Avinash Purwar, Senior VP, Borderless Networks, Cisco India and SAARC
Today's college and university students are dynamic, mobile, and technology-savvy. They arrive on campus with an array of mobility-enabled devices including PDAs, gaming devices, cameras, phones, and laptops. At home they roam wirelessly-downloading music, chatting, texting, and sharing blogs and videos on YouTube. This connected generation is un-tethered from wires and use wireless LAN to download course material, perform administrative tasks (including dealing with registration, grades, parking), and access social networking sites. For this student generation in motion, the air is the Internet.
Faculty members use wireless networks to streamline administrative tasks, alert students about grades, keep tab on class schedules and improve class collaboration. Administrators and staff see wireless networking as a means to improve campus operations, reduce operational costs and enhance productivity using email, instant messaging and calendars. Visitors such as prospective students, alumni, parents, visiting lecturers, and conference attendees use secure wireless access to engage collaboratively and access off-campus resources.
This means mobility solutions implemented by higher education institutions must not only meet the needs of this mobile student generation, but also cost-effectively address the requirements of the faculty, staff, administrators, and visitors. In order to enhance student learning experience and ensure campus safety and security, many educational institutions are exploring mobility solutions that provide access to the internet on campus, student hostels, faculty and staff homes, sporting venues, and community spaces.
Technology in education
Increased use of internet technologies like Web 2.0, multimedia, virtual presence, gaming, and the proliferation of next-generation mobile devices are transforming the education environment and the workplace as well. According to a global survey on how technology can enhance learning, more than three-quarters of top education (85 percent) around the world felt technology can play a major role in how students learn and how teachers educate.
Citing the impact technology can have in encouraging student engagement and participation, 86 percent of the educators felt the need for programs and curriculum that enable students to develop skills in team and project-based learning and improve communications with parents, faculty and staff. They felt that utilizing tools like a networked PC; teachers can personalize teaching and learning to address the different levels of proficiency of each student. They believe that technology can provide innovative approaches to education while also reducing the overall cost of providing education.
Educators today see technology as a means to "do more with less" and become more efficient. 21st century teaching and learning mobility solutions for education provide robust foundation for next-generation learning using web-enabled tools, Web 2.0 applications, and context-based applications. Built on a unified wireless network that combine the best elements of wireless and wired networking, these solutions provide anywhere, anytime access to web based applications such as webcasts, podcasts, videocasts, wikis, and RSS feeds.
Advanced communication services such as voice, video, and web collaboration ensure that the school, college, or university communicates in the most effective and efficient manner possible with their students and staff. Rich media collaboration tools expand the reach of education to remote learners, provide rich interactive environments for online classes, and enable collaborative online conversations between faculty and students.
Technologies like telepresence help improve accessibility, reduce the cost of delivering education remotely and allow educators to be more effective and productive in teaching across geographies while also decreasing the cost of travel. "Presence" technology is also becoming an emerging factor in teacher training and staff development areas while the availability of collaboration tools is fostering new "project-based" learning environments.
Mobility solutions that enable network connections to PCs, laptops, PDAs, printers, video cameras, video conferencing units, IP phones and other devices, make school resources more widely available and improve communication among students, faculty, parents and administrators. Video, digital signage, IPTV systems and social networking help transform how teachers, faculty, students, and teachers collaborate.
Innovative technology tools and applications that meet and exceed teaching and learning requirements help to increase global competitiveness in education and expand learning beyond the walls of a physical classroom. A greater "virtual" student body implies more enriched learning opportunities, diversified faculty, and more expert viewpoints -all of which help to set up new networked economies the world over.