Across the nation, higher education technology departments are working at a feverish pace to ready themselves for the onslaught of returning students and the deluge of connected devices they wield. Five years ago most of the previous sentence wouldn’t have made sense. I remember sitting in college classes as a senior, in 2009 looking around the room and seeing a large percentage of students were using laptops to take notes and research facts in the classroom, with a tiny percentage also owning some other connected device (smartphone, PDA, etc.). I also remember sitting in the same classroom four years earlier and the percentage of students using computers in class was significantly lower. Now, four years removed from my senior year of college, the number of connected devices on campuses nationwide is staggeringly high. A white paper, written in 2012 by CDW-G, estimates the ratio of connected devices to students is as high as 3.5:1. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine the ratio is drastically higher today. I have at least 6 connected devices in my office at any given time and students living on campus are likely to have more devices than that given the proliferation of smart TVs, gaming consoles and media players over the last two years.
University IT departments are preparing for this blitzkrieg of bandwidth-sucking devices by increasing internet connections and placing stricter security measures on campus networks. Millions of words have been written on the subject of BYOD in the classroom and in the enterprise; but it’s important to also remember the effects of BYOD on network utilization. Network Admins everywhere are placing enhanced security devices in the network to compensate for the vulnerability brought by a surge of connected devices with suspect, if not sub-par, security measures.
Any device connected to the network represents a potential vulnerability to malware and viruses; we all know this. Connected devices such as gaming consoles, apple TV’s, smartphones, tablets, iPods and other media players represent increased vulnerability to networks. More and more equipment, configurations processes and procedures are necessary to protect networks, keep users connected and manage bandwidth. The higher education technology landscape, much like any enterprise technology landscape, has drastically shifted in the past five years. It will be interesting to come back to this post in five years, and see how archaic this really is. The good and the bad of working in technology is things never stay the same. I look forward to watching the landscape grow even further, and the new challenges it presents.