Curated content from CISCO and OPTUS

A major study of university executives has found that they plan to re-allocate funds away from bricks and mortar and towards technology. The shift has been fuelled by what executives think a “COVID normal” environment is going to look like, with the proportion of funding spend on physical versus digital infrastructure to change by approximately 11 per cent in the direction of digital. Even more revealing, is that nearly half of all institutions said they would consider liquidating real estate assets to fund digital programs and research.

An independent study commissioned by Cisco and Optus – The Tipping Point for Digitisation of Education and Campuses – elicited responses from 78 per cent of universities. and Headline findings include:

  • collaboration technology will continue to dominate contemporary education and become even more valuable as new features are added. This was also born out in an independent study conducted by the National Industry Innovation Network (NIIN) anchored by La Trobe and Curtin universities
  • students will start to differentiate institutions on the quality of their digital services and engagement, perhaps more than the quality of buildings
  • there will a greater priority given to informal learning commons, outdoor spaces and innovation/maker facilities at the expense of formal lecture theatres
  • less people will be physically on campus, driven by more flexible work and learn from home arrangements. The challenge for universities is luring students back to campus by making it more experiential and alive
  • campus safety will rise in prominence including measures to guarantee a safe return to campus, including the ability to use technology to contact trace more effectively
  • energy efficiency and space utilisation will be treated as table stakes with universities seeking to automate campus operations for higher value activities

The priority given to digital does not mean that physical campuses will drift into the background, but campus design will almost certainly change. For example, the campus will increasingly become a place for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. This will drastically reduce demand for traditional spaces such as lecture theatres and create more demand for technology-enabled hybrid learning spaces.

There will also be a major shift towards “place-making” in higher education where businesses, researchers and students come together to create campus communities focused on common goals such as co-innovation.

The Tipping Point report is a fascinating insight into what the campus of the future might look like, and also demonstrates that Australia is well served by a progressive, forward-looking and adaptive education and training sector that will be vital to getting the economy growing again.gSo what can universities do to digitise their campuses and prepare for `COVID-normal’ operations?

  • get the underlaying platform in place: The importance of underlaying infrastructure is borne out at the security layer. Legacy applications and infrastructure are a major vulnerability and put the education at significant risk from a cyber security threat perspective. The growth in Internet of Things (IoT) is also creating additional pressures to upgrade underlaying infrastructure and increasing demands on mobile networks including 5G. Cisco and Optus have a track record of working with organisations to equip their technology environment with robust, scalable and secure infrastructure. Significant innovation has occurred at the infrastructure level, such as Optus’ Liquid Infrastructure platform that helps institutes respond and thrive in the face of digital transformation. Optus Liquid Infrastructure is a Software Defined Network  automation platform that enables businesses to visualise, manage and change their network services on demand – a heightened requirement during the 2020 pandemic as institutions moved to mass instances of remote working and teaching.
  • adopt a digital first approach to strategy and implementation: Digital is now driving some of the most important decisions in higher and vocational education; it’s no longer just an augmentation tool. Institutions need to move from having a separate digital strategy to embedding digital in their overarching organisational strategy. Cisco and Optus produce a wealth of thought leadership that can help institutions identify what the future of digital looks like in their context, including the Tipping Point report.
  • prioritise digital expenditure over bricks and mortar: The importance of cloud-based infrastructure has been amplified by the remote nature of work and learning. Cloud technologies are impacting all aspects of university and TAFE operations, with potential to deliver a better return on investment than traditional infrastructure. Cisco and Optus can work with institutions to build a better understanding of the suitability of their existing infrastructure assets and capacity to digitise. There is a lot of focus among university CIOs on what a next generation architecture looks like for 5G; one that is cloud native, software-defined and high availability. A priority should now be placed on how institutes can prepare their campuses for a future 5G environment where students will have access to high-speed connectivity
  • broaden the ecosystem with input into campus master planning: input into campus master plans needs to be broader with more involvement from technology companies, local industry and chief information officers to ensure the transformative potential of digital is reflected. Cisco and Optus welcome opportunities to be part of the master planning mix and provide visibility into digital futures and macro trends.
  • extract more value out of industry partnerships: Partnerships are more critical and universities and TAFEs need to look at what partners can bring beyond technology and equipment: skills, research and innovation, tech and skills transfer, thought leadership and global networks. Cisco and Optus are not only suppliers of cutting-edge technology to the education sector, but strategic partners. Both companies have a history of collaborating with education institutions and help support research chairs and centres of excellence in leading institutions across Australia.

To access the full study on the digitisation of Education Campuses you can download the report from either of the below sources:




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