Funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act have been apportioned and disbursed to institutions of higher education (IHEs) to prevent, prepare for, and respond to needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Cisco Meraki wants to ensure you understand how to access these available funds to invest in technology that supports students and teachers.
We spoke with Mitchell Goersen, Cisco Public Sector Funding Advisor, on what funding is currently available for higher education in the U.S.
How can IHEs use CARES Act funds?
CARES Act funds are explicitly appropriated for the technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, remote learning, and working from home.
CARES Act funds are for:
Institutions offering undergraduate and graduate programs
Can IHEs use CARES Act funds to purchase IT for distance learning, work-from-home, as well as physical/cyber security products and services?
Yes, the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and the American Recovery and Rescue Plan grant funds for preventing, preparing for, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds may be used to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity, and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment. There are 15 uses specified, including:
Purchasing EdTech to facilitate continued learning
Addressing learning loss among students (especially those considered “at-risk”)
Other activities necessary to maintain operations and continuity of services, such as video surveillance of mask-wearing and social distancing
How and when do IHEs receive funding?
IHEs have already received allocations from the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and the American Recovery and Rescue Plan. Budgeting of allocated funds for tuition abatement, faculty salaries, health and safety, information technology, and other competing priorities is performed by each IHE. Dates by which funds must be expended vary depending on the source of funds. For-profit IHEs generally may use funds only for tuition abatement; administrative uses such as IT are not permitted.
What are anchor community broadband funds and how much is available?
In addition to previously appropriated funds for rural broadband infrastructure, the American Recovery and Rescue Plan includes approximately $2 billion in funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities to deploy broadband infrastructure in neighboring anchor communities.
Deadlines for use of funds vary by grant; the need-to-spend-by date for CARES 2.0 HEERF is September 23, 2023. Visit the U.S. Department of Education website for additional information.
Which types of institutions are the anchor community broadband funds designed for?
Does Cisco have a funding program available for higher education?
Yes, Cisco Capital supports education institutions as they work to deliver collaborative teaching and learning experiences.
What is Cisco Capital?
Cisco Capital offers flexible financing solutions to help institutions get the latest Cisco technology with no upfront costs and predictable payments spread over time. Cisco can help you gain access to additional funding, enabling you to preserve your budget for other high-priority initiatives. Cisco Capital enables you to invest in the technology you need now to create a secure and productive learning environment and attract new students in a competitive and challenging landscape.
From move-in day to graduation day, students require reliable Wi-Fi to be successful. Not only does Wi-Fi enable effective collaboration and creativity, but it can also be a driver to attract and retain students and faculty to campus. As the need for seamless connectivity on college and university campuses continues to expand, are schools measuring up to student expectations? We wanted to find out.
In partnership with the Center for Digital Education, Cisco Meraki conducted two surveys, one of higher education decision-makers and one of college students — to better understand students’ habits and needs regarding network use and technology and how that compares to what their counterparts in leadership perceive. We asked almost identical questions of these two audiences and compared the results.
The results were fascinating. While the full survey report outlines many interesting findings, three key things stood out that warranted further analysis:
1. Students aren’t utilizing campus to its full potential because of unreliable Wi-Fi
We asked students where they complete their school work and use Wi-Fi the most. We then asked higher education leaders where they think students complete their school work and use the Wi-Fi the most. Both audiences were also asked how reliable they thought the Wi-Fi was in those areas. Surprisingly, the study showed a large discrepancy between the students actual Wi-Fi use and the leaders perception of what the students use. While the vast majority of students ranked the school library, on campus housing, and off-campus housing as the top three locations to work and use Wi-Fi, the leaders listed study rooms and dining/common areas as primary student work locations. Why aren’t students completing school work and using Wi-Fi in all of the areas leadership thinks they are?
When asked how reliable the Wi-Fi was in the same locations, the discrepancy was shocking. In every location highlighted, more than half of leaders thought Wi-Fi was very reliable, yet less than 25% of students thought so (with the exception of the library). More specifically, 40% of leadership versus 22% of students think Wi-Fi is highly reliable in dorms and 42% of leadership think Wi-Fi is somewhat reliable outdoors, while 57% of students say there is no outdoor Wi-Fi. To top it off, when students were asked “What technology would you like to see your campus provide to enhance the student experience?” the top answer, getting 54% of the responses, was reliable Wi-Fi.
While students want to seamlessly roam from their dorm room, to class, to the outdoor quad and have reliable connections in order to socialize and work, this isn’t being provided to the standard students expect. In order to provide the best experience for students, reliable Wi-Fi everywhere on campus is key.
