The high saturation of mobile devices in the hands of students has caused many institutions of higher learning to rethink their network strategy. The smart phone, tablet, and iPad have transformed from social and entertainment ‘toys’ to true learning tools so students can access real information, collaborate, share, and better participate in learning.
This is the advent of mobile learning, where the walls of the classroom are no longer brick and mortar and interactive learning will occur whenever and wherever it needs to without barriers of space and time.
Education is a primary innovation testing ground for this mobility surge. Mobile learning at the university level is an incubator for the evolving mobile workplace. Since it can help propel each graduate to be prime contributors and leaders in their professional careers, the IT department holds an increasing responsibility for the success of their institution and its students. So universities, with their budget and human resource constraints, need to make clever choices that enable a leading mobile learning environment.
And in reality, this mobile learning environment is far more extensive than just a wireless access network, which was fine in the PC era which comprised static workstations or portable laptops with thick clients and on-board storage was fairly tolerant of low-speed and inconsistent networks.
What Mobile learning really requires is a mobility ecosystem comprised of users, a plethora of devices, operating systems, clients and app. Also, a network of wireless and wired access, a switched network, firewalls, directories, storage and SAN networking, servers, or “the cloud”, the Internet, firewalls, management, remote access.
This mobility ecosystem must be identity-aware of each user/device combination and each application that are in constant motion, and ensure consistent, high-performance and secure services. In other words, it’s automated, fast, and always-on.
The network is the critical infrastructure that enables these services that makes it easy for students and others to get access without disruption. But the university network needs to be more than theoretical; it needs to deliver this corporate network of the future today so students get personalized service for any device or application so teachers can teach and students can learn, unencumbered; services are automated and customizable so IT can focus on extending applications and services such as a mobile web framework, open learning portals, multiuser virtual environments (MUV), and other collaborative multimedia learning adjuncts.
Mobility is expanding its place in learning and intelligent choices IT makes to build its mobile ecosystem will have a strong impact on the success of the students and the reputation of the university.