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Four Ways Social Software Collaboration Technology Can Change Higher Education

New media and collaboration technologies have the potential to transform higher education in terms of the classroom, the learning process, the relationship between students and instructors, and how institutions conduct academic research. While much of the industry discussion revolves around use of consumer tools and social network sites like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, Cisco’s educational customers also see tremendous opportunity to increase student engagement and drive their own institutional strategies with “enterprise class” social software as well.

Since Cisco first announced Quad, we have had conversations with dozens of colleges and universities regarding the role enterprise social software and Cisco Quad can play in transforming education. Cisco Quad is an enterprise collaboration platform that brings people together to share ideas and content, collaborate on projects, and interact using chat, voice or video, regardless of where people are located.

Below, we’ve outlined four ways in which educational institutions are telling us enterprise social software is helping, or can transform the way learning, research, and academic advisement is crafted, delivered and consumed:

1. The 24/7 interactive classroom: Instructors often struggle to deliver a collaborative environment for their students that is secure and supports multiple access methods such as mobile.  Technology like Quad can enable students to interact in a secure, policy-based manner that extends the classroom conversation beyond physical walls. Courses partially or wholly targeted at off-campus students can similarly benefit from enhancing the class-like experience for remote students. For example, at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the cross country MBA students based in the US, England, India and other countries are using Quad to create virtual working groups, find people with common interests, share files or videos with other students working on similar projects and instantly start video conferences or chat sessions. Quad provides students with the ability to interact, ask questions and share ideas with professors/faculty/tutorial assistants anytime, as opposed to only during fixed faculty office hours. It can also drive improved accountability on team projects, as content and comments are tracked in activity feeds and in project communities by both participating students and faculty leads.

2. Serendipitous Research: Quad contains several features, such as an activity feed that compiles microblog posts from students and staff and allows a snapshot view of a person’s current activities. These dynamic updating functionalities can facilitate broader cross-departmental collaboration, for students and researchers alike. Security features ensure that research that needs to be confidential is shared in a secure and safe manner.  As researchers update their statuses with exciting discoveries or frustrating problems, or create posts, upload videos or otherwise document their work, this content becomes accessible to hundreds of fellow university researchers through activity feeds and searches, making it possible for providential inter-disciplinary connections to be made and new insights to be generated. Read More »

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FCC Decision Opens the Door for Rural Broadband Access

I heard an NPR story the other day about the FCC‘s recent ruling that diverts monthly fees from rural telephone service to rural broadband service. The “Universal Service Fund” or something similar has been around since the early 20th century, charging a small fee on our phone bills to subsidize phone service for rural areas and the poor.

The newly minted “Connect America Fund” now allocates this money for mobile telephone and broadband in rural communities and needy areas. As I’ve discussed in a blog post earlier this year, access to the internet can not only offer rural U.S. citizens access to critical information, but it can provide them health care benefits that could literally save lives.

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The League of Innovative Schools Frames up at Mooresville (1 of 2)

Mooresville staff discusses 1:1 computing with DOE's Karen Cator

Aiming to accelerate the ways in which technology is used and adopted to help drive next generation learning outcomes in K-12, the newly chartered “League of Innovative Schools” framed up last week in Mooresville, North Carolina. A new group emanating from the recently announced White House-backed Digital Promise team – the League met to review core challenges, establish a charter, and get after answers to tough questions on how to streamline “outcome difference-makers” in school technology identification and deployment.

The result? A promising beginning, as 30+ superintendents from around the country, US Department of Education personnel, foundations, funders and vendors coalesced for a tough, issues-oriented two-day launch. Lead vendors attending included Apple, Cisco, Discovery, Intel and Pearson. Read More »

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Challenging Students to Reach Out with Telepresence

Ever hear about an interesting location, historical site or tourist attraction and thought “wow, I only live five miles from there, I should check it out”? Well, it just happens that there are numerous groups of students who are engaging with the uniqueness of their communities and sharing their knowledge with the world.

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Utah Education Network: A true innovator in education technology

Utah Education Network (UEN) joined the ranks of technology leaders in October when the Utah Governor broadcast a motivational speech to Utah high school students via live-telecast. Governor Gary R. Herbert was the first ever Utah governor to address students through statewide broadcast.

The Governor’s address was broadcast via telepresence from the USU/CEU center in Blanding and was available via live-stream to every high school in the state. A recording of Governor Herbert’s live event is housed on the UEN site. During the event, the Governor took questions via interactive video from students in Rich High School (Randolph, UT), Orem High School, and Murray High School. Read More »

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