3 factors driving digital transformation on college campuses
Any major network – especially a highly distributed one – that fails to change with the times is bound to pay a price. And while concepts like digital transformation are generally applied to industry verticals in the quest for greater business outcomes (and ultimately profits), the same principles can be applied to the sphere of education as a means to a different end.
Rather than focusing on driving profits, colleges and universities across the Globe are working to upgrade their systems to better serve a “digital-first” generation of students. While there are numerous opinions and studies that try to explain how today’s school-aged learners respond to fundamentally different teaching methods than those of the past, there’s consensus across the academia that, at the very least, how information is delivered to students requires a digital touch.
But digital transformation goes much farther than simply digitizing university documents and delivering syllabi via online blackboards. When academic IT teams introduce data collection and analytics tools as well as planning software into the university workflow, the impact of the technological overhaul can be significantly more profound.
- Better-informed decision making: As is the case in other sectors, cloud and SaaS tools are increasingly more attractive than legacy workflows because they can be deployed and delivered quickly, while also offering a real-time glimpse into how students are faring so faculty can respond appropriately. The University of Sydney in Australia, for instance, leverages one such platform’s workload timetable to evaluate class schedules on an annual basis to ensure maximum attendance. At the same time, academic advisors can track students who are showing signs of dropping out (ie. lowering their course load at a precipitous rate) and activate support networks as needed.
- Optimize Resources: The University of Sydney has also undergone major steps to use digital transformation as a means to streamline curriculums and merge faculties. While on its face, “merge faculties” might raise alarm bells among staff, it hasn’t resulted in mass layoffs. Instead, this has helped the school take a more multi-disciplinary approach to teaching.
“In a university with lots of large faculties all fulfilling their own mission, you end up with a very messy [application] landscape. We’ve been looking at how we administer the university more end to end – leaving out processes and thinking about what our target state architecture should be,” University CIO Mike Day told CIO Magazine.
He went on to explain how teams working on a problem involving children’s bones in the medical school, for instance, might be blind to contributions from arts faculty regarding best practices for 3-D printing.
- Speed up almost everything: Along with increasing collaboration, IT can use digital transformation to promote a wide-scale reevaluation of the tools used across departments. Rather than employ hundreds of small, localized systems that are all competing to create one version of the truth, teams can deduplicate data stores and retire systems and applications that aren’t adding value. At the same time, IT can identify redundant workflows or outdated toolsets when they take full stock of their app landscape, which will help free up network capacity to ensure bandwidth isn’t being sapped up by non-essential programs. It also allows for IT to be more responsive when issues do occur on the network, speeding up their ability to get to the root cause of problems when they can whittle down the number of network functions competing for capacity.
Of course, it will take a lot more than just a streamlined network architecture to deliver the visibility that academic IT needs to keep networks up and running and end users happy. With students and faculty alike relying on the network to support their social media apps, for instance, and even their access to campus payment apps, meal plans and security systems, teams require a network monitoring solution that can see all network traffic end-to-end.
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