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ACUTA Explains the Role of Unified Communications in Higher Education, Part 2

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July 19, 2013

ACUTA Explains the Role of Unified Communications in Higher Education, Part 2

By Rich Steeves
TMCnet Managing Editor

In part 1 of this series, we chatted with Jennifer Van Horn, director of Information Services at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University (News - Alert) and immediate past president of the ACUTA Board of Directors, about the role of unified communications in higher education. In this installment, we’ll cover challenges to IT departments, remote learning, and says more about the current and future uses of UC on campus.

When discussing the challenges faced by IT departments at colleges and universities, Van Horn brought up a concept developed by Brad Wheeler, CIO at Indiana University and an action in IU’s IT strategic plan: Edge, Leverage and Trust.  This is about leveraging efficiently and effectively using the total IT resources in the university.  The school is the edge, and leverages the resources of the whole university. This requires skill and agility on the part of the IT departments. 

Maintaining these homegrown apps can be tricky, as can the lack of standards. Unlike the business world, educational technology is more of an open environment. People bring their own devices and schools must support them, especially when students have so many different connected gadgets. Students are expecting and demanding this functionality, after all.

On the subject of unified communications, Van Horn stated that UC has been a huge topic, both at IU and for ACUTA as an organization. An ACUTA summit on UC in 2009 set the stage for schools to move forward with UC. IU has used UC solutions since 2007, and now boasts over 21,000 users across its different campuses. Van Horn stated that the school is moving away from PBXs, and leveraging tools like videoconferencing, IM and presence to help connect the eight IU campuses.

Van Horn had a lot to say about e-learning, too. She discussed the Kelley School of Business and its online program, which connects teachers and students that are geographically dispersed. Professors can use content sharing and chat capabilities to help connect. Video is an option, but not all classes use it, as it hogs bandwidth. This method of teaching and learning has been quite successful at IU, which uses Lync for video and audio conferencing.

Looking toward the future, Van Horn sees an increase in online learning, as features such as electronic white boards, document cameras and more catch on. Many professors will opt for a “hybrid option” that has both online lectures and classroom collaboration. She also sees a chance for professors to write electronic texts that are tailored quire specifically for their courses. The future, she thinks, is limitless, and ACUTA will play a role in making that future happen.

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