Published on 2014/10/10

Managing Cause and Effect: How Committing to the Internet of Everything Can Help Institutions Scale

Managing Cause and Effect: How Committing to the Internet of Everything Can Help Institutions Scale
Committing to the introduction of critical technology tools can help institutions scale their operations and serve more students without a loss of quality.
Then: We used to have alignment between funding, business and execution models. There was ample funding via the GI Bill and federal and state appropriations. While European nations were educating their aristocracy, America was educating its populous. We had a healthy middle class, our economy was the envy of others, America was on a roll and education played a central role.

Now: Federal and state appropriations have plummeted, the GI Bill is no longer, student debt is at a record $1.3 trillion and climbing, Europe is educating its populous, our middle class is disappearing and we’re educating our aristocracy. What was once the largest meritocracy in the developed world is fast becoming a two-tiered society. What happened? It’s a disruptive trajectory, certainly, but how do we reverse it and create alignment among funding, business and execution models? One answer is to redefine the model, not unlike how we’ve redefined key university functions over the last number of years. By leveraging new operational capabilities enabled by information technology (IT), it’s now possible to reimagine the traditional definitions of classroom, office space, learning environments and instruction.

Think about how the use of video, mobile tools/apps and cloud computing have impacted our personal and professional lives. Overlaid on traditional university operations, the implications of these tools can be profound. In fact, improved operational efficiencies enabled by new IT tools, resources and applications can help institutions scale — with quality — to meet the needs of more learners, increase graduation rates, grow revenues, lower costs and improve quality.

The proverbial bar keeps rising with the introduction of the Internet of Everything (IoE) phenomenon, too. IoE is the networked connection of people, process, data and things, and represents the confluence of multiple technology trends: mobility (ubiquitous, high-speed mobile networks, smart devices and apps); cloud computing; social networks; instant collaboration with anyone, anywhere; data analytics; and, finally, an explosion in connected “things” via inexpensive, intelligent sensors. IoE brings these elements together with standards-based IP networks, and Cisco projects it will generate a staggering $19 trillion in value over the next 10 years. Of this, $258 billion of the IoE value-at-stake will come from solutions for connected learning alone.

The network, which is at the heart of IoE, must be stable, scalable, reliable and capable of handling the increased rate of traffic from the explosion of mobile devices, the use of video and the implementation of new applications for communications and collaboration. It must be safe, secure, wired and wireless, easy to manage and administer, and it must be designed to meet future growth requirements.

These tools are collapsing distance in artful ways, unlocking new forms of productivity, reducing the number of vehicle trips to and from campus by enabling remote learning and faculty/staff telecommuting, exposing students to remote thought leaders heretofore impossible and allowing for the adjustment of student-faculty ratios that enable campuses to serve the needs of more learners.

So “Then / Now” segues to “Cause / Effect,” as the customer (the student) now comes to campus with at least four connected devices or more. They depend on wireless like any other critical utility, absorb content remotely on many a device, consume service through myriad internet-based services, yet “step back in time” as they absorb much of their college experience. As Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, once professed, “Only the Paranoid Survive.” Will such an axiom effect universities? Will there be winners and losers? I foresee a not-too-distant future where students will vote with their feet. How will your institution respond?

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Readers Comments

Arizona R. 2014/10/14 at 11:21 am

“Internet of Everything” is a term I only recently came across but it seems to be the dominant trend when talking about the future of higher ed. What’s important here is that institutions don’t lose sight of the need for a digital/IT strategy to inform the individual decisions they make on adopting (or not) a particular piece of technology. My limited understanding of IoE is that it’s talking about purposeful thought to fully implement, not haphazard adoption of trendy technology tools that may not properly serve the institution’s needs.

Kathleen Simmons 2014/10/14 at 11:30 am

Interesting discussion of the growing IoE movement. I would like a better distinction of the impacts of IoE on face-to-face engagement versus online education. There’s a big discussion on connected learning, which would manifest differently depending on the environment in which students engaged. Would anyone care to enlighten me?

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