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Connected Campuses: Empowering the next generation of learning

As universities and colleges across the region look to digitalise their operations and become Smart Connected Campuses, we look at the challenges and opportunities that this evolution will present

Connected Campuses: Empowering the next generation of learning

As higher education providers across the region look to lead from the front on campus of the future initiatives, universities and colleges are asking themselves how they can simultaneously enhance the quality of student / teacher interaction, boost the quality of the content they deliver and cut costs in the process.

During the course of the global Covid 19 pandemic, distance learning initiatives were absolutely essential to ensure that students could continue with their studies while simultaneously helping to contain the spread of the virus by avoiding crowded lecture halls and seminars, and practicing social distancing. As the education sector emerges from the pandemic into the “new normal”, the measures that were put into place to facilitate distance learning will act as a springboard to fast track the ongoing digitalisation of the education sector, particularly here in the Middle East and Africa region.

Cutting edge connectivity

Connectivity will be at the very heart of any connected campus or smart studying initiative. As the Middle East continues to be on the cutting edge of next generation network rollout, universities and educational facilities will be able to avail themselves of the huge capacity and lightning fast download speeds offered by 5G. Private 5G networks will play an increasing role in providing the required level of connectivity across campuses but 5G’s poor propagation rates could make it unsuitable for use in heavily built up campuses. Advances in Wi-Fi technology and the widespread launch of Wi-Fi 6 throughout the region will mean that universities are able to offer students and staff gigabit capable uplink and downlink speeds, through a blend of private 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and full fibre fixed line networks.  This is especially important for uploading and downloading multimedia content with high 

Big data

The sheer number of devices logging on to a campus network generates enormous quantities of data. With larger universities here in the Middle East having tens of thousands of students each, university networks can experience millions of wireless authentication requests on a busy day. Effective use of data analytics will be a key strategy to help network administrators stay on top of network errors and problems.

Data analytics also allows network administrators to predict bottle necks in traffic flows, and there are numerous products on the market that allow them to dynamically manage network traffic, capping speeds at peak times and helping to reduce clogging  up of the network. Artificial Intelligence software can also be applied to learn from these patterns of busy activity and proactively manage network flows, alleviating congestion before it becomes critical.

Securing the campus

Telecommunication networks are only as strong as their weakest link, and with tens of thousands of students bringing multiple devices on to campuses across the region, network administrators are faced with a plethora of security threats and potential weak links.   

In addition to the students’ devices, the connected campus will have thousands of its own devices accessing the network – from wireless printers to Smartboards and wireless classroom speakers. As machine to machine communication becomes more and more common place in the connected campus, security risks increase exponentially.

In a recent report, research and analyst firm, Deloitte, named network security as one of the key challenges facing educational establishments looking to transition into becoming smart facilities.

“The increasing ubiquity of IoT and its interconnections in higher education campuses creates a complex digital environment where cyberattacks and vulnerabilities in one area can have a cascading effect on multiple areas and the consequences can go beyond the usual data loss, financial impact, and reputational damage risks. The implications could include disruption of crucial educational services and infrastructure and could potentially impact overarching smart cities ecosystem,” the Deloitte report read.

As more and more connected devices connect to a campus’ network, network administrators will need to double down on security or risk falling victim to a wide range of attacks, including distributed denial of service attacks, malicious spyware and data theft.

To mitigate this threat, IoT security solutions need to be fully integrated and embedded across the length and breadth of a campus’ network. In addition, IT security teams will need to thoroughly vet all devices that access the network, to ensure that they comply with security requirements. This may be possible for the university’s own native devices, but is less feasible for the tens of thousands of devices bought onto campus by students. Network software now allows unknown devices connecting to a network for the first time to be isolated from accessing other devices on the same network until they have been properly vetted.

From 13th to the 17th of September, ITP Technology Group, in association with Shure, will explore the different ways in which technology is transforming classrooms and disrupting education to prepare students for the future.

Save the date:
‘Future of the Classroom’ webinar
Thursday, 17th September 2020
Starting Sunday September 13, you can tune in to ITP.net for a week of engaging content on implementing technology in education and how it can impact student learning and well-being. The education week concludes with a free-to-view webinar titled “Future of the Classroom” to be aired on 17th of September 2020.

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