Digital-first students increase demands on college campuses
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

According to a recent survey that looked at the number of devices students are using to access the Internet on campus, 61 percent of students are using tablets, 27 percent are using smartwatches and 25 percent are using gaming consoles – all on top of the laptops used by virtually every member of the campus community, not to mention the desktops on hand at campus libraries and staff offices.

In total, the survey found that 60 percent of faculty, students and campus IT pros are leveraging at least four or more devices on their campus network. And that’s not even counting the other areas of automation taking place across campuses that require a heavy emphasis on network performance to succeed.

It may be needless to say that things have gotten very complicated for campus IT at a pace few might’ve predicted just a decade ago. And things are only getting started.

From online courses to esports, the digital-first generation of students currently completing their undergrad simply engage with a different kind of “hybrid” university than students of the past, where the virtual and the physical touchpoints for completing their coarseload and engaging with peers are increasingly blurred. As we’ve discussed in the past, colleges and universities can’t afford to exhaust their outdated network infrastructures given just how much of the campus now relies on connectivity to function. And with IoT making as big of an impact on campus as it’s been purported to in the enterprise, the stakes have never been higher for colleges to ramp up their digital transformation sooner rather than later.

What’s specifically unique about managing college networks is that they are prone to wild surges in network traffic that can exhaust capacity when students and faculty rely on it most. Where many businesses see surges during working hours, campuses are prone to always-on users that connect in the classrooms, libraries, and dorms 24/7. From registering for classes at the start of the semester to the deluge of users who flood the network before a Finals deadline – even just onboarding new users who come back from holiday break with new devices – college networks see their activity fluctuate wildly over the course of the year, but consistently have high traffic rates across the network.

How can campus IT deal with both these traffic-surge cycles while balancing the wealth of devices that rely on the network for support?

The answer lies in comprehensive (and flexible) visibility across the entire network. Universities like Arizona State, which has been named among the most innovative schools in the nation three years running by US News and World Report, has been deploying the “smart city” model on campus to help overhaul its digital transformation. Visibility has been at the center of executing this initiative successfully, as a centralized IT team leverages a combination of monitoring and managing solutions to manage the schools sprawling (and still growing) digital footprint – not unlike how many enterprise IT teams are handling their decentralization initiatives.

This is invaluable in helping teams maintain visibility when network demands and traffic surges at crucial times. But teams need to ensure that the solutions they’re leveraging can perform just as well during times of high traffic as they do when students are away on break, all without adding additional weight to the network when capacity is at a premium.


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