The higher education sector has more to gain than most from a new global partnership between Cisco and Microsoft. The partnership – announced at Microsoft’s Ignite Conference at the end of 2022 – enables better interoperability between Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams technologies and will redefine how learning environments and meeting spaces are designed, deployed and managed across campuses.
The partnership announcement has been welcomed by many university CIOs who have been grappling with integration and interoperability issues and having multiple and disparate devices to support in meeting rooms and learning spaces. For example, in a single teaching space you might have collaboration platforms managed by IT, audio-visual equipment (mics, projectors and screens) managed by the AV team, environmental sensors (run as part of building management systems) run by facilities (who often own the camera network) and individual pieces of teaching equipment to run by the teaching and learning team.
The combined functionality of Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams means that all of the above features can now be delivered as part of a single solution. The Cisco WiFi points provide environmental sensing and location as standard, Webex room kits provide cameras, mics, projection and screens and will support MS Teams meetings as well as other platforms including Zoom and Google.
True hybrid work and learning is underpinned by secure connectivity, high levels of functionality and rich analytics that allow universities to:
- Traditional AV equipment replaced by: new secure IP solutions powered by AI offer native functionality including room kits with built in microphones, cameras, controls, environmental sensors and displays.
- Ensure visibility of the full technology stack and better data analytics about utilisation, occupancy and network performance. Pre-defined API integrations offer instant visibility and control over the hybrid work and learning environment, including providing insights across all facilities, network, workspaces and classrooms. The use of Cisco Spaces allows easy visualisation of data and creates a basis for evidence-based decisions about space design, management and environmental monitoring.
- Unify approach to security. Holistic security policy that applies to every facet of the technology stack and provides better protection.
The simplified approach to hybrid learning and work is also more cost effective in the long-run for universities who are grappling with challenging fiscal conditions. Cisco is offering to run proof of concepts with universities to prove the value but also help customers validate the business case for a joint Cisco-Microsoft hybrid work and learning proposition.