2. While Wi-Fi is important, schools can’t forget about the wired network
Students are bringing more and more wireless devices with them to campus, especially when they live in dorms. On average, students who live on campus bring 9 devices with them to school, while those who commute bring an average of 3. The survey showed that students and higher education leaders were aligned on the top two devices students bring to campus (laptops and smartphones), but the third device was surprising. For students living on campus, 43% bring a desktop computer, a large difference from the 18% predicted by education leaders. Instead, leadership overestimated students bringing other wireless technologies, like tablets, video game consoles, and smart watches.
While the number of wireless technologies students bring to school will continue to increase, schools can’t forget about the wired network. Students still demand a wired connection, especially in their dorm rooms. Plus, a reliable network backbone is key to supporting high-density wireless access points everywhere on campus. Ensuring the underlying wired network is ready for what students will throw at it is just as important as the wireless.
3. Improving campus Wi-Fi can greatly reduce the number of help desk tickets
Students on average submit 11 help desk tickets per year, on par with higher education leaders’ estimations of 13 tickets a year. This means that students are submitting help desk tickets around once a month, and when you multiply that by the number of students, the amount of tickets is staggering. It’s no surprise that students and leaders agree that most tickets are submitted when the Wi-Fi goes down.
By providing always-on connections, students will complain less about the Wi-Fi and in turn, submit less tickets. This not only saves on IT resources, but gives those teams time back in their day to work on more proactive and impactful projects that can benefit the university.
Overall, the surveys found that students want to see reliable Wi-Fi on campus to enhance their experience, and they are not getting the always-on connection higher education leaders believe they’re providing. But it’s not too late to turn this around – higher education institutions can start by evaluating solutions that provide the access students deserve, while being easier for the IT team to set up and manage.
Step anywhere on Butler University’s campus and you’ll see students swaying in hammocks in the outdoor quad, collaborating in large lecture halls, and cheering on the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse, all with a cell phone or laptop in hand. Butler was founded on the idea that everyone deserves access to a quality education, so it’s no surprise that the University’s leaders strive to provide equal access to all students and faculty by supplying campus-wide Wi-Fi. With more than 1,300 Cisco Meraki indoor and outdoor access points (APs) deployed across the campus, students can seamlessly connect wherever they are with no interruption to their education. The wireless upgrade also provided many unforeseen benefits to the IT team, directly impacting how they spend their time to improve everyday student life including ease of deployment, providing reliable connections, and gaining access to actionable insights.
Connecting 100,000 devices with the cloud-managed Wi-Fi
To the IT team’s surprise, the group who installed the cloud-managed access points didn’t need to have deep technical knowledge. The team deploying the APs comprised of both full-time IT staff and student workers, who together were able to deploy all 1,300+ APs across the campus in less than two weeks. This was made possible because of the cloud-managed Meraki dashboard, which allowed IT to preconfigure the devices before they arrived. They also used configuration templates, allowing the team to apply the same configuration to hundreds of devices and install them for immediate use. This enabled the student workers to simply plug the devices in and they were ready for use. In the last year since the deployment, over 100,000 devices have traversed the network, which has worked seamlessly for users.
High density with automated assurance
Once the deployment was complete, it was immediately apparent that connections were more reliable, there was better coverage, and more robust troubleshooting tools were available for faster time to resolution. Students now have the same experience using their laptops in their dorm room as they do in the outdoor quad, ensuring they can stay connected no matter where they are on campus. With higher density APs, the IT team has seen hundreds of students seamlessly connect in a lecture hall and use the devices they need to without issue. They can also see where the most bandwidth is being used and on what application, and can limit the amount of bandwidth certain applications or devices are using to improve connection reliability and speed across campus. Instead of acting reactively to issues affecting the wireless network or running complicated scripts to verify wireless performance, the IT team now uses automated assurance with MerakiWireless Health. They can quickly see the number of failed connections, obtain automated performance metrics, and provide root cause analysis of client connection issues. Different wireless needs exist across various environments on campus, including lecture halls, dorm rooms, stadiums, and outdoor spaces, and it was traditionally challenging to meet their different configuration needs. With Meraki, the IT team was able to create pre-defined and customizable RF Profiles to apply RF settings across all of their diverse environments.
