UK HE is placing a higher priority on attracting international students than ever before. Indeed, my own institution, the University of the West of Scotland, has recently been rated as amongst the top 5% of universities worldwide. While this is an exciting development it also comes with its own challenges including tailoring teaching, research and the university’s procedures to ensure a fulfilling experience. Enabling all of this is the underpinning technical infrastructure.
While the traditional way of providing computing support was to introduce large labs with desktop PCs, the continuing drop in prices means that students now expect to bring their own devices and connect to an existing infrastructure in an ad-hoc basis to find their study materials, access personal storage and allow internet access. Fortunately, most IT service departments are experienced in providing roaming internet access services, not least through the ubiquitous eduroam service.
The extension of infrastructure for remote learning is providing proper provision for international students both on and off campus
Most universities are also forging ahead with on-demand provision of study materials, most commonly with an institutional VLE such as Moodle. Here the landscape is less good. While intentions are excellent there is a definite disconnect between the vision and the reality. Creating good online materials takes more than saving a PowerPoint presentation to the VLE and although tools like Office Mix show an encouraging movement towards a more interactive student experience the time and the knowledge to implement them is in short supply.
More encouraging is the emergence of cloud services, such as Office 365, for document creation, manipulation and storage. The availability of such pre-packaged services that already include industry standard data security allows much of the burden to be lifted from already pressured IT services and ensure the availability of industry standard tools for all students.
So, the outlook is good. The extension of infrastructure for remote learning is providing proper provision for international students both on and off campus and supports UK universities’ efforts in maintaining a truly global profile.
Visit the Microsoft UK Higher Education blog here: blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/ukhe/?wt.mc_id=AID553293_QSG_OLA_24165