educationtechnologyinsights

Wireless Education Arena

By Michael Mundrane, CIO and Vice Provost, University of Connecticut

Michael Mundrane, CIO and Vice Provost, University of Connecticut

It is all about the wireless experience. Students, and increasingly faculty and staff, live in a wireless space. We have seen students in residence facilities complain about wireless network performance while sitting less than three feet from a live wall jack. They rely almost entirely on wireless connectivity. It is what they know and they expect it to be easy and robust. The overwhelming majority of institutions deployed wireless using a coverage model. The focus was to make sure that wireless worked anywhere. Contemporary device proliferation and use drives association counts and bandwidth. Any institution that is not making capital investments to both refresh wireless infrastructure and greatly improve capacity is going to find that it works anywhere but not everywhere. If only a subset of customers can take advantage of the infrastructure at any point in time, we have failed to deliver on our most fundamental role … general infrastructure at an institutional scale. To a lesser extent, this is also true of the wired network, but most of us have long ago scaled the core for total capacity and the generic edge typically leads immediate and projected need.

"They are not going to be patient as we proceed, nor will they be tolerant if we do not succeed"

How Internet of Things is Changing Campus Life and Learning.

Let us think of IoT in somewhat different terms. The CIO is often going to think of this as an infrastructure, data, and analysis challenge with all of the normal difficulties as well as some new ones. The connection of data points from a far greater set of sources is going to permit deeper insight into student progress and this contributes to retention and graduation. On the flip side, there is sensitivity at an institutional level regarding privacy considerations and unforeseen opportunities for abuse. Our student community, instead, merely sees capabilities. They are already accustomed to leveraging their access to pull together widely varied information and other resources. Some of this is small scale compared to what we might envision when we think of IoT, but I would suggest that scale, to them, is a largely irrelevant dimension and they show very little sensitivity to it. At times, they consider the scale small merely because their focus is narrow. At an institutional level, student perception is going to drive our delivery choices. To reference an unnamed application, the popularity of locality centric, real time interaction, on some level converts the perception of each individual into an IoT mesh. Their attention, review and response makes each one of them an interdependent node of analysis. Physical proximity adds a dimension of relevance that changes the experience. The adoption of this unnamed application came entirely outside of institutional support and advocacy. In the end, it is the IoT perspective and not this particular application that was profoundly relevant. Students embraced it strongly, and their experience becomes their expectation. Universities have always been ecosystems, but seamless connection and interaction is going to bring to students, capabilities and opportunities that we have only begun to explore. They are not going to be patient as we proceed, nor will they be tolerant if we do not succeed.

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