The network as a platform
While providing reliable wireless access was the original IT team’s goal with their AP deployment, they quickly realized there was so much more they could do with their new solution. The information and tools already made available in the Meraki dashboard can inform how to design the campus moving forward, help improve student safety, allow them to personalize student experiences, and more. With Bluetooth beacons, they can send personalized communications to students that are connected to an AP in the dining hall, student center, or science building. By leveraging the Meraki API, they can pull data out of the dashboard and use it in other systems and tools to continue improving the student experience. With the vast amounts of data available at their fingertips, the IT team is continuing to explore new ways to take advantage of these insights and apply them to the University going forward.
Butler University is a pioneer in deploying innovative technology in the higher education industry. To learn why they chose Meraki wireless, how they were able to complete their deployment so quickly, how they leverage non-technical staff to manage and troubleshoot the network, and how they are thinking about using wireless data to do more than just provide access, watch the on demand webinar. Peter Williams, Associate Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer, and Michael Denny, Network and Security Architect, at Butler University walk us through their Meraki deployment, including a live demo of their Meraki dashboard. Watch now.
Over the last 25 years, the cost of a college education has increased nearly eight times faster than the average U.S. wage. Therefore, it’s no surprise that student loans make up the largest amount of U.S. non-housing debt. This higher education cost shift has left many students with the tough task of finding a quality education without breaking the bank.
While this may be daunting to any hopeful college student, not all hope is lost. Some schools across the U.S. are determined to give students a high-quality, affordable education, regardless of their background. One such example is the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), which aims to change lives through education by offering students exceptional and affordable college experiences. As an NC Promise campus, UNCP offers students in-state tuition of $500 per semester and out-of-state tuition at $2,500 a semester, ensuring that all students have access to great education that they can afford.While cost is a very important factor, UNCP knows it is only one piece of the puzzle when striving to provide the best college experiences for students. The next step is to provide the best technology solutions to support learning everywhere on campus.
To better meet student expectations, Kevin Pait, Interim CIO and Associate Vice Chancellor (AVC) for IT, and his 5 person IT team deployed 700+ Cisco Meraki MR access points across the UNCP campus. This provides three main benefits for the school:
Improve Student Connections
“Since deploying Meraki in the residence halls and academic buildings, I never hear complaints. Right out of the gate, the student experience was excellent and our support tickets really dropped.” – Kevin Pait
With access points deployed in academic buildings, dorm rooms, common spaces, and outside, students have reliable, seamless coverage everywhere they go on campus. This has dramatically reduced the number of help desk tickets and complaints from students, and illustrates how much the Wi-Fi has improved since switching to Meraki. This enables students to focus on learning and collaborating, rather than using their time to troubleshoot access issues.
Save Time and Resources
“Meraki is simple. You’ve got the analytics, troubleshooting, errors, all of those things in the dashboard that have really helped to simplify system administration.” – Kevin Pait
With a cloud-managed wireless solution, the UNCP IT team was able to greatly simplify the wireless deployment and dramatically reduce the amount of time they spend on day-to-day network management and troubleshooting. This has saved the IT team countless hours, freeing up their time to focus on more impactful projects such as using data and analytics to inform decisions in other business units and make adjustments across the academic and residential departments.
Identify New Opportunities
“At the beginning we were really focused on what Meraki could do in terms of the infrastructure and the ease of management, maintenance and operations. But it’s just really opened up another world of opportunity.” – Kevin Pait
Now that the school has a reliable wireless solution in place, Kevin and the IT team can spend more time building new solutions and experiences for students. With increased network visibility, access to analytics, and a customizable platform, there are endless possibilities for the school to continue enhancing the technology experience for their students and employees on campus.
Today, UNCP uses Cisco networking, security, VoIP, collaboration, and wireless to provide an outstanding education for all students. To learn more about UNCP, watch the video and read their story.
The classrooms, libraries, and stadiums of the future offer endless possibilities. Today, we see students mainly carrying only laptops and smartphones with them to college and university campuses. But tomorrow? We will see students with as many as 10 devices on them at all times as they work, learn, and collaborate everywhere on campus. And if that wasn’t enough, more IoT and high-bandwidth devices are being incorporated into campus plans for smart lighting, smart parking, security, immersive learning, and more. Because of this, the number of devices hitting the network and the amount of bandwidth they need will exponentially increase. Are higher education leaders ready for this drastic shift?
Many higher education institutions today are already preparing for what the future of technology will bring. Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless standard, not only promises to bring higher density, throughput, and reliability to higher education networks, but also ensures that students and staff can focus on collaborating and learning, rather than losing connections or having technology troubles.
