We talk with a lot of higher education leaders, a lot of the time. Whether public or private, large or small, research-oriented or not, they consistently share how difficult it is to effect change within their institutions. And yet, they know they must change to keep up with the demand from students and now from faculty members, for new ways to deliver learning. Given pressing budget challenges, they are under even great pressure to do more with less.
When discussing technology changes necessary to stay ahead of the curve, our IT leaders express frustration that their academic counterparts don’t understand technology. Our academic leaders focus on their own frustrations that IT doesn’t understand their problems, or namely, the requirements to deliver effective teaching and learning.
Added to this, individual schools and professors and research departments want to do their own thing. They want to use their own technologies, set up their own data centers, and not be slaves to a standard set by departments and people whom they believe don’t understand what their trying to accomplish. The divides are often deep and great, and they are, in fact, keeping higher education institutions from doing what they need to do to transform and deliver next generation learning experiences for students.
We are starting to see reasons for hope, though. Colleges and universities are beginning to test the waters with new technologies that improve collaboration, and these will break down silos. Wake Forest University, for example, is providing site-wide licenses for Cisco WebEx, which enables faculty, staff, and students to communicate and collaborate, hold staff meetings, deliver online courses, and increase student communications about courses, clubs, and career opportunities.
Our newest collaboration portfolio includes one of the most exciting technology innovations that we believe will take this market by storm, and once and for all, break down the stubborn divides that exist within our colleges and universities across the country and across the globe.
WebEx Social for Higher Education is a people-centric collaboration solution that combines the power of social networking and real-time communications so that faculty, students, staff, and administrators can teach, learn and work their way. Unlike email and other document-centric tools, WebEx Social is designed to connect people, capture the vast expertise within your university, and make those resources available in a secure environment that protects your institution’s knowledge capital.
Students can form instant groups for class projects, increase team efficiency and the quality of course projects through content sharing and collaborative co-authoring. Faculty can conduct virtual office hours via built-in presence and real-time communication capabilities manage access to course content and retain class discussions. Duke University is using WebEx Social today for this and other activities to help create an even stronger community for students.
What is most exciting, though, is that administrative staff can use this tool to effect change across multiple, diverse silos within a college or university. They can develop virtual workgroups, post documents, launch discussions between departments, schools, and individuals, and escalate to real-time discussions with click to IM, voice, video or web conferencing.
Our vision is that the WebEx Social tool will be used by higher education systems across the global to connect, collaborate, share best practices, course content and resources, and more, to help drive the scale required to transform the entire system. We believe that this tool is an agent for change. It will revolutionize how we do business in higher education and higher education institutions deliver the business of education.