Are Universities Overlooking the Power of IT Infrastructure?


Higher Education

The way students learn has changed. Once confined to books and classrooms, now learning is flexible, from anywhere at any time. It’s been disrupted.

Taking learning out of the classroom

E-learning and virtual education environments give students access to resources, on and off campus, from any device. Accessible course handbooks, timetables, webinars and recorded lectures are all expected by students as that’s the digital environment they’re accustomed to. And this is only possible with a drive towards agile and transportable IT. IT that enables technology enhanced learning, and does so reliably.

Universities need to question whether their traditional enterprise architecture is agile enough in terms of performance and connectivity to meet the demands of students, something that has come to be known as ‘bring your own behaviour.’

Embrace new technology or become irrelevant

The vice-chancellor of the Open University, Martin Bean has said: Universities in the UK risk becoming irrelevant and would be acting irresponsibly if they fail to embrace new education technologies.

This always-on education model means less time to maintain infrastructure. Downtime just isn’t an option. Universities are now more business-like than ever before. And just like a customer in any other industry, students assess the service offered before making a decision. Wifi across campus isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for students and the average student will bring 3 or 4 devices university, all of which need to be supported for a successful learning environment.

Identify student priorities

But IT infrastructure can only go so far, it needs to be informed by marketing and research, so that IT teams understand how, where and why students are using the services. Armed with that knowledge, universities can leverage IT to attract students.

So what are the priorities for students?

Quick access to key information
Timetabling access from any location
Wireless roaming
Access from any device
Turn students into loyal alumni

And it’s not just about attracting students, converting students into loyal lifelong learners with commercial potential for the universities, also depends on IT and intelligent use of the data that describes students.

There is some great work being done by universities, The University of Strathclyde for example has taken its Introduction to Forensic Science Mooc (online open course), which is offered for free on the Open University-sponsored FutureLearn platform, and re-delivered it, with credit, for campus-based students.

Leicester College is another examples, closer to home for us. They invested in a Managed Infrastructure Service providing the perfect foundation for them to grow on. Another customer is University of Cumbria, whose primary concern was always what our Managed Services offering would eventually allow them to do as a university. They required an IT service to facilitate collaboration across campuses, support administrative processes and attract great students.

These college can look to develop new e-services or increase their student population safe in the knowledge that they have an agile, scalable solution.

However, some universities are overlooking the power of IT to attract new students and that’s something they can’t afford to do.

Whether you agree, disagree or just want to join the conversation I’d like to hear your views.

An insight from Gareth Ainsworth, Public Sector Sales Manager, ANS

Posted by Gareth Ainsworth