Identifying where bandwidth problems already exist, learning what the new standards offer, and thinking through a Wi-Fi 6 strategy are great first steps. With bandwidth requirements approximately doubling every three years, in addition to serving inherently high-density environments, the Butler University IT team has had a constant challenge to provide always-on, reliable connections for students and staff. For example, each large lecture hall currently has three 802.11ac wave 2 access points (APs) to accommodate around 100 students. But with several large lecture halls right next to each other, the APs end up cannibalizing each other. Michael Denny, Network and Security Architect at Butler University, explains, “By deploying a Wi-Fi 6 AP, we hope to have a single AP that can handle all of the students load at the same time without needing as many APs to accomplish the same job.”
But it’s not just about supporting the students of today, it’s preparing for the lecture halls of tomorrow. Pete Williams, Associate Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer at Butler University, highlighted, “Classroom requirements are changing. Just take a look at 4K, VR, AR, and the capabilities and the requirements they’re going to drive from a throughput perspective. We believe that Wi-Fi 6 is going to help us meet that need.”
At Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC), their new Meraki Wi-Fi 6 APs not only provide better connections for students and staff, but prepare them for the increasing number of IoT devices they predict will hit the network. Over the last year, the PPCC IT team has received a dramatic increase in requests to implement more technologies on campus to improve student experiences. Wireless door locks, medical devices, AR/VR, Apple TVs, security cameras, and other devices continue to be added to the wireless network. With Meraki Wi-Fi 6 APs, PPCC is ready for this increase in IoT devices, while being able to do more with less hardware. Cyrille Parent, CTO at PPCC, explained, “We’re able to actually cover more ground with the new Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points than with previous technology, which will provide a better experience for students and faculty.”
Soon, higher education institutions will need to make a choice: To support the increasing number of student and IoT devices by either deploying more 802.11ac Wave 2 APs and turning down the bandwidth on each to minimize interference, or by deploying a smaller number of 802.11ax APs.
Albany State University (ASU) chose to embrace the new standard and has less APs with better performance by deploying Wi-Fi 6 compatible Meraki MR55 APs. Students noticed an immediate difference. With APs deployed in the student union, housing common rooms, and gaming areas, students could tell that the internet no longer slowed down, even when at capacity in these high-density areas, allowing them to watch videos, stream music, and use social media with their friends, all at the same time. Noore Ghunaym, Director of Infrastructure, added, “Students have a much faster experience. They can watch videos, have their headphones in, stream music, snap — they’re able to do all the things that college kids do. Wi-Fi 6 helps us meet those throughput and speed challenges and allows us to scale our network accordingly.”
Meraki cloud-managed Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points raise the bar for wireless performance and efficiency in higher education and beyond. Designed for next-generation deployments, with high throughput and enterprise-grade security, higher education IT teams can experience easy deployments, central management, intelligent troubleshooting, and greater scalability. As bandwidth requirements and the number of devices continues to increase, higher education institutions will need to be ready for whatever technology comes their way. To learn more about how higher education institutions are deploying Wi-Fi 6 and embracing new technology, watch this on demand webinar with Albany State University.
Stepping onto a college or university campus has been a rite of passage for generations of students, and few settings capture the collegiate atmosphere more than dormitories. Dorms represent far more than just a place to sleep and study; they are an integral part of the college experience, providing a place for students to meet one another and acclimate to college life together.
Over the last couple of decades, many dorms have undergone dramatic transformations. As with nearly every other aspect of higher education, dorms have changed thanks to a rapid influx of new technology, from students bringing more wireless devices onto campus to universities replacing keys with access cards for improved physical security. This transformation will continue unabated into the future.
How will dorms continue to evolve? Here are three trends that IT staff should look out for and their implications on the residential college experience.
1. More reliance on SaaS applications
Now more than ever, students are constantly using SaaS applications for learning, entertainment, organization, socializing, and more: everything from Khan Academy to Netflix to Spotify to Xbox Live, all around the clock. This trend has also coincided with a decrease in P2P file sharing, as many students have found it easier to obtain media through legal streaming channels than through torrenting.
What does this mean for IT staff? The greater confluence of “always on” applications means that administrators need to build out network infrastructure that can handle consistently high levels of usage. This makes network deployments both easier and harder. Easier, because once the number of devices and applications connected to the network is known, the amount of traffic is easier to predict and spikes in traffic due to torrenting are less likely. Harder, because demands on the network will likely grow faster than ever before. As a result, IT admins should plan on making extra bandwidth available for future use. Moreover, IT teams that leverage SD-WAN technology can intelligently balance the network load across multiple uplinks, lowering bandwidth costs by delivering MPLS-like reliability on any broadband uplink.
