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Instruction and assessment methods have changed considerably as the pandemic pushed schools, universities and colleges online and teachers and students shifted to new modes of teaching and learning. Home schooling and distance education took place via links, e-books, chat boards and interactive video calls.

Welcoming students back to in-person learning hasn’t alleviated the pressure on networks. Students are now used to learning through new technologies, and their expectations for connectivity remain high.

In-person and digital classes – or a mix of both – are continuing through network-reliant interactive environments. More classrooms, libraries and laboratories need bandwidth and capacity. Computing applications, which are now front and center in education, must be available 24x7, continually updated and free of interruptions and jitter.

 Laptop with a screen open

An increasing number of user endpoints and wireless devices, combined with exponential bandwidth demands and rising cybersecurity risks, are changing how information technology (IT) departments in the education industry plan, build and manage campus networks. Traditional cloud solutions can no longer meet the demands made of these networks, and multicloud and hybrid cloud solutions are seeing greater uptake.

Beyond this, forward-thinking institutions are on the path to sustainability and are installing smart classrooms on campuses while prioritizing energy management.

In the wake of COVID-19, universities also are deploying apps and location-based services to manage the capacity of shared spaces and help students better navigate their campuses. These are valuable tools in the post-pandemic world, and they bring efficiency to students’ lives, making it easier for them to locate classrooms or determine if there's a free desk in the study hall before they arrive.

Meanwhile, education providers can use machine learning and the Internet of Things are used to monitor room temperatures to create optimal learning environments, or alert students automatically by text messages about where to find the best parking or how long the queue is at the campus coffee shop.

Improved network visibility, availability and security

Better campus network management is one way of ensuring availability and uptime, so that teachers and students have the performance and bandwidth they need. Underpinning the backbone of network planning and strategy with a managed services platform offers new ways of meeting demands.

Automation, artificial intelligence operations and predictive analytics take the pressure off university IT departments and deliver many perks. The ongoing, real-time monitoring of networks, apps and systems is one thing – but throw into the mix automatic workflows that rectify outages even before they happen, and it changes the game.

Education and research institutions are among the top targets for cyberattacks – from ransomware to data breaches. In addition to the growing security risks, the education sector, like other industries, must follow data compliance rules. Campus offices hold significant amounts of sensitive data for which software-defined security platforms can provide visibility of breaches and immediately, without human intervention, prevent harm from being done. Automation within platforms and systems is the hero of securing data, storage and networks.

Equally critical is campuses’ physical security. A strong network is becoming an important tool to prevent and manage violent incidents. Providing capability for high-definition video and cameras that use location-based and recognition services to identify and locate potential perpetrators could help to prevent such incidents.

Improving network visibility through an online management tool also means universities can boost their network performance without lifting a finger. Apps and systems using power or capacity that doesn't serve the user experience can be easily redirected. Sensors can be programmed to reroute network capacity to optimize costs.

Working smarter for new possibilities

Modern networks deliver more than just a better user experience. Using insights and data for operational learnings can create valuable opportunities.

Digitalizing and implementing better network management can increase an organization’s overall profitability. Besides the operational cost efficiencies gained in bringing digital systems together, universities can become more competitive in applying for grants when, for example, a modern network is seen during the bidding process as critical to attracting and retaining students.

University students are among the most demanding digital consumers. Faculties that modernize their networks to exceed students' expectations will evolve and thrive. Optimizing access, speed, bandwidth and performance is the new standard in enterprise technology, and the education industry is no exception. Taking advantage of intelligent new technologies will attract and retain high-level educators and discerning students.

Read more about NTT’s Managed Campus Networks.

Grant Donald is Networking Technology Director at NTT.