Plugging into the network

Joined-up technological thinking is already a mainstay of university management, and it’s becoming increasingly essential. Simon Fry looks at the tools helping HE stay ahead

Education is becoming more than a series of isolated chapters, it is a continuous journey of lifelong engagement. The role of educators is evolving from supporting students in pursuit of a degree to guiding them on a path of personal growth and achievement. With changing market dynamics ranging from rising student expectations to growth in student mobility, coupled with changes in funding and legacy systems, institutions are challenged to deliver a seamless, personalised student and staff experience.

As a result, they are transforming digitally, leveraging technology to deliver a customised, connected experience for their students. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool enables universities to connect all the dots across the entire campus and have a 360-degree view of their students and constituents from recruitment to student success and alumni relationships.

By integrating data across student information systems, learning management systems and more, university teams can share a complete view of their students and use one single system for student engagement. A cloud-based CRM platform such as Salesforce’s Education Cloud empowers institutions to become a connected campus, break down internal silos (isolated systems) and deliver end-to-end proactive, continuous and personalised student experiences.

The London School of Economics is just one such university using Salesforce’s solutions to manage its student data, engage with students from underrepresented areas and build lasting relationships with students beyond graduation. By leveraging Education Cloud solutions, LSE has enhanced the impact of its widening participation programme, enabling the school to open new doors for students from all backgrounds.

Universities in the UK and globally are constantly looking for new ways of attracting current and future generations of students and lecturers, according to Alexandra Parlour, corporate and education marcomms manager at Sony Professional Solutions Europe. For many, the technology they use in the classroom and give students access to is a key differentiator. 

She says: “A strong foundation of integrated software and devices can facilitate a move away from outdated teaching methods to cutting-edge learning spaces that enable active learning, improve engagement and overall knowledge attainment – all things high on modern students’ wishlists.”

Institutions are challenged to deliver a seamless, personalised student and staff experience

One university that has successfully undergone this transition is the University of Swansea, which has created exciting new collaborative teaching and learning opportunities with the help of the latest interactive AV solutions from Sony. Together, University of Swansea, Sony and GV Multimedia created two new innovative flagship teaching spaces designed to enhance the student experience and boost collaborative learning capabilities on campus.

Equipped with Bravia Professional displays and the Sony Vision Exchange solution, the spaces allow students and lecturers to wirelessly share, work on, annotate and discuss content from a phone, tablet or laptop. Meanwhile, seamless, intuitive software combined with state-of-the-art displays means the technology forms a natural part of the learning environment; boosting the learning experience when called upon but never a distraction to students or lecturers.

The feedback on the space has been overwhelmingly positive, providing the wow factor that the University of Swansea desired, the chance for lecturers to experiment with new ways of teaching and a flexible, state-of-the-art space in which students can collaborate.

“Managing a university’s vast and complex network infrastructure is no easy task,” says John Morrison, vice-president Europe, Middle East and Africa at Extreme Networks. “Every day, a large number of users with an even larger number of devices connect to the network while, in the background, an intricate and finely tuned mix of services and applications ensures everything keeps running as it should.” 

Despite being mostly invisible, these networks play a significant role in education nowadays, from powering new ways of teaching and learning to providing the foundation for any digital transformation project. This means IT and network managers in education organisations should focus first and foremost on putting a robust, reliable and agile network infrastructure in place to meet these demands. “Recently, City, University of London has worked with Extreme Network to future-proof its network infrastructure and do just that,” says Morrison.  

Based on Extreme’s flagship education solution – Automated Campus – the University of London was able to eliminate downtime in the network’s core, enjoyed unprecedented flexibility for network deployments and saw user satisfaction soar. 

Paulo Leal, network team leader at City, University of London says, “We don’t have to worry about resilience in the core anymore. Since moving to Extreme’s Automated Campus solution, the only downtime we have had on the core and data centre networks was due to our annual upgrades. One day there was a complete power failure in one of the buildings where a core switch is located. It was the ultimate test – and there was absolutely no impact on users.” 

The feedback on the space has been overwhelmingly positive, providing the wow-factor that University of Swansea desired

Jisc connects 170 UK universities and HE organisations to the internet via the Janet Network. Through this connectivity, and many other education-specific services, universities support students, researchers and staff in their broader activities. Students and researchers expect fast and reliable cybersecured connectivity. They want to connect to everything everywhere, in halls, libraries, research hubs and the campus cafe. Jisc, and the Janet Network, offers connections to 18 million users in a growing number of locations, on and off campus, including on public transport or when visiting their GP and the high street.   

A broad range of connectivity services, including wifi-roaming via eduroam, helps universities to keep everyone who should be connected, connected. Rarely focused on just one thing, students blend learning with socialising; reaching out to staff and friends alike for formal and informal support for their studies and for their wellbeing. So, it’s through Jisc’s services to the higher education community students access global internet resources to support 24-hour learning; the faculty kind and the fun kind. 

Staff and tutors can engage readily with students, understanding their needs, measuring engagement and helping direct learning. With Jisc’s services, staff can analyse the impact of learning resources and drive digital capabilities, helping ensure students emerge as confident and competent digital citizens. 

According to Craig Smith, education sales manager, UK and Ireland at Jamf, “University campuses often see thousands of users a day, making them a complex environment to work with for IT.” To ensure learning devices can satisfy the needs of lecturers and students, it is critical for universities to implement a robust mobile device management (MDM) solution that supports easy and automatic deployment and simplifies device management. This places a minimal burden on IT, while ensuring the enforcement of security protocols across all managed devices. “App management is another key tenet of an MDM solution, meaning universities can create a curated app library for users that can be wholly customised per class or department,” Smith adds.

Today, connectivity is all, with Cloud-based technology linking educators and learners on campus, in the cafe and even on the Clapham Omnibus. 

This connectedness is mirrored neatly in the place of university in a student’s life; no longer are three years of varsity in splendid isolation between sixth form and work. Today, they are anticipated eagerly through adolescence and infused through the journey the student makes through the world after graduation.


Lifelong education

Jane Armstrong is senior director, EMEA higher education industry solutions for Salesforce.org. In her role, she is responsible for the Europe, Middle East and Africa go-to-market strategy, delivering world-class technology solutions for educators and students. She believes that equality begins with education and that access to quality education is the foundation for a diverse, empowered and skilled society.

Education is becoming more than a series of isolated chapters; it’s a continuous journey of lifelong engagement. The role of educators is evolving from supporting students in pursuit of a degree to guiding them on a path of personal growth and achievement. With changing market dynamics ranging from rising student expectations to growth in student mobility, coupled with changes in funding and legacy systems, institutions are challenged to deliver a seamless, personalised student and staff experience. As a result, they are transforming digitally, leveraging technology to deliver a customised connected experience for their students. Salesforce.org Education Cloud enables universities to connect all the dots across the entire campus and have a 360-degree view of their students and constituents from recruitment to student success and alumni relationships.

By integrating data across student information systems, learning management systems, and more, university teams can share a complete view of their students and use one single system for student engagement.

A cloud-based CRM platform like Salesforce.org Education Cloud empowers institutions to become a connected campus, break down internal silos and deliver end-to-end proactive, continuous and personalised student experiences.

As one example, the London School of Economics (LSE) is using our solutions to manage their student data, engage with students from underrepresented areas, and build lasting relationships with students beyond graduation. 

By leveraging the Salesforce.org Education Cloud solutions, LSE has enhanced the impact of its widening participation programme, enabling the school to open up new doors for students from all backgrounds.