When I was in college, my phone was a “phone” …but I date myself.
Now, phones are mobile computers. And to be most effective in today’s university environment, computers need networks and they need support.
The Center for Digital Education (@centerdigitaled) recently reported that mobile learning is the top-ranked priority by school IT leaders, with the number two priority being broadband and network capacity. Further, these results would appear to be complementary.
Interestingly, the “bring your own device” (BYOD) issue has decreased in priority. But taken only on its surface, this may be misleading. The issue of allowing students to utilize their own devices on campus has not diminished, quite the contrary: The reduction as priority is partly due to the lower cost of devices, which allows schools to issue more (pre-networked) devices.
The bigger issues lie in the ability of schools to actually provide the network and infrastructure necessary to support these myriad mobile devices. Campus mobility looks easy on the whiteboard. Reality is more messy.
The challenges to develop the integrated campus are many, varied, and complex, chief among them being cost, security, capacity, and integrated support.
- Cost: No conversation about education technology can last long before economics are discussed. Infrastructure to support BYOD is not free, and the networks may have to be built on antiquated university infrastructures with siloed functionality and capacity.
- Security: Security of mobile devices will continue to be a challenge. It is one thing to allow students to use their mobile devices on campus, but it is quite another to integrate those devices through firewalls into the university network. Yet students seek a one-stop shop for campus support, and providing that network access remains very important.
- Capacity: Traffic is the next major obstacle. Many schools’ existing wireless network infrastructures are not designed to handle the amount of activity and the number of devices that are demanding bandwidth in BYOD environments.
- Support: Finally, ongoing technical support will be a challenge. The more students, the more devices. The more devices, the more possible issues. Universities are striving to increase the breadth and level of service to students across the mobile network, empowering students with online access, in many cases to assist in their own self-management. But, where technical issues arise, adequate help lines and staffing will be required.
The factors are pronounced, yet student expectations continue to increase. Weigh the all of the factors necessary to construct a mobile university infrastructure, and plan… early, thoroughly, and often.
For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”