June 29, 2017
The New Digital University: Considerable Mobile Opportunities, Serious Resource Challenges
Institutions must rethink management and delivery of applications and content to stay competitive.
Today’s college and university campuses are marvels of digital engagement. Digital native students complete, submit and track their coursework from their laptops. Professors enhance their lectures with multimedia presentations on Apple TVs controlled by their iPhones. Distance learning extends the reach of institutions around the world. And more opportunities to enhance higher education through mobility seem to emerge every day.
But institutions also face serious management challenges as mobility becomes increasingly pervasive. Budgets for mobility — especially for technical staffing — are not unlimited. And cybersecurity threats abound.
So institutions must find ways to streamline mobility management and security, even as their mobile application portfolios keep getting larger and more complex.
Streamlining Device Ownership
One key to better, more efficient campus mobility is enhanced management of mobile devices themselves. Most institutions nowadays still largely depend on manual processes to procure and onboard devices. These time-consuming processes add cost and are prone to human error.
Institutions can drive down costs with automation. A well-designed mobility services portal makes it much easier and simpler to add devices, configure them with appropriate management capabilities (including Apple’s Device Enrollment Program for iOS and OS X devices) and get devices on the right cellular data plan.
A well-automated process will also support the workflows required to make sure appropriate approvals and sign-offs are obtained before any money is spent or anyone’s device is given access to institutional resources.
But effective, efficient mobility management doesn’t stop with onboarding. Institutions can also reduce ongoing mobility costs by continuously monitoring cellular data usage to pinpoint anomalies and opportunities to save money by shifting users to a plan that better aligns with their consumption patterns. These savings can be significant — and they’re almost impossible to discover and implement manually.
Institutions can also automate mobile management to ensure installation of essential security patches, implement geofencing where appropriate and otherwise keep devices safe and operating in top condition.
A Better User Experience for Less
Two other strategies can help universities get more value from mobility, even as they lower costs:
- Virtualization: Increasingly, students and staff alike move between multiple devices, including personal desktops, shared desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Ideally, they should be able to launch a consistently personalized desktop workspace with their own apps and resources of choice on any of these devices, so they can be productive no matter where or how they connect to the network at any given time.
Institutions can deliver on this ideal by adopting desktop and application virtualization. Such virtualization enables delivery of consistent, personalized workspaces to individuals based on their identity and needs, rather than tying workspaces to specific physical devices. The result is greater productivity and fewer help desk calls.
- Help desk outsourcing: Responsive help desk services are central to digital productivity. It doesn’t matter how rich your application portfolio is or how well you’ve wired your campus; if people can’t get help immediately to solve their mobility problems, they won’t be productive — or happy.
Outsourcing is almost invariably the best way to fulfill this critical help desk requirement. Economies of scale enable outsourcers to staff their mobile help desks with skilled, experienced technicians far more cost-efficiently than any single institution can. The right outsourcer can also integrate their services with an institution’s mobility management tools in order to quickly address common problems such as password resets and app performance complaints.
Expanding the App Portfolio
While it’s essential for colleges and universities to support their existing apps as cost-efficiently as possible, they must also continue to aggressively expand that portfolio to meet the evolving needs of students, faculty, administrative staff, prospective students, parents, alumni and other constituencies.
The specific apps an institution should add can vary, but typical projects include:
- Wayfinding apps that help students and visitors better navigate their way around large campuses
- Public safety apps that help students, staff and security personnel interact quickly and intelligently in the event of a personal or localized emergency
- Athletics-related apps that help students, boosters and other fans have more enjoyable stadium experiences and engage better with the team brand
Institutions don’t always have the internal resources necessary to conceive and produce these apps. Also, given the fact that Gartner predicts 75 percent of mobile security breaches will be application-related, institutions must ensure that their app development and testing processes include appropriate security safeguards.
All of this is to say that higher ed has to get smarter than ever about mobile. And that doesn’t mean just doing more. It also means finding ways to do more on a tight budget.
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