2. Devices flood the dorms
Every year, videos pop up on YouTube showcasing tricked-out dorm rooms with crazy light shows and smart blinds, often designed by enterprising engineering students. While dorm rooms enhanced to this level aren’t the norm, many universities are witnessing smart technologies infiltrate the residence halls, including things like smart speakers and smart home hubs. As EdTech notes, students are bringing personal consumer devices onto campus at an unprecedented rate.
It’s worth noting that students are the only ones bringing new and innovative technology onto campuses. Higher education IT teams have also been deploying new connected devices to enhance the student experience. The University of Michigan and Indiana University, for example, have set up whiteboards with touchscreens, large video conferencing displays, and flat panel TVs to make student programming more accessible and to enable easier student collaboration.
This increase of devices in dorms means that IT admins need to look at network management in a new way. Over the last decade, many higher education IT teams have focused on blanketing large areas of campus with Wi-Fi, but density was historically less of a concern since students only brought 1-2 devices to school. Now, as the number of devices has ballooned, IT admins need to focus their efforts on deploying wireless infrastructure in environments with tough RF challenges. The goal: ensure a great experience on every device for every use case, whether students are doing online research or engaging in live video collaboration.
3. Changes in the way dorms are designed and built
The role of the dorm has seen a fairly dramatic shift over the last few decades. For the most part, dorms used to be a place for students to eat, sleep, and throw the occasional party, while groups who wanted to study would head to the library or academic buildings. However, as digital technology has made collaboration easier — think shared documents and video chat — colleges have rebuilt dorms around the need for students to live and learn in a single building.
What does this look like? As Building Design + Construction notes, select universities are starting to embrace a mix of suite-style privacy with more public spaces designed for greater student interaction. They’ve started to move away from isolated study carrels and instead create more open, collaboration-friendly lounges where groups of students can hang out together. As the cost of security technologies like fingerprint readers and cameras comes down, many universities are equipping dorms with those as well. Some universities are also embracing students’ desires to study outside by outfitting quads and plazas with fast wireless connectivity.
It’s also worth noting that as students continue to bring more devices to campus and more schoolwork is completed through web-based portals, the need for dedicated computer lounges has shrunk significantly.
To adapt to these changes, IT teams need to plan for more dense environments and deploy reliable networking infrastructure that can handle many different devices connecting at once. Additionally, as computer labs become less important in the dorm environment, IT teams may instead install more wireless access points so students can get online from anywhere in the building. Third, as students spend more time inside dorms, the need for physical security (e.g., badge scanners, fingerprint readers, and cameras) increases, as does the need for the networking infrastructure to support these security measures.
To equip dorms for the next decade, IT teams need to build out infrastructure that can support high-bandwidth, always-on applications and that is easy to manage. At the same time, it’s crucial that this infrastructure be protected against the latest security threats and regularly updated with new capabilities. After all, universities can’t afford to deal with security vulnerabilities or rip and replace IT infrastructure every few years.
Cloud-managed networking and security solutions from Cisco Meraki are built with the needs of university environments in mind. All Meraki products receive firmware updates automatically and are managed through a web-based dashboard, making it easy for IT admins to manage many different deployments across campus from a single place.
To learn more about why Meraki is ideal for institutions of higher education, check out our issue brief, Rethinking Dorm Wi-Fi.
In a variety of different industries, Apple TV is helping provide better guest experiences and increase user engagement.
Educational environments around the globe, including classrooms, hallways, and entire campus structures, are becoming more technologically integrated. Apple TV is a common tool used by instructors to share information. Teachers are able to better engage with students while seamlessly sharing content from their iPads to on larger screens, enabling easy collaboration and spontaneous sharing between students.
In the hospitality sector, making the guest experience an “at-home” experience has always been a top priority. Today it is more common to see technologies like Apple TV provide a platform for proactive and efficient communication. Employees can easily share relevant information with guests and other hotel staff, resulting in simpler and more automated hotel operations. Local recommendations, amenities, and seasonal offerings can be featured in guest rooms and around an entire hotel, allowing guests to constantly be in the know, without it interfering with their stay.
Having received a ton of requests for Apple TV support from our customers, Cisco Meraki is happy to announce that Systems Manager now fully supports Apple TV (tvOS). With the addition of tvOS, Systems Manager now supports six operating systems, with tvOS joining iOS, MacOS, Android, Chrome OS, and Windows.
