Technology has made its way into most aspects of our lives, and the education sector has not escaped this. The way that schools and universities use technology and IT infrastructure has evolved massively in the past few decades, with the government placing a particular focus on digital transformation in schools and universities.
In 2015, £900 million was spent on technology in British schools and in a YouGov poll, 76 percent of teachers said they used technology in a way that assisted learning. If predictions from 2016 were correct, this number is now likely to be nearer 100 per cent.
We asked James Honnor, Public Sector Account Manager at MCSA, about how things have changed and where things are going.
Past & Present
Picture this: Large, air-conditioned rooms across university campuses full of desktop computers. This is where students headed after their lectures to write up their notes and continue their studies. There was no such thing as remote working or personal computers, and IT infrastructures were built on a wired network.
Fast forward 15 or 20 years and the picture of UK universities is very different. Nearly all universities provide virtual learning environments for students to access everything from course material to email, to lecture recordings. Students expect to be able to work from their student house, home, or even on the train, so naturally, this network needs to be accessible from anywhere. The IT infrastructure that universities deploy must keep up with student expectation and provide a reliable service.
What trends are impacting future developments?
There are two key trends that are having an impact on future developments: Competition for students and the evolution of the IT department. Students are no longer competing for places, universities are competing for students. This means that any developments, technology or otherwise, should have the student experience in mind. With the National Student Survey asking questions on student experience and often playing a significant role in where students choose to study, it is important that universities get their IT deployments right and provide a reliable service.
The role of the IT department has also changed considerably in the past decade. It provides a service to the university as well as ensuring the infrastructure is kept up and running. Many universities have an IT service desk that provides assistance to students, as well as becoming a point of call when issues arise within the infrastructure.
As universities continue to improve and evolve their IT services, competition will increase and IT suppliers will need to become much more aware of not just business needs, but also technical requirements. It is especially important for service providers and suppliers to be aware of the specific challenges faced by individual institutions and to become engaged across different areas, not just the IT department.
For universities to see Return on Investment (ROI) and a success for their infrastructure, a partnership approach toward suppliers will become hugely beneficial.