Education at the Edge of Change: Connected without Compromise

By: Jacob Chacko, Regional Director – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

As educational organisations across the Middle East adjust to new hybrid learning environments, there is a need to take a hard look at their IT network capabilities in anticipation of a return to a busy campus in the months to come.  

Such capabilities have been tested to their absolute limits since COVID-19 forced students of all ages into a home learning environment. But after the scramble to patch together short-term emergency remote instruction, how can education organizations maintain the increased pace of their digital transformation and ensure the enhanced digital capabilities become locked in for the longer-term? Particularly when digital transformation is growing ever more important for student satisfaction and for institutions needing to stay competitive.

Whether under pressure from the global pandemic or not, as schools and universities embrace digital instruction and learning, continuous collaboration, and develop more smart spaces, IT decision makers (ITDMs) in education are being tasked with providing increasingly complex network solutions to our respected centres of learning. As they plan for a new term, they must ensure they have robust capabilities in place to respond to three main challenges: managing expanding campus footprints and devices; supporting more sophisticated and frequently hybrid teaching methods and safeguarding users and data against cybercrime.

Network challenge 1: Managing expanding campus footprints

COVID-19 forced educational organizations into remote learning practically overnight – and whilst this has been a herculean challenge, it has also shown its viability. Once the coronavirus is largely under control, some schools and universities may want to keep elements of this virtual situation, even as more students return to campuses. But there is also a need to build in a degree of flexibility to go hybrid between the two – no one knows what the future holds.

Meanwhile, student device and organizational IoT usage is on the rise – with students bringing more devices with them and campuses adopting IoT technologies to improve facility management, lower operational costs and enhance student experiences.

Whatever post-COVID scenario we find ourselves in, campus networks will have to deal with an increased volume of connected devices and an ever expanding and contracting footprint. For education planners the challenge becomes how to provide anytime, anywhere access for students, staff, and guests alike, and deliver a consistent experience whenever and wherever a user logs in.  

To tackle these challenges education ITDMs need to start with complete network visibility – leveraging a single unified infrastructure across administrative offices, departmental buildings, lecture halls, classrooms, research facilities and outdoor spaces in order to deploy, manage, analyse, diagnose and remediate network operations centrally.

Not only does this move to a unified network approach make it easier to manage a scaling network but it will also help education centres boost student experiences and operational efficiency.

Network challenge 2: Supporting sophisticated teaching and learning modalities

As schools, colleges, and universities embrace digital learning, education ITDMs must deal with issuing more devices to students, as well as building out smart spaces to support not only greater interactivity and collaboration, but also campus safety initiatives.

Against this backdrop, advanced technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming more commonplace and the use of learning analytics has also dramatically expanded, particularly in higher education. In fact, Aruba research from 2020 showed that 42% of ITDMs in education had production apps running with AI even before the pandemic.

As the network is tasked with supporting increasingly sophisticated technologies, cloud-based apps, and teaching methods, the competition for connectivity is growing, and so too is the resulting administration and troubleshooting required of those trying to manage it all.

Luckily, as well as contributing to the issue, AI offers the solution here in the form of Artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps), which automates many of the day-to-day tasks network managers have to run.

One of the many benefits AIOps offers ITDMs is the ability to prioritise apps and essential administrative and academic services and ensure they perform at their peak potential, without impacting educators’ or students’ thirst for new learning experiences.

The technology can also use advanced analytics to anticipate and offer solutions for network problems and ensure zero downtime for all academic, administrative, or building applications – essential for students working on pressing deadlines.

Network challenge 3: Safeguarding against cybercrime

Whenever the discussion around introducing new technologies in education arises, so does the thorny issue of cyber threats. Cybercrime has been increasing over the past years, with educational institutions often viewed as a soft target for stealing personal data or shutting down campuses entirely with ransomware.

Already made vulnerable by the increase in student devices and the trend towards an open, collaborative culture, security challenges are growing within the education sector as forward-thinking universities and departments embrace industrial IoT, which is leaving them susceptible to data breaches and cyber-disruptions. In fact, our research showed that 59% of education ITDMs felt connecting IoT devices to networks increases the attach surface and makes them more vulnerable.

But how do you lock down campuses without diminishing the user experience? Adopting a zero-trust approach to edge-to-cloud security is part of the answer here – assuming that neither the end point nor the network is secure unless the proper authentication and authorization is applied. But network visibility and device identification are also key – ensuring a single-pane-of-glass view and giving IT teams the ability to grant differentiated levels of data access according to device or user group. Thinking about the openness of university campuses, this includes automatically segmenting visitors from internal administrator and educator traffic.