The new Systems Manager feature allows customers to manage Apple TV-enabled devices similar to mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and other endpoint devices.
With the way these verticals are using Apple TV and how it contributes to their business, any downtime on these devices can be costly. Not being able to get alerted when an Apple TV is offline, locate and erase a lost device, or enroll hundreds of devices at the same time results in a stressful and inefficient experience for IT admins.
In order to optimize technologies like Apple TV for better student engagement, larger revenue streams, and improved customer experience, managing these devices needs to be intuitive, fast, and to-the-point.
Systems Manager caters to these needs by:
Supporting new out-of-box enrollment (OOBE) capabilities using Apple DEP for easy Apple TV onboarding
Providing remote troubleshooting tools (such as locking devices, selectively wiping, erasing a device, and rebooting)
Allowing device restrictions — now made easier with an updated user experience and more security for AirPlay and Single App mode
Enabling easier addition and synchronization of tvOS apps via VPP
The list doesn’t stop there — if you are familiar with Systems Manager, the experience is built to be on par with the management of other Apple operating systems such as iOS and macOS.
Whether they’re attending a lecture, studying in the library, or binge watching Netflix in their dorm, college students today expect fast, reliable, and secure wireless at all times.
Meraki cloud-managed access points, switches, security cameras, and more can help provide an always-on experience for students and faculty alike.
Interested in learning more? Visit us at booth #731 at EDUCAUSE 2018!
From October 30 to November 2, 2018, the 2018 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference will unite the best thinkers in higher education IT. Every year, global professionals and technology providers gather to network, share ideas, and discover solutions to solve today’s IT challenges.
Visit us at booth #731 to learn more about Meraki and participate in hands-on demos with Meraki product specialists. These demos will showcase how to:
Use the powerful and easy-to-use Meraki dashboard to configure, manage, and troubleshoot hardware remotely, no command line required
Use Meraki wireless to reliably connect students and faculty across campus
Keep your campus secure with security cameras that include built-in analytics and a game-changing architecture, no NVR or additional software required
Enhance the student experience on campus with APIs delivered by Meraki’s many technology partners
Join us for the session “Keeping Students Safer with Wireless and Security Across Campus” on Thursday, November 1st at 10:45am to 11:30am. We’ll be hosting a customer panel featuring three Cisco higher education customers to learn how they are working to make their campuses safer with smarter security cameras, robust wireless, and network security.
Chris Arcarese, Director, Information Technology Services, Community College of Denver
Alex Henson, CIO, Virginia Commonwealth University
Donald Tharp, CTO, Ashland University
Sherry Watson, Executive Director or Technical Services, Lone Star College
Joyce Kim, Ovum
Stop by our booth at EDUCAUSE and mention this blog post and you’ll get some exclusive Meraki swag!
Not attending EDUCAUSE 2018? No problem!
Register for an upcoming Meraki for Higher Education webinar to learn how your IT team can provide the on-campus experiences that today’s college students expect. You’ll learn about high-density Meraki wireless, scalable switches, easy-to-use physical security, and more, complete with a dashboard demo and live Q&A. Plus, you’ll even get a free* AP, just for attending.
Whether it’s completing a complicated math test, giving a science presentation, or going on a virtual field trip, students from kindergarten to college are always connected. And while they are preoccupied with completing online school assignments, video chatting with friends, and streaming TV, there is an entire network on the backend making this all possible, which they may not even be aware of. Most importantly, not only are students used to seamless connections across campus and in the classroom, they expect high bandwidth, easy on-boarding, and data security.
Today, IT teams at K-12 schools and higher education institutions are tasked with not only keeping the network secure, which is challenging enough on its own, but also with protecting end user devices and ensuring physical safety. All of these serious responsibilities, paired with limited resources, create a challenge for education IT teams. How do you protect endpoints, networks, and students, all at the same time?
Meraki is uniquely positioned to help education IT teams do just that. With solutions that span all three areas, you can ensure student and staff devices are secure, the network is safeguarded from vulnerabilities, student data is protected, and everyone is safe walking around campus — all from one, easy-to-manage location. Here are a few examples that illustrate what Meraki endpoint, network, and physical security can do for your school:
As 1:1 programs continue to grow in school districts and college students continue to bring tens of devices to campus, endpoint security has become increasingly important. With an endpoint management solution, you can protect students of all ages from seeing inappropriate content, accessing blacklisted sites, and downