Here’s how tech will get us “out of line” on campus

If you walk around almost any college in the country, the first thing you notice is that just about every building is named after some benefactor. Whether it’s a gym, a dormitory, or a theater, chances are it has the name of a wealthy individual or the logo of a company prominently displayed. And as far as memorials go, getting a campus building named after yourself is a pretty good choice, because tens of thousands of students, professors, and staff are guaranteed to see it every single year.

Related post: Colleges get creative using tech to honor grads

Unless that year is 2020. That’s because COVID-19 has forced almost everyone to work, teach, and learn from home. And no one knows how long that’s going to last. It could be a few more months, or we could lose an entire academic year of in-person classes. We could start up in September, only to have a second wave of the pandemic force people to abandon classrooms for another extended period of time. We just have no idea.

That’s why schools need to get serious about using technology to replace in-person experiences. And in some cases, these new approaches may actually be better than the ones we left behind. Let’s look at the process of getting financial aid, which even before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, was an incredibly inefficient and frustrating experience for both students and staff. People had to line up for hours as they slowly snaked their way to the front, where an employee would help them fill out the paperwork to get the funds to enroll in school.

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Student retention is a top priority for higher-ed leaders

Retention of current students is a top priority for senior college and university administrators, according to a new survey from the nonprofit student success organization InsideTrack.

The survey, which was conducted in early May 2020 and includes responses from almost 140 higher-ed administrators, gauges major student success priorities and challenges. Retention topped those priorities and challenges across the board.

Related content: 6 higher-ed management challenges facing leaders today

Even as institutions attempt to look to long-term strategic planning, most are still embroiled in short-term decisions related to the upcoming semester. When given choices ranging from the current spring term to 2021 and beyond, 77 percent of respondents said they are primarily focused on the fall 2020 semester. When asked for their top 3 student success priorities, retaining current students (80 percent), offering more online/hybrid classes (55 percent) and enrolling more students (48 percent) topped the list.

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Examining unconscious AI in higher ed

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), autonomous systems, robotic process automation, chat bots, augmented and mixed reality and many other buzzwords are flying around water coolers and leadership team meetings across enterprises.

It signifies the interest and the potential benefits to the organizations or institutions (in the case of higher education) and how these technologies can be adopted successfully to gain an advantage in the already very competitive higher education business.

Related content: 4 ways AI is impacting higher education

Part of AI is what is called unconscious AI. What does this really mean, and what are the different perspectives of unconscious AI?

Different AI approaches

To explore unconscious AI, we first must understand what AI is and what different approaches are taken by technology providers and consumers to make AI effective and useful in daily life. While there are many different definitions and explanations about artificial intelligence, it is broadly regarded as the capability of a machine to imitate human intelligence. When evolving AI through neural networks, expert systems, robotic automations, autonomous systems and applications and many other technical tooling, we can observe three main types of AI and ML technology options adopted by the modern enterprise.

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District wide campus communications suites

Murrieta Valley Unified School District educates 23,400 students from transitional kindergarten through high school at 20 campuses. MVUSD executed a major 18-month renovation of campuses across the district including the installation of AV systems built around Extron’s WallVault Digital System in 1,100 classrooms, multipurpose rooms, libraries, and meeting rooms.

During the renovation project, the district began evaluating Extron’s GlobalViewer Campus Communications Suite – GVCCS – with intentions to modernize campus public address, bell, and intercom systems as a complete solution for unifying all campus audio systems under an easy-to-use interface using the existing network.

Jonathan Pratt, the Senior Systems Engineer for MVUSD, observes that GVCCS is yielding multiple advantages that may prove critical in a changing learning environment: “From an Operations standpoint, we are convinced that GVCCS is the way to go. But the technical case for GVCCS actually takes a back seat to its value-added. The ability for school sites to create and control their own schedules and audio content is a game-changer. Putting this kind of technology into the hands of school administrators allows creativity to flourish.”

