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3 New Technology Must-Haves on Higher Ed Campuses

Technology is becoming a major competitive differentiator for colleges and universities — and institutions that don’t keep up risk losing prospective students.


It wasn’t all that long ago that few colleges and universities had Wi-Fi in their buildings. And early wireless connectivity solutions were expected to be wonky and unpredictable; when the Wi-Fi wasn’t working, students shrugged and then waited until they were back at their desktops to connect.

But then, in the span of only a few years, colleges and universities across the country responded to growing demand from students and deployed robust Wi-Fi — not only in campus buildings but also in outdoor spaces. Very quickly, Wi-Fi went from a rarity, to a nice amenity, to a must-have.

As digital transformation continues to touch higher education, the same thing is happening with other technologies. With a projected plummet in the number of college-aged students in the coming years, institutions are rapidly responding to demand for modern IT solutions as a way to stay competitive.

As a result, several important technologies are no longer considered “bonus” items on college campuses. Instead, they’re quickly becoming the new must-haves.

Wireless Presentation Technology

At CDW, we’ve seen a flurry of interest in and adoption of wireless presentation solutions in higher education. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that CDW had only two partners with solid offerings in this space, and now we work with a rapidly expanding portfolio of offerings built for enterprise environments. While presentation screens meant for one speaker at a time have long been a centerpiece of large college lecture halls, wireless capabilities now allow students to share their own work and ideas with their professors and peers. And as costs continue to drop, multiple-display surfaces are moving into even smaller classrooms.

Wireless displays also help to establish a culture of collaboration in classrooms and lecture halls. Campuses are deploying wireless presentation technology with a goal of creating a seamless and casual user experience for both teachers and students.

Modern Learning Environments

Much of the early movement around modern learning environments (sometimes called active-learning spaces) has occurred at the K–12 level. As students who grew up learning in these environments begin to enter college, they’re bringing heightened expectations with them. Traditionally, a modern learning environment includes some mix of student devices, audiovisual tools and flexible furniture.

For K–12 students, a school-supplied device is often at the center of this experience. But at the college level, the focus is on truly designing learning spaces (including not only classrooms but also libraries, study spaces and common areas in residence halls) to incorporate whatever technology users have on hand in as natural a way as possible.

The University of Maryland, for example, has created four different types of learning spaces that they call TERP (Teach, Engage, Respond and Participate) classrooms. All four of the designs are meant to break down barriers between students and instructors, facilitate collaboration and accommodate a variety of teaching and learning styles.

AI-Powered Conversational Interfaces

To midcareer adults, it feels like voice-activated smart speakers and televisions just got here. But many of the freshmen who will arrive on campuses next fall can barely remember a time when they couldn’t talk to their devices. While a middle-aged person might still feel a little funny speaking to an AI assistant, students are completely comfortable asking their phone for directions, or asking their smart speaker when a particular store opens.

Colleges and universities are now using these conversational interfaces in dorms and libraries, and for wayfinding around campus. And use is likely to expand rapidly as it becomes easier to connect sources of data in the cloud. In fact, voice-enabled AI is likely to be the interface of the future in many ways. Today, a student might ask an AI assistant how to book a private study room. Soon, that interaction is going to move to, “Okay, book that room for me next Tuesday afternoon and invite my study group” — and it’s only going to take off from there.

To learn more about CDW•G’s solutions and services for campuses large and small, visit our Connected Campus page.

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