Business Officer Magazine’s July/August 2018 cover story by Sandra R. Sabo, “Agile.edu,” underscores the importance of flexibility when adopting Internet of Things technologies in Higher Education. To prove her point, Sabo investigates the concerns and challenges surrounding IoT implementation in the campus space, as well as the exciting promises that IoT initiatives provide when used to enhance data-driven student success and implemented with change management tactics in mind.
Fundamentally, Sabo writes that institutions are now being put under pressure that “stems from the differences between a traditional IT system and an IoT system.” She cites number of connected devices, variety of devices, data-gathering capabilities, and organizational reach as the major disruptors to the campus IT space. The number of connected devices is accelerating exponentially and with greater variety, creating strain on existing networks and challenging IT teams to understand various software idiosyncrasies. As Apogee’s Chief Technology Officer, Rajiv Shenoy, mentions during an interview with Sabo, ‘the average student brings five to seven connected devices to campus,’ a statistic that quickly leads to security and privacy concerns as IT teams consider the data-gathering capabilities of every connected device. Aside from apprehension about cybercriminals who may be able to exploit student data, institutions must also consider the “big brother” question – “how much is too much?” when it comes to collecting student data. Sabo quotes Chris Kiwus of Virginia Tech, who notes that facilities may want to adjust heat and air conditioning based on a room’s occupancy. Yet, ‘if we determine occupancy based on a personal mobile device…are we opening the door to violating someone’s privacy?’ asks Kiwus. In part due to the organizational reach of IoT technologies – multiple organizations must be consulted to implement such expansive changes – ownership and accountability can fail without proper safeguards. Yet despite their management challenges, IoT technologies have become embedded in the fabric of modern institutions, and their successful implementations can come at a great boon to students and advancement of institutions as a whole.
Sabo concludes with examples of how IoT can contribute to student success when change management solutions are intelligently considered. To reiterate the benefits of IoT initiatives, Sabo returns to Shenoy and his experiences visiting hundreds of institutions to highlight the ways in which IoT can drive student success through analytics. In everything from salad bar placement to study sessions, Shenoy explains, IoT-driven data can provide administrators the tools to personalize and create efficiencies around the student experience. Still, while Arizona State’s smart stadium and its use of IoT to drive crowd engagement, safety, and student engagement with the campus app is a testament to the large-scale IoT implementations that are already possible, the success stories stress the “agile and scalable” operating system that IoT technologies necessitate.
Of course, intuitive and organized change management is key to implementing a new IoT initiative. Any campus community must understand why an IoT solution is necessary and how it will enhance strategic plan initiatives before development. In a more granular sense, campuses must also prepare for change by shoring up Wi-Fi connectivity and preparing the network to scale, determining how to collect and aggregate data, and train IT teams to support changing technologies – even if it requires a redefinition of IT as a whole. Thus, “what really works is when the parties get together in a room and talk through challenges and find ways to align everything within the strategic goals of the institution,” says Shenoy. IoT success is reliant upon institutional culture, and every campus will be affected by IoT regardless of whether the institution is prepared.