Read more about Murrieta Valley USD District-Wide Deployment of Extron GlobalViewer Campus Communications Suite

 

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How to engage students in a post-email world

At Texas A&M University, we’ve provided students in our College Station campus with high-quality education since 1876. As the first public higher education institution in Texas with more than 68,000 students and with the country’s second-biggest student roll to look after, our ability to innovate in student support as well as in our classes, laboratories and playing fields, is a pillar of the excellent customer service we provide to our community.

Too much email?

Each Texas A&M student has a dedicated email address. After years of using email as the primary way to communicate with students, we started to encounter some challenges: many students began to only monitor their personal email address, spending little to no time checking their university email address. It resulted in them not completing important administrative tasks such as signing up for direct deposit, and failing to meet important deadlines and requirements such as submitting a photograph for their identification (ID) cards or to complete financial agreements.

Related content: The magic tool for communicating with students

We already had a vendor conducting one-way outbound calls and reminders–not only did students rarely answer the phone or reply to voicemails, but they also couldn’t text back that number. They had to find time to call us back and whenever they would actually do that, they would be frustrated by the long hold times.

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Stepping away from technology to avoid burnout

Technology will play a central role in the delivery of higher education this fall and into the future. Faculty will need to master e-learning platforms and exam proctoring tools. They will be exploring new ways to use artificial intelligence to train our future doctors and engineers. They will be leveraging online communication channels to deliver an engaging, high-value educational experience for students.

Going fully virtual will impact faculty health and well-being. It will be easier for faculty to slip into an always on mindset and always-in-front-of-a-screen routine, which can lead to frustration, fatigue and burnout. The secret to avoiding burnout, prioritizing well-being and staying focused doesn’t live in an app or software or online tool—it lives away from the screen in simple, daily habits.

Related content: 3 ways to support mental health on campus

Many faculty will also be distanced from the things they love most about working in academia. Educators – who were already experiencing significant stress – have had to quickly transform the fundamental way they do their jobs, navigate an uncertain future and continue to support students. The reasons they got into academia and the things they love most—from intellectual engagement to research—are no longer available in the same way.

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Audio conferencing solutions

Nureva Inc., an innovator in advanced audio conferencing solutions, is now shipping its HDL200 audio conferencing system, the newest addition to the company’s line of audio conferencing products. Designed for rooms and open spaces up to 18′ x 18′ (5.5 x 5.5 m), the HDL200 system delivers the same consistent and reliable audio pickup that Nureva’s award-winning HDL300 systems deliver for larger spaces. All Nureva audio systems are powered by patented Microphone Mist™ technology, which fills the entire space with thousands of virtual microphones so that everybody can be heard no matter how far apart in-room meeting participants are, how softly they talk or which direction they face. Unlike beamforming and tabletop omnidirectional microphones, there are no dead zones in the room where it is difficult to be heard. The system was designed for quick DIY installation. It can be mounted above or below a display, on either a wall or a mobile stand. An optional magnetic mount is also available for attaching third-party cameras to the system. The HDL200 also has a built-in LCD to give in-room participants helpful information such as time, volume and mute on/off. Further enhancements will roll out through future integrations with other products such as room control, building information management and room booking systems.

Nureva continues to experience rapid growth by delivering the simple, reliable audio conferencing experience that customers are looking for. The unique value of Microphone Mist technology provides freedom for in-room participants to spread out, face any direction and move around the space. Remote participants can hear the conversation clearly and naturally contribute as if they were in the room. And continuous autocalibration means fewer room visits for IT staff. Nureva’s audio product line includes the HDL200 for small spaces, the HDL300 for medium spaces up to 25′ x 25′ (7.6 x 7.6 m) and the Dual HDL300 for large spaces up to 30′ x 50′ (9.1 x 15.2 m). Deployment of the full Nureva audio conferencing product line is supported by Nureva Console, a cloud-based platform that makes it easy for IT staff to implement and manage all Nureva systems at scale from a secure, web-based dashboard. Once a Nureva audio system is enrolled through Nureva Console, customers also receive an additional year of warranty, an increase from two years to three.

