The rapid growth and use of ICT is changing the way higher education institutions function.
Universities of today cater for the needs of the 'Y-generation' or 'Net Kids' that have been exposed to an array of technological applications, and who demand instant
real-time access to information at the touch of a button. Their learning habits are influenced by the social and economic infrastructure they surround themselves with as well as the ICT technology that they are exposed to.
The traditional community of learning has now been transformed to accommodate multi-model learning which presents new challenges to learning institutes. Their investment in technological infrastructure, including wireless communications, will differentiate the tertiary institution from "old school" academics.
Fred Maurus, head of technology and marketing at Siemens Enterprise Communications, says: "International tertiary institutions like MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) offer all of their courses on the internet for free, although students still prefer to enroll and attend lectures on campus. This further necessitates the importance of an adequate communications infrastructure to support access to real-time information."
The transformation of the tertiary institution using innovative technology goes beyond the use of smart cards and web applications. In addition to traditional demands such as web-based enrollment, registration, academic record tracking and student payment, the learning environment now requires an integrated communications infrastructure network which will allow both students and staff to have better communication via a single communications platform either on campus or via remote access.
"Many tertiary institutions have tens of thousands of students and staff spread between several campuses with a variety of communications requirements. It is challenging to find the right balance between service offerings to students and a cost effective infrastructure, which can grow and develop with new communications technlogies," says Maurus.
The campus of the future will be geared towards offering a host of services that will facilitate seamless and reliable communications between students, lecturers and administrators, he says.