Using UC to transform campus communications

How Unified Communications is critical for the success of mobility in higher education.

communications-unified-educationThere’s an aspect of mobility that has truly been underutilized throughout education, especially for the staff and faculty on college and university campuses. Ironically, it’s the entire reason mobile devices are with us today – mobile communications.

Mobile communications enable a multitude of benefits for educational institutions, providing flexibility that is critical for faculty, staff and students to stay connected, especially during critical times and emergency situations. Unified Communications (UC) enables colleges and universities to take full advantage of these benefits.

Today’s UC phone systems provide powerful mobility tools – expanding the features of a traditional desk phone. Faculty, staff and IT can easily manage calls and update their call availability status. With advanced UC features, users are able to have full visibility into the presence of other colleagues, and can easily check voicemail when away from the office.

(Next page: What does the right UC solution need to have?)

The right UC solution also provides a single universal mobile app, allowing faculty and staff to make the most of their personal mobile devices (including phones and tablets). Without a mobile app, the use of personal devices can create a new set of challenges:

  • Administrators lack the flexibility they need to manage both everyday operations and emergency situations.
  • Faculty are hesitant to allow students access to them outside their office hours for risk of being bombarded with student calls at all times.
  • IT struggles with instituting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and managing difficult setup processes for mobile devices on shoestring budgets.

The mobility tools within a UC system provide solutions for these common issues for key campus roles.

Mobile communications deliver flexibility for administrators

Administrators have the difficult task of fostering a campus environment that is both conducive to learning and safe. Not only do administrators have to deal with the normal, day-to-day operations of the school, they must always be on alert and prepared for emergency situations. In critical situations, communications with key personnel is vital to a positive outcome.

UC mobile apps provide the solution by giving administrators connectivity to the entire staff from anywhere. They can reach anyone with a touch of a button, as well as see the status of everyone on campus through presence notifications in a simple interface, making it easier to communicate during a crisis.

When managing the day-to-day operations, it’s difficult for an administrator to properly do their job from behind a desk. With campus events to attend and issues to resolve in other parts of the university, administrators can now have the flexibility to stay connected at all times, regardless of their location.

In addition to this increased availability, administrators are no longer tied to their desk when on a call. They can seamlessly transfer calls from their desk phone to their mobile device and continue on a call – without disruption – while traveling on or off campus.

UC gives faculty greater work/personal life balance

Professors often struggle with the level of accessibility they give students. They want to provide the support that students need to be successful in their classes and understand that support may need to be given outside of office hours. At the same time, professors want to be able to participate in personal activities without the fear of being bombarded with student phone calls.

Mobile UC applications provide the answer for faculty to better manage their work/personal life balance. When a faculty member makes a call from their personal mobile device, but uses the UC application, the student sees only the work extension information for that teacher, not the personal cell phone number.

UC features also make it easy for professors to control their accessibility by simply changing their status to “Do Not Disturb” or “Away” and have all calls flow directly to their voicemail, with the touch of a button.

Simple setup and configuration relieves IT headaches around mobility

IT staff often cringe when the idea of BYOD and mobility are discussed. When campus staff and faculty use their personal mobile devices for work communication, IT loses visibility and control over those conversations, opening up the school to bandwidth allocation and potential legal issues.

In addition, many campuses around the country do not have formal BYOD policies in place to provide usage guidelines to users and access to personal devices for IT. Adding to IT’s frustration, mobile application setup is often challenging and complex.

The mobility options with UC take these IT headaches into consideration and have very simple setup and management processes. Some of the higher quality solutions can have all the configuration commands automatically completed with the simple scanning of a QR code.

UC mobile apps also ensure that all calls made through the system are logged so IT can account for and report on all communications activity made by remote personnel.

Mobility changes the way your campus communicates

Modern UC phone systems can deliver mobility tools and features to transition an educational institution (full of staff members with limited or no communications options) into a flexible, connected campus, even with tight budgets.

Mobility, though it is just one of hundreds of useful features of UC systems can deliver to colleges and universities, can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of all the major roles on campus. Higher education needs to take a close look at the benefits of UC and see for themselves how it can truly change the way their school communicates.

Brian Ferguson is the Product Marketing Manager for Switchvox, and since becoming part of the Digium team in 2010, Brian has worked in multiple sales and marketing roles supporting Diguim’s reseller channel and helping SMB customers use Digium solutions to solve their business telephony challenges.

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