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Addressing a New World of Learning

As a part of my job here at Cisco, I have the opportunity to meet with a range of customers in schools, colleges, and universities across the globe.  They have the wide and vast responsibility of educating students, preparing the workforce of the future, equipping students with different kinds of skills so that they can compete in the 21st century, ensuring that students are safe and secure, and a whole host of other responsibilities that will enable students to be productive and successful members of society.  Most critically, they have to do all this with increasingly constrained, and in developing nations, often non-existent, budgets.

The requirements for education have shifted over time as we have become more globalized, technologically advanced, and demographically different.  On average, people in the US change jobs about ten times before they’re 42.   In China and India, there is a massive demand for higher education.  And teachers are retiring in record numbers as the population of kids under the age of 15 has reached 1.8 billion.

Thomas Friedman has said that students today need to be special, specialized, anchored, or adaptable.  Not everyone can be special, and certain components of traditionally anchored jobs (for example, hairdressers, restaurant workers, and trade workers) can be outsourced.  This leaves jobs for which people need to be specialized or adaptable.   And this is where education is critical: students have to be able to access education that provides them with the specialization required to help them differentiate the value that they provide.  Think, tax planning for customers with major offshore assets, or biological technicians who are creating a biosphere in pace.  Or, education has to be able to provide them with the ability to obtain lifelong learning programs and capabilities to adapt to a broad range of careers and jobs that they will have over their lifetimes.

Existing systems on their own will no longer be able to meet the growing and changing demands for learning.  Educational institutions must necessarily deliver learning differently, and this is where technology can help.  Today, Cisco is partnering with educators to create what we call The Learning Society: a new way of thinking that harnesses the power of technology to help transform learning and allow people to learn anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Not only does Cisco offer a change model that integrates “best-of-the-best” research findings to help students flourish in the 21st century – wherever they are and whatever their culture or socio-economic status, or the economic situation of their country, may be (Education 3.0), but it also details the integration of innovative pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment strategies across whole systems—accommodating learner differences, linking learning to the real world, and setting high, yet realistic, expectations for every student. We encourage you to learn more by joining our Virtual Forum for Education Leaders on April 28th.

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Moving from Education Systems to a Learning Society

Teacher and student on computerIn a good education system, students move through school, graduate, and somewhere between 30 and 50% complete university.  Formal training is complete, education is finished.  People who were once students could relax and enjoy the benefits of the skills and networks they had developed through learning, and any decline in their skills would be offset by gains in experience and compensated for by the new generation of graduates coming through the education pipeline.  This was an education system which was quite effective until the 21st century where we live in a more globalized and interconnected world.

Now, globalisation, accelerating technological change and massive demographic shifts demand a change in education systems: its purpose, where it happens, when it happens, how it happens.  Since new technologies are appearing at such a fast pace, formal education in the first 20 years of life will only form a foundation for future learning.  Lifelong learning will become a necessity, not a nice-to-have.  And as the world shrinks, people in India or china or eastern Europe are competing with those in Indiana for jobs and those in Copenhagen collaborate with those in Cape Town. It is no longer good enough to be second best: everyone needs 21st century skills – not just better skills, but different skills.

To respond to this socio-economic shift, our education systems need to change.  Curricula and pedagogy must focus on building skills for life and instilling a love for learning.  We need to think about new ways of organising learning so that those who are currently excluded by geography, poverty or learning style have a real chance.  Schools, colleges and universities need to open their doors, and become accessible centres of learning throughout life.  And new partners, from the private sector to non-profits, to foundations need to become part of a wider coalition to deliver learning and drive continuous innovation and improvement.

Without these changes, we risk a difficult future: weaker economies, fragmented societies, unhappy people.  Incremental reform is no longer enough – we must jointly take on the task of becoming a learning society.

    Director, Cisco Global Education

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Interactive learning leveraging web 2.0 technologies

Student raising hand in classroomToday any institution in some remote tier 2 city or town in a developing country has access to the whole wide world of information and curriculum available on the internet. However, there are great professors, teachers and tutors with a wealth of information in a city about 50 KMs away or perhaps in even 500 KMs away, maybe in the same time zone or a different time zone. How do you tap into the knowledge and experience of these teachers?

Today, technology exists in the form of collaborative, video and audio integrated tools that can transform how students learn and teachers teach. Web 2.0 tools like facebook, MySpace, twitter, blogs etc, play a critical role allowing students and teachers to have personalized spaces on the web. Teachers can create discussion forums for the students to connect, discuss after class, work together on projects, and ask questions.

Cisco Collaboration technologies which include Telepresence, Unified Communications, Cisco Digital Media solutions and Cisco WebEx suite of technologies, provide a very powerful audio, video and web integrated virtual classroom experience almost mimicking a face-to-face experience albeit over the internet.

