How Cisco is transforming the digital classroom
May 10 | 5 minutes read
Technology influences almost every area of our lives; shaping your day-to-day activities, changing the very way we interact with one and other, while also disrupting entire industries, making them unrecognisable from just a decade ago.
And the education sector is no exception.
For the generation attending university now and in the future, technology has featured in their lives from day one. They are the most tech-savvy, most connected, and most digitally aware people to ever walk the earth and are accustomed to tech integration throughout their daily activities. And they view their learning environment as no different.
Both tech companies and universities are rising to meet this expectation.
Seeing the potential learning and logistical benefits of more tech integration, universities – with the help of leading tech companies – are capitalising on the leading advancements in the sector.
Cisco is at the forefront of this charge, leading the way in transforming the classroom through their provision of cutting-edge tech solutions to fix age-old problems. Their entire education tool suite is taking the learning environment far beyond the four walls of the lecture theatre.
Cisco’s Innovation Centres are working closely with universities across the world to bring them the latest in classroom tech. They have innovations hubs stretching everywhere from Kenya to South Africa, and Australia to America, making their impact truly global.
A perfect example of their expertise in education tech is in Perth, Australia, where the Cisco Innovation Central Perth Centre works hand in hand with Curtin University to keep pace with the ever-changing advancements and maximise the technology to improve their learning environment.
Intent-based networking has played a big role in supporting the university’s digital initiatives.
“We use intent-based networking to have the network do what it needs to do really simply,” Director of Cisco’s Innovation Centre, Tom Goerke, told Computer Weekly.
“What we have is a Digital Network Architecture controller that acts as an orchestrator that tells other ‘musicians’ what to do. The underlying fabric is what we call software-defined access that supports segmentation to ensure traffic only goes to where it’s supposed to go.”
The keyword in intent-based networking is intent.
As opposed to the old system of manually setting up networks, intent-based networking operates as a Network-as-a-Service, meaning it is end-to-end networking that seamlessly manages all devices on one interface. Or as Cisco simply puts it, intent-based networking is as a lifecycle management software that “bridges the gap between business and IT.”
Thanks to the help of Cisco’s Perth Innovation Centre, Curtin is halfway through its implementation of intent-based networking on campus. To assist with the expansion, Cisco operates a replica network to test new networking capabilities to support operations and research before they are deployed on the ground.
The connected classroom
Cisco’s Connected Classroom also allows students to learn on any device, at any time. Shaking up the traditional lesson structure, Cisco enables students and educators access to educational resources, using their smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices.
Taking the lecture theatre to the online world allows students to learn in whatever medium suits them best. It means the professor can take a debate beyond the classroom and create a much richer learning experience through an online educational community.
From video-recorded lectures to online access to course materials, Cisco’s infrastructure means students can “attend” classes anywhere, anytime, via any device.
In a global university like Curtin, it also means both students and faculty can connect with their peers at campuses across the world – bringing wider benefits than simply connectivity.
Access to global expertise
“We set out to achieve scale around our teaching and learning, and we are a global university today,” Academic Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Curtin University, Jill Downie, told Computer Weekly.
“We now distribute learning across our campuses and back again, and we’re rolling that out across various courses and programmes.”
This connectivity provides students access to some of the leading voices in a subject area, regardless of where they are in the world, and radically expands the scope for potential research and better understanding.
Cisco Connected Research solutions give researchers, faculty, and students the tools they need to connect and collaborate seamlessly, on campus and around the world.
Cisco’s high-performance computing provided with their Unified Computing System gives researchers the ability to analyse vast quantities of data across fields. And the embedded security protects researchers’ important findings and guards valuable intellectual property.
Curtin is already seeing the potential in such an investment.
“Part of our strategy was to bring experts from across the globe to our classroom, and we started to transform our teaching and learning offerings and learning spaces,” said Downie.
“The ability to connect with outside experts or even lecturers with other schools and universities – both nationally and internationally – could increase the number of courses offered and attract more students”
Tech translates to success
It’s easy to see the impact Cisco’s Innovation Centre is having at Curtin, where over 80 percent of its courses now incorporate some elements of flipped classrooms – a new concept in which the students learn independently outside of the classroom.
This embrace of technology as a central feature in learning is essential to the success of graduates these days. Without seamless integration, universities could be compromising their students’ future prospects.
In our hyper-connected world, employers want graduates who are adept at using technology to connect, communicate, and collaborate in the workplace. In many industries, this disconnect between employer expectations and graduate education continues to be an issue, leading to potentially damaging skills gaps.
But with the right technology platform, solutions, and industry partners like Cisco, universities are starting to create next-generation learning environments that effectively prepare students for the future, offering access to the tools they need to prepare for the workplace while also providing a fulfilling learning experience.