Act today for seamless learning tomorrow

As they look ahead to the new term, educational organizations need a powerful, automated, and manageable network infrastructure that can enable always-on, secure, and everywhere connectivity for users and devices. This is essential if we are to continue providing safe, seamless education that inspires future leaders. And while such institutions are always under financial pressure, choosing the right network solution can enable them to do far more with less and retain a competitive edge.

Mining and Metals Companies Accelerate Focus on Sustainability

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ Platform Combined with AVEVA’s Digital Transformation Solutions Proven to Drive Industrial Sustainability Initiatives

Schneider Electric, the leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, and AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software, driving digital transformation and sustainability, announced today that their combined technology offerings are supporting the sustainability initiatives of mining companies in four key pillars: energy efficiency, yield improvement, low greenhouse emission technology adoption, and new green processes.   

Global decarbonization is heavily reliant on the sustainable production of minerals and commodities. A thriving and healthy mining and metals sector is crucial for the global economy and to support the innovation of new technologies and materials needed for climate change reduction, environment protection, and the circular economy. 

Schneider Electric and AVEVA are providing the tools required by organizations to make informed decisions that will empower people across the mining, minerals, and metals value chains to be more strategic in their choices based on sound advice with sustainability in mind. They are assisting operators and managers in these choices leaving these organizations well positioned to tackle some of the challenges associated with adopting sustainable practices, potentially resulting in reduced operating costs and thus providing the rare ability of appeasing all stakeholders.

According to an IDC Technology Spotlight, sponsored by AVEVA and Schneider Electric, Transitioning to Sustainable Mining, Minerals and Metals Practices, the top three market pressures driving the sustainability agendas of mining and metals organizations are:

  • Need to improve brand equity
  • Reduce the risk of an adverse event
  • Ensure compliance with current and future regulations

“Technology has a critical role to play in supporting mining companies,” said Ben Kirkwood, Senior Research Manager, IDC Energy Insights – WW Mining. “Efforts to hit sustainability targets and gain greater visibility and control over operations will enable corporate insight and action relating to energy, water usage, and management of the operational environment. IDC’s global analysis of the revenue growth and profitability of industrial companies shows that those with a committed and ongoing sustainability-based strategy combined with a long-term, funded, digital transformation agenda considerably outperform their competitors.” 

Digitalization underpins Mining and Metals Sustainability

The IDC Technology Spotlight also reinforces the fact that as the industry continues to experience backlash from its perceived stagnant position on sustainability, platforms with added analytics are enabling improved operational efficiencies while enhancing the visibility of the changes being made.

“Digitally integrated operations can address the key areas of an organization’s sustainability agenda by combining power and process intelligence and controls,” said David Willick, VP North America, Mining, Minerals and Metals Segment, Schneider Electric. “Digitalization is a critical evolution for the resources industry, and Schneider Electric and AVEVA are uniquely qualified to help. We are experts at marshalling the power of connected systems and human insight to bring operational performance to its highest level. Together, we have won the trust of the world’s leading companies with thousands of implementations onsite and in the cloud. Today our joint customers can benefit from our shared customer-centric innovation culture, unmatched R&D capabilities, and extensive sector-specific expertise.”

“Although the benefits of digital transformation are crystal clear, the mining industry has thus far been limited by legacy infrastructure, data inadequacies, and piecemeal optimization programs,” said Martin Provencher, Industry Principal, Mining, Metals and Materials, AVEVA. “Increasingly virulent cyberattacks and a growing mandate for decarbonized minerals have further emphasized the importance of having high data availability and embracing a secure, cloud-first approach to visualize and contextualize enterprise-wide processes across global operations. The combination of Schneider Electric’s energy management solutions, automation systems and services, and AVEVA’s Digital Mining Transformation solutions enable our customers to transform conventional mining operations into intelligent, resilient and sustainable undertakings.”

Corporate Knights recently named Schneider Electric the world’s most sustainable company. According to the IDC Technology Spotlight, Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform combined with AVEVA’s Digital Mining and Metals Transformation solutions can provide the operational and organizational insight required to make sustainable operations and improved decisions through the collection and analysis of data. The partner companies aim to decarbonize the mining, minerals and metals value chains through the provision of an industrial IoT platform with technology and software elements supporting the capability for energy management and automation.

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