Online transition: the first step to become a Smart Campus

Nicolás Rivas
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Never before in the history of Higher Education, so many people in so many different roles worked so hard to achieve one goal: the rapid transition from presence-based instruction to remote learning. The Digital Transformation can begin for different reasons, but today it is evident that the generation of community between educators and students is essential, beyond the classroom. 

Following a transformative approach, universities are beginning to take natural steps towards the adoption of smart classrooms, attendance record systems, and technology solutions that integrate data analysis to facilitate academic planning, student success, and continual improvement of the study plans 

The challenge of a smart Campus has taken on a different meaning, due to a crisis situation at an international level, Digital Transformation has become essential overnight, inviting Higher Education Institutions to take a giant step for the University of the Future. Through the need to plan courses and experiences online, the diversification of the ways of teaching and interacting with the students are essential to avoid dropout. Tracking continuous improvement steps with the new online model, is also a step in this transition. It is important to identify services and tools that really, cannot only support the adoption of e-learning courses, but also keep it attractive, effective and efficient. 

It is the students who are asking for it more and more every day, the new generations looking for intuitive experiences and always staying connected, the institutions that are up to date with the digital transformation recognize this need and have connected a technology that facilitates these exchanges. The Global Information Inc report indicated that the e-Learning market was one of the highest growth in 2019, a figure that will be on the rise with the events of 2020. 

Universities of the Future: Smart Campus  

Smart Education is a concept that encompasses the transformation of the conventional form of pedagogy around contemporary methods that use information and communication technologies (ICT), it represents a focus on reorienting the structures of the HEI and the administrative processes around individual students and their learning needs. 

All this educational project needs an adapted place to the new needs of users, which is why the consulting firm Gartner defines smart campus as "... a physical or digital environment in which humans and systems with technology interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated, and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements, including people, processes, services, and things, come together to create a more immersive, interactive, and automated experience for students, staff, faculty, and stakeholders of a university or school". 

HEI are reflecting on their goals and remodeling their infrastructure and services, leading to interaction that intuitively serves and fosters positive results built on innovative practices that take advantage of emerging technologies to enhance the consumer experience. The administrative staff also hopes to take place in these changes, allowing them to focus on the meaningful, activities that serve a true purpose and promote the mission of the campus. 

However, today, this immediate action has taken an essential and crucial role for the continuous learning and commitment of the students. Today's requirement to move to online learning requires the expertise of academics, administrators, offices as diverse as student accessibility and student affairs, the campus general counsel, off-campus programs, accreditors, communications, and an incredible array of elements of the Smart Campus oriented towards the student. 

Strategic Framework for a Smart Campus 

Fostering an interconnected ecosystem generates a different and enriching experience for all members, but achieving this requires changing the focus from processes to results, knowing students through Focus Group or Design Thinking dynamics to find use cases that best suits the institutional project. This managed to find the most suitable innovations for the wanted results according to the strategic plan. 

On the other hand, Design Thinking as a mentality, promotes collaboration and empathy for the student, values that must continue to be instilled in online learning, carrying out development interventions of the academic staff regarding the use of technology in teaching, and the learning could help more academics innovate their practices. 

In relation to this strategic framework, Deloitte provides the key principles to foster a connection and experience at the consumer level for anyone who interacts with the campus in this way, either within it or remotely, the community will remain connected: 

  • Intuitive and easy to use: 

Today's students are digital natives so they will want to interact with technology without friction. The user experience must be central, real intelligence focused on thinking about the people in thestudent journey” and each of the types of underlying users. 

  • Design and person-centered thinking: 

Interaction with the platform should be enabled by multiple interfaces: video, voice, gesture, touch. The platform must be designed to be predictive and approach each user in a personalized way.   

  • A modular, adaptive, flexible, and intelligent campus:   

The needs of the campus and the technology to support them will constantly evolve, so the solutions to be used must use a design architecture based on microservices that guide the transformation of the campus. Microservices are self-contained and their components reusable, with the aim of creating software capacities and solutions that are freely coupled, and leveraging the capabilities of legacy solutions. 

This architectural approach allows the flexibility of "morphing" services, which enables the smart campus to evolve over time and enables capabilities to be reused in any way. This, in turn, helps systems to be designed in a way that can help ensure constant change. End-user needs are addressed. 

  • Adaptable and scalable: 

The solution is designed to allow HEI to collaborate with their peers at scale or massively. While most higher education institutions are local in scope and scale, a smart campus will enable global scalability to meet the institution's goals and capable of adapting to current situations, forcing institutions to take quick and concrete measures. 

Whether students are in a physical classroom on campus or in a virtual online classroom (participating from anywhere in the world), the solution can be built to support them. 

Benefits of a smart campus 

The consultancy Deloitte carried out a mapping of the main characteristics that these institutions should have and the benefits of adopting these changes, which we will detail below. 

  • Encourages dynamic engagement
  • Allows the development of new business models and income transfers
  • Encourages digital culture to create and collect data
  • Provides contextual information based on user behaviors, intentions and concentration of the users
  • Guides students towards student success
  • Encourages community interaction by providing information of teachers and faculty members
  • Improves operational efficiency and efficiency of education
  • It take advantage of innovations from other smart environments and industries
  • It converts into a model to design, implement and test sustainable solutions that improve socio-ecological aspects and carry out territorial work with the university
  • Evolves and is constantly modernizing over time

Indirectly, the educational community benefits through cultural change, with new learning models and dynamics use of the campus, each student has access to conference tools and can access collaboration sessions in seconds. Screen streaming and app sharing also enables students to work collaboratively without physically being in the same place. In that same sense of collaboration, digital signage, facial recognition, and smart cards can enhance students ability to move around campus with ease, thereby facilitating the accomplishment of tasks and routine transactions. 

Conclusion 

Decisions that once took weeks now take hours, previously entrenched organizational and bureaucratic impediments to agile decision-making are being overcome by the need to move quickly and on an institutional scale. 

Today in the ecosystem within Higher Education Institutions, an unprecedented number and range of people employed at universities, such as faculty and staff, are working at full speed to achieve this step to online instruction. Teachers who are used to teach face-to-face students suddenly face the challenge of teaching using only digital means of instruction and communication. Staff who worked on the full range of services offered by universities now spend most of their time working to support faculty and students in remote learning. And everyone is concerned that this is as correct as possible for our students and our teachers. 

There was already a transition to a Smart Campus, but today it becomes more tangible with each passing day, it is a way of living the university that will soon have multiple variations according to the objectives of each HEI, therefore, for a project of this magnitude members of the community should be studied and continue to get to know them over time. As a consequence, the university experience will generate referents and not mere reproducers of knowledge. 

 

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