These tools expand the learning opportunities for students in remote regions around the world. The teachers are able to share knowledge, for free or for a fee. In the process, students, teachers and the learning providers all benefit from this collaborative distance learning education business model. One such example is a company called Lakshya Networks, started by 3 students in a small town called Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, one of the central states of India. Cisco provided funding for the technology, and initial mentoring on how to use the technology. Since then the students connected with tutors in the nearby city, who could offer special afterschool tutoring services to the students in the nearby villages for a small fee. The students got extended support for English and Math while the tutors were able to reach out to new learners through this medium and the small entrepreneurial tutoring company created a profitable business model bridging the gap between the students and tutors.

This model has scaled globally with tutoring services now offered to students online in a group or personal setting in many different parts of the world at school and higher education level. Many institutions worldwide including the likes of MIT, Stanford, offer online courses that leverage online internet based audio-video integrated tools for teaching including for degree programs and certificate courses.

The Internet has opened the door for tools that enable creating and sharing knowledge allowing learners to build critical 21st century skills, which they would have otherwise missed out. Teachers and learners can engage in an enhanced collaborative learning experience. The possibilities abound and they are here to stay.

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Technology – Bridging the gap in higher education

As countries around the world like India, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico etc gear up to provide education to 400 million or more students, the public and private education institutions and their physical infrastructure alone will not suffice. Using the network as a platform, and technologies such as Cisco Unified Communication, Cisco WebEx, Cisco Telepresence, Cisco Wi-Fi Mesh networking, higher education institutions can enable themselves to supplement in-class curriculum with online curriculum as well. Professors from other institutions within the country or abroad would give lectures online that the students can view in a classroom via video conferencing or individually at home or at their desks. As the global economic and urbanisation trends shift the focus to the east, universities need to provide training to the students for employment and connect with the employers for job creation. Training goes beyond regular curriculum to include specific vocational training in finance, retail, BPO, software, healthcare etc.

In a connected world, the students across the world use similar technologies such a mobile phones, iPods, computers and the Internet. They have access to same content with the internet having democratised access to information. Leveraging the same network, the institutions could partner with employers to provide the required job skills training while they finish up their high school or college education. This will help employers to identify talent early on to meet their demands and reduce on-the-job training when new entrants come on-board.

Next generation learning environments also provide a collaborative environment for students within a country as well as outside the country to work on projects together despite the distance and learn from each other. Examples could range from collaboration on agricultural research, computer science, management, new business ideas etc.

Cisco does a lot today in the space of Education through global network academies providing networking skills to students even with high school diplomas. Cisco also donates equipment and funds research with select universities and provides financial support to educational institutions and volunteer projects through its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Cisco solution teams are innovating solutions to address the needs of these new cities and communities around the world.

On a Saturday morning in February 2008, executives and leaders from the Cisco’s marketing organisation volunteered for a local charity ‘Ashwini Charitable Trust’ near Cisco’s Bangalore campus. The task was to build a library and a computer centre for the underprivileged kids in the area. The relationship between the charity and Cisco’s marketing organisation has since grown. The kids in the high school were taught how to use computers, access the internet, collaborate online, and use digital cameras for video and photography. As part of their summer project in June 08, each team of these high school and college kids produced excellent videos that were judged by Cisco’s leadership team in Bangalore. Since then these young students are using computers to learn from the new web based content relevant to their curriculum and are very confident young people, aspiring to careers not just in technology but other fields as well.

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We, in Cisco solutions marketing organisation, want to enable the dreams and aspirations of these young students and education institutions across the world through our extensive portfolio of products, solutions and services.

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Welcome to the Cisco in Higher Education Blog

Cisco is pleased to launch the new Higher Education blog, and we hope that you will be an active participant in this community of interest.  We will be exploring topics that are critical to our key education customers, and we look forward to active and spirited discussion between our higher education customers and those of us within Cisco who focus on the education market.

We’d like to start out discussing some of the trends that we’re seeing in education, and how we believe that technology is helping colleges and universities to address some of their most pressing challenges: trying to do more with less, enhancing safety and security, and creating next-generation learning environments for the 21st century.

As the world shifts away from centralized, hierarchical control and puts more power in the hands of end users, Cisco brings a practical vision and real solutions to help public sector innovators stay ahead of cultural change.  In an on-demand society, Cisco enables a connected way of living that can foster economic growth, expand access to public services, and keep people of all ages engaged. By harnessing the power of many ideas and voices, Cisco is inspiring new connections and creating new opportunities.

Cisco is a change agent in enabling quality education. In a connected, on-demand society, learning is everywhere, just a few keystrokes away. Cisco works closely with schools and higher education to anticipate and respond to the demand for new teaching and learning approaches that promote employability and social equity. Cisco delivers the secure, seamless communication and real-time interaction that students, faculty, and staff expect—while enabling a safe environment, improved administrative efficiency, and access to engaging, lifelong learning opportunities.

At Cisco, we’re working hard to help create a connected way of living and learning. Cisco® solutions give educational institutions the ability to create a connected ondemand learning environment — removing barriers to communications, enabling real-time interactions, and expanding access. Education opportunities are everywhere. Our goal is to help make those connections happen by streamlining campus operations and giving you the tools to enable access for any device at any time. Our vision is a connected campus that inspires students, faculty and staff to engage in lifelong learning.

Please join us in this discussion.

Thank you,

Renee Patton,

Manager, Industry Marketing

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