How COVID-19 Presents an Opportunity for Forward-Thinking Investments in Higher Education

As the COVID-19 pandemic pushes higher education institutions into a more digitally-oriented world, there is a new opportunity for exciting long-term investments.

When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, higher education institutions across the country were left scrambling as they struggled to adapt to the needs of the immediate future. That included things like smoothly transitioning to remote learning, enforcing social distancing measures for those who were on campus, and navigating personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.

However, now that higher education institutions have settled into their current realities and found ways to operate in the short-term, they have an opportunity to think beyond immediate solutions. To prepare themselves for the future of education, it makes more sense than ever to invest in digital solutions that will stand the test of time. The best way for higher education institutions to thrive is to think about how today’s investments can promote their long-term success in a more digitally-oriented world.

 

Prioritizing IT Infrastructure and Digital Transformation

There is no denying the massive impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education. Many education leaders are likely eager to leave the challenges of the pandemic behind and return to their old ways as soon as it is safe to do so. But while the end of the pandemic will certainly be accompanied by some returns to the past, the current circumstances shouldn’t be seen merely as brief detours from the old ways — rather, they can also be seen as opportunities to grow.

For higher education institutions in particular, this is an opportunity to reprioritize IT infrastructure and digital transformation to make technology in education not just a utility, but an academic opportunity. Some of the best investments higher education institutions can make right now are:

Transitioning to the Cloud: This is one of the best ways for higher education institutions to prepare themselves for inevitable future disruptions to traditional in-person learning. With cloud-based computing, students and faculty can receive a more consistent and secure online learning experience. Whether virtual learning is being incorporated as part of the regular curriculum, or if it suddenly becomes necessary due to another crisis, transitioning to the cloud can help make the switch to a digital curriculum seamless.

While many higher education institutions have already begun the cloud adoption process, a full transition to the cloud requires strategic planning. With many institutions becoming more settled into their current approach to virtual learning, now is a perfect time to engage in that planning and begin making a full switch to the cloud.

Increasing Cybersecurity Measures: In the current remote learning landscape, cybersecurity is more important than ever. With so many higher education institutions focusing on making e-learning work, it’s easy for cybersecurity priorities to slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, cyber criminals know that defenses may be weak right now and are more than happy to take advantage. As a result, colleges across the country have seen a spike in phishing and ransomware attacks since the start of the pandemic.

By investing in quality solutions to secure IoT devices, the cloud, and other remote learning platforms now, higher education institutions also set themselves up for success in a future that is inevitably full of increasing cyber threats.

Broadening Network Connectivity: One major challenge that higher education institutions have faced during the novel coronavirus pandemic is ensuring that all students have access to high-speed internet to participate in remote learning. Some federal funding has been made available to help students with the most significant financial needs, but individual schools still need to make significant efforts to support their students.

One way schools can help provide equal access is by making sure that at the very least, their students’ on-campus connection needs are being met. That means investing in sufficient bandwidth, access points, and even a high-performance outdoor wireless network — all of which will help ensure that students can access digital learning resources all over campus.

To do this, IT leaders at schools across the country should examine their wireless networks to confirm that they can not only handle the increase in devices, but also that there is more bandwidth available per user to allow for the increased use of big data applications and video necessary for e-learning. Increasing connectivity by removing dead zones also allows for better social distancing in the short-term. Institutions should consider adding more wireless access points and, if necessary, overhauling the network switch infrastructure to improve performance across campus.

Installing Better Cameras: Smart security cameras are a great way to both help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and fortify campus protections moving forward. These IoT devices can help with contact tracing and enforcing social distancing in the short-term, and will serve as powerful surveillance tools in the long-term. With smart cameras that offer both proactive and retroactive security insights, as well as pandemic-related capabilities, higher education institutions can help keep their students healthy and safe both today and in the years to come.

 

Making the Right Investments

Knowing which short-term solutions will turn into the best long-term investments can be a challenge for any higher education institution. When you work with a partner like Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI), you can get insight from industry-leading experts to help you make the best decisions for your specific circumstances. From increasing connectivity to heightening cybersecurity, TTI’s experts can facilitate strategic decisions and successful implementations to help your higher education institution make the best investments.

To learn more about how TTI can help you turn the challenges of COVID-19 into an opportunity for progress, contact us today.

By Tony Ridzyowski

October 14, 2020

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