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How IoT is Impacting Networks in Higher Education and Student Learning

Thanks for reading the LEDG blog series for Higher Education Network, Information Technology, and Facility leaders on IoT and Network Infrastructure Master Planning. The demands are increasing and we hope we can help sort through the hype and the realities of what it takes to change your campus buildings to intelligent facilities.

The Internet of Things (IoT), defined broadly as “a network of everyday items with embedded computers that can connect directly or indirectly to the internet,” is rapidly changing the landscape of college and university campuses.  The proliferation of the IoT has a broad impact on campus life, affecting everything from the student experience to campus safety.  Successful integration of the IoT on a campus is expected to yield significant benefits for students, faculty, researchers, and staff, but the ongoing implementation of IoT devices and systems will have a large downstream impact on the school’s network infrastructure.

The projected growth rate of the IoT varies considerably.   Some have predicted that about 20 billion devices will be connected by 2020 while other experts forecast the number closer to 50 billion.  Some forecasts even project that as many as 100+ billion connected devices will be in place by 2020. Whether the actual number of connected IoT devices by 2020 is at the low or high end of the forecast, it is clear that annual spending in the IoT market is increasing substantially.  The International Data Corporation (IDC) calculating that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will reach $7.1 trillion in four years.                                                                

According to a joint report by the NMC and Educause, the expected time to widespread adoption of the Internet of Things on college and university campuses is two to three years, with many campuses already seeing IoT-enabled systems being installed today.  While the capabilities of network-connected IoT devices have the potential to reach all areas of a campus, the impact the IoT on learning, the student experience, building systems, and safety will likely create the largest demands on a campus network.  For this series segment, let’s first talk about student learning.

Student Learning

The classroom experience is transforming.  Today’s academic buildings focus on the integration of technology as a tool to facilitate learning and collaboration.  This practice will proliferate as the value of the Internet of Things expands, giving faculty and administration more insight into the best ways to engage with a diverse student population, allowing them to gather feedback on the effectiveness of a lesson in real time, better track learning progress, and more.

Early adoptions of the IoT-enabled learning experience are already being seen across campuses.  At the University of the Pacific, Kinect sensors in classrooms are tracking students’ skeletal positions to investigate correlations between postures and learner engagement.  Facial recognition cameras can understand the level of engagement of students participating in distance learning.  University of Texas Arlington’s LINK Lab is studying how emotions affect learning, using wearables to monitor biological factors that correspond to emotional states.

The connected learning environments will be able to generate student profiles with data on attendance, performance, and productivity that provide a holistic view of learner engagement and knowledge advancement. With widespread IoT adoption expected on campuses within two to three years, the pace at which the student learning environments will evolve is going to be rapid.

Are you ready?