Creating campuses without borders

Collaboration tools make remote experiences as effective as face-to-face interactions
By: | Issue: September, 2016
September 8, 2016

What are some of the instructional technology challenges higher ed leaders are facing as their campuses grow in physical size?
Unfortunately, technology budgets do not often grow when campuses do. So selections must be made with maximum ROI in mind, from both the usability and support ends. New deployments ought to integrate into the university’s existing information infrastructure to assure compatibility and ease the burden of maintenance.

As administrators consider new technology purchases, they must look for platforms that allow faculty and students in different locations to connect as productively as they would in the same room. To create real value, deliver effective instruction, and meet the varied needs of faculty and students, it’s important to choose systems that are easy to use and that function much like the tools that stakeholders already use on a daily basis, such as tablets and smartphones.

Meeting via video conferencing can have economic benefits for students and faculty. How can using this technology in courses benefit stakeholders in terms of saving time and even money?
Many institutions want to “broadcast” classes from a main campus to satellite campuses and online. This leverages the expertise of a single instructor beyond four walls, and allows students who might not otherwise ever be able to physically attend a class on a main campus to get that same high level of instruction. Instead of offering multiple versions of a course in multiple locations to a few students at a time, the institution can save faculty travel time and salary by offering a class once a semester to all interested students through high-quality video conferencing.

Collaboration technology also can connect administrative staff and faculty for meetings and training. Systems that blend video conferencing and whiteboarding with the ability to present materials from laptops, the network and remote presenters are especially valuable in making meetings more effective. There are measurable savings in terms of travel expense and faculty or administrative time.

How is video conferencing poised to further disrupt education in the next few years?
Experts working in the field can share their work in interactive sessions with students on the other side of the planet. We see archeologists connecting with classrooms directly from the site of important digs, for example. The opportunity to open the classroom, to make the instruction come alive for students, is incredible.

Beyond that, we see video conferencing playing a huge role in the expansion of makerspaces and multimedia labs. Video conferencing is a key way to connect people and devices anytime, anywhere with nearly the same results as being in the same room. We see many decision theaters and media labs being built around video conferencing technology in order to let students discover new ways to digest and share media, from social media to broadcast.

What will the class of 2020’s learning experience be like?
Collaboration labs and technology centers will be more mainstream, as will connecting these labs to other people in other places. Also, collaboration will be very ubiquitous and diverse, from the number and types of devices used to collaborate to the locations that will be considered “classrooms.” The classroom will become anywhere that learning happens—across distance, across a myriad of platforms and networks, and across cultures.

Increased group work is trending and will continue to do so. More than ever people are collaborating with others to solve challenges as teams, sharing research and learning across physical campuses. It’s not just cutting-edge universities with big budgets investing in collaboration technology. Collaboration technology has become significantly easier to use and more affordable, putting it within reach of any university that wants a competitive advantage in education.

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