More than ever, technology is a deciding factor for students trying to choose a university. The impact of innovative IT – or the lack of it – doesn’t just affect reputation, though. It can touch every aspect of your institution. After all, innovative IT is a fundamental pillar of any modern university’s operations.
The University of Exeter’s CIO, Alan Hill, has this to say: “We’ve had to move now, quite dramatically, in our skill sets and in our technology solutions to become service integrators… the university has recognised the centrality of digital in its offer to students and to the research community.”
Students today want more bang for their buck. They want to know how your institution spends their fees.
Here are four ways universities cannot just keep up with, but leapfrog the competition using innovative IT:
1. Provide consistent, quality connection
Modern learners want to be able to access your wifi network and study as flexibly as possible, especially as courses increasingly feature blended in-person and online learning components.
Overall, institutions have been giving students what they want. The average satisfaction rating for university wifi hovers around four out of five. This makes a good quality, widespread and always-on network a necessity if you want to stay competitive.
For seamless connectivity, you can establish a network of wifi access points across campus. This allows students to study on the go and remain connected on personal devices without experiencing interruptions.
It also means that when one access point experiences issues, others in a ‘cluster’ are there to compensate for it. This ‘seamless failover’ means the end of dropped video conferences and lectures interrupted by faulty connection. To further ensure consistent access your institution should also carry out predictive maintenance and live system updates.
2. Provide a secure network for all devices
Over 80% of students use their own laptops at university. That’s a huge proportion of the devices that will be active on your network, and that will need unmediated, secure access.
With that many devices, you increase your cybersecurity risk. After all, you can’t guarantee that every student device has virus and privacy protection. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure your institution has a strong access provision and monitoring system in place. This allows you to avoid costly security breaches and the resultant network downtime.
Students expect instant connectivity. They don’t want any delay when logging on to a new device. But this doesn’t mean you have to compromise on security. Balance ease-of-access and security with Aruba ClearPass. This platform adapts to new device types and users while providing IT teams with an easily-digested overview of network health and potential threats.
3. Develop software for personalised student services
Once your network bases are covered, it’s worth thinking about using innovative IT services to do some innovation of your own. For example, why not develop your own software to appeal to students looking for a progressive, tech-forward university. This is possible with a secure and well-provisioned network that can support internal applications.
Location services can make student life much easier, yet not many universities take advantage of this tool. This is surprising as new students may feel more comfortable with their surroundings if they have an interactive map in their pocket. Starting university is a stressful time for young people, why not make it as simple as possible?
Indoor Bluetooth beacons make it possible to help new and prospective students navigate your campus and its buildings within a university-specific app. This is both a useful tool and a downloadable advertisement for your commitment to IT innovation. The same technology allows for the creation of interactive maps showing, for example, the location of disability access points, while smaller Bluetooth tags make it easy to get a live view of where valuable assets like rented laptops are on your campus.
This isn’t all hypothetical, either. Our own efforts at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium have shown how applications can be developed to show users which bars and cafes are most busy, and which have space – an incredibly useful tool both for staff management and for students in a rush between lectures.
Universities present plenty of use cases: how many students are in the library, and where are there free seats? Where are there opportunities to monitor student wellbeing by tracking attendance and involvement with the university? Location services make answering these kinds of questions an achievable outcome, and add value to the higher education experience.
Combine these efforts with edge computing and you’ll localise processing to individual devices, ramping up the performance of those applications and exceeding the expectations of the most tech-savvy students.
4. Be proactive with your innovation
Higher education institutions spend £2.6 billion on IT each year. Ensure that the money is being put to good use by innovating, not playing catch-up.
Providing a strong, foundational network that you can upgrade proactively and without downtime is crucial if your institution is to compete. The scalability and future-proofing it provides will eliminate those legacy technology costs, ensuring that they won’t be an obstacle as higher education evolves and students demand more of their university.
In-house development is the natural next step once these foundations are in place. With the right network and hardware to support development, it’s an opportunity for universities to set themselves apart, providing creative, branded services that genuinely support and improve your student’s university experience.
To find out more about how you can unlock the true power of IT innovation and build a truly innovative student experience download our latest report ‘Smart students, smarter university: HPE’s IT innovation roadmap for UK higher education’.
About Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is a global technology leader focused on developing intelligent solutions that allow customers to capture, analyze and act upon data seamlessly from edge to cloud. HPE enables customers to accelerate business outcomes by driving new business models, creating new customer and employee experiences, and increasing operational efficiency today and into the future.