“I am one of the early users of the HDL200 system, which I’ve been using in my home office since early April, and I’ve been impressed with the system’s clear audio pickup,” said John Simpson, chairman of the CANA Group of Companies. “I am no longer wondering what people are saying, because I can hear everyone on the call crystal clear.”

“The HDL200 is an elegant solution that brings great audio quality into your conference calls while giving the user a simple ease of use experience,” said Paul Lemyre, DataVisual’s Senior Technical Engineer. “Adding the LCD was also a clever decision and I can see it bringing additional value to customers.”

“Clear, reliable audio conferencing is especially relevant at this time when there is a need to maintain in-room physical distancing, while ensuring remote participants can hear and contribute to the conversation,” said Nancy Knowlton, Nureva’s CEO. “The addition of the HDL200 to our product line gives IT managers every option they need to support meeting rooms of all sizes.”

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These strategies can help institutions combat cyberattacks

It doesn’t matter where you look. Today, technology is everywhere. In educational organizations, tech has become a crucial part of the daily learning process, fundamentally changing the way students learn, how teachers educate, and how learning institutions operate. Whether doing research in a computer lab or conducting classwork on a personal tablet, students and teachers are more connected now than ever before. Of course, with such connection, there comes potential of cyber threats and cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks are happening in schools nationwide

Since 2016, there have been 688 publicly-disclosed cybersecurity-related incidents involving U.S. public schools and 61 public school districts have experienced more than one cybersecurity incident. Higher ed has certainly had its share of data breaches. This underscores the need for institutions to have a strong cybersecurity curriculum to help produce future cybersecurity professionals.

Related content: How to balance transparency and cybersecurity

One might ask, “Why are attackers targeting schools?” Beyond the troves of personally-identifiable information (PII) on students and staff, there is frequently sensitive—and lucrative—data associated with research projects being conducted at the schools.

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Designing a digital narrative

Humans tell each other stories as a way of making sense of the world. One of the profound deficits of social isolation is that it puts barriers to our ability to share stories. Storytelling is a two-way process. The storyteller requires feedback from the listener to know that the story is being heard. Furthermore, we often lose sight of the story that is unfolding across the entirety of our courses. The small stories have to make sense in the overall narrative.

In the end, the student is the ultimate storyteller because they are forming impressions and ordering the story as they see it, not necessarily as the teacher intended to tell it. If that part of the process fails, it’s all for naught. The audience is the author.

Related content: Moving from textual thinking to visual thinking

Our classes are often by their very nature collages, but they must be carefully constructed to highlight and not obscure the intended pathway to the end. Simplicity of the meta-narrative is crucial here. Everything in my class is oriented toward a single goal: a tangible work product at the end of the semester. How my students get there is less of a concern to me than whether they get there. However, it is my responsibility as a teacher to show them the way there through my design of the narrative.

The temptations of the digital canvas are to provide a wide range of activities and opportunities for exploration. However, there is a danger here of leading students down alleys and then having the class become about the detour, not the intended thoroughfare.

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COVID-19 ushers in a new era of cybersecurity

This semester, higher-ed institutions around the world have struggled to keep up with the digital demands of remote learning. As these organizations build the infrastructure that will support distance learning moving forward, it’s more critical than ever for the education industry to consider the safety and security of its students and faculty members as we look ahead to how COVID-19 will continue to impact learning institutions.

College campuses have long been a target for cyber threat actors. In fact, EDUCAUSE reported that the number one IT issue academic institutions face in 2020 is adopting a sound information security strategy. It’s no wonder, considering the rise in faculty and students bringing their own devices (BYOD) over the past decade, coupled with universities’ often insufficient funds to adequately secure campus networks.

Related content: Is your cybersecurity program on track?

And the amount of sensitive data that needs to be safeguarded has risen in lockstep with the number of devices. Academic institutions are a treasure trove of data — from student health and financial data, to faculty resumes and 401K information, to critical research and organizational data used to support U.S. companies and government agencies.

Now, in the age of COVID-19, all of this information is even more vulnerable as students and faculty access it via remote, at-home networks that often lag behind on-campus facilities in terms of security.

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