How to prepare for everything

Patton singles out Arizona State University as a school that has really embraced the concepts of IoE to assist in teaching and learning. “They’re doing some very interesting work in the area of data analytics,” she noted. “They’re building a lot of the applications themselves, but they are also working with different companies, and whatever they can pull of the shelf, they do.”

The barriers to an IoE future in higher ed are both institutional and technical. The institutional roadblocks certainly won’t surprise anyone who has worked in higher ed. “The biggest challenge is inertia,” noted Patton. “[Schools] are so used to doing things based on a very traditional model. Faculty go into teaching because it gives them the opportunity to be the sage on the stage. I think it’s going to be students really driving this transition.”

On the technical front, though, the issues boil down to one word: scale. According to ABI Research, more than 40 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, and higher education will account for its fair share of them. Plus, many of these devices will be wireless. “Students have to have that ubiquitous access, whether they’re in a classroom, in a dorm room, or on the bus,” added Patton.

A solid-core network—both wired and wireless—with built-in security is key if schools are to handle this surge in devices. “That’s why we take a network-centric approach to it,” noted Patton. “The network gives you the controllability over the devices. The network must be scalable, secure, and reliable. If you have the right architecture, then your investments really make sense.”

For schools only now putting in the hard yards to ensure that BYOD can live happily on their networks, it’s worth calling timeout to determine if the system they’ve devised is capable of accommodating exponential growth in the number of “things” on their networks—and how those things are going to be able to deliver intelligent, actionable information that can reduce costs and improve outcomes.

For IT leaders, this may require something of a metamorphosis, shucking off the role of Sisyphus to transform themselves into none other than Buzz Lightyear: “To infinity…and beyond!”

Andrew Barbour is an editorial freelance writer for eCampus News.