devices readily available in their homes.
Some had their own social media pages when they were toddlers and made their first calls to their grandparents using video conferencing apps. In other words, technology has shaped their experiences and expectations all their lives; shouldn’t it also play a major role in the way they learn?
Educators are now re-examining the learning experience to better cater to a new generation of digital natives especially moving into the post-pandemic new normal.
Build intelligent campuses
They want to build intelligent campuses that are offers both ‘structural’ and the ‘mental’ benefits. That is, school campuses that are ecosystems with structural capabilities: Security, services and technology to bridge the digital gap and create space for mental growth: Collaboration, interactivity and personalized learning experiences.
The challenge is that many schools have dated legacy IT networks. For some, they could have been designed and installed in an era before powerful smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. Networks that were put in place before the phrase Internet of Things (IoT) was coined.
In short, many schools have network infrastructures that are not ready for today’s requirements. The challenge is that these networks are becoming increasingly critical in today’s context as they are relied upon to handle everything from student Wi-Fi connectivity to data flows between research labs, as well as IoT campus security solutions. Patchwork improvement of these networks, which is what many school IT teams have been doing, does not do it anymore.
A robust network supports an intelligent campus, allowing for the deployment of the latest learning technologies. Strong connectivity to cloud technologies also break down silos of information and open up new ways of collaboration and sharing of ideas and insights.
Quick tips for education sector
Here are some quick tips for schools and educational institutions looking to strengthen their IT network and infrastructure:
- Build a single and robust network ecosystem: A single infrastructure will serve as a foundation of all campus IT and communications systems. The key word here is “single.” This single network enables campus IT teams to address the complexities of managing campus networks with a truly unified approach.
Unified management also provides a common set of network services, policies, and authentication processes that apply to all users, ensuring consistent quality of service on any device, anywhere on campus.
- Deploy a layered approach to network security to protect against hackers: Security must be a fundamental component in the campus network infrastructure. Many campus networks were originally designed to make connectivity easy, which also makes them relatively simple to hack.
The case of the Singapore Zoom hack is a prime example of why security needs to be embedded in networks. A multi-layered security strategy with full network virtualization and IoT containment is required for protecting sensitive data, especially since campuses are gold mines of valuable data.
- Ensure that the campus physical security infrastructure is connected to a reliable, real-time network: It is a sad reality that campuses are not always safe environments for students and faculty. Ensure that the network supports real-time emergency communication solutions that deliver situational awareness, response coordination and emergency mass notification systems.
- Reduce IT overload with smart, automated network management tools: IT teams need a single-view management interface to manage the complexity of the networking infrastructure. This provides a unified set of tools to provision, monitor, analyse and troubleshoot the network.
The platform should be scalable to meet new requirements, support the latest applications—including rapid growth for mobility, IoT and smart building applications—and simplify operations through automation and network self-configuration.
- Every school needs a clearly defined digital transformation strategy: This helps to chart the direction to fully leverage opportunities presented by newer technologies and help meet the objectives set out. The key is to drive benefits like delivering engaging learning experiences, encouraging collaboration and stimulating creative thinking.
The business case
Strong robust campus networks need to be part of this strategy as they allow educators to turn classrooms into a digitally collaborative teaching and learning environments.
They empower students to use connected devices for communication, collaboration and research, and benefit from digital learning experiences that supplement traditional textbooks and curricula. They also enable school administrators to strengthen campus safety using smart technologies.
Building a strong foundation is important in education. This is the case with intelligent campuses as well. As we deploy the best digital tools and think of all the endless learning possibilities they offer, we also need to ensure that they are supported by a secure, reliable and robust modern IT network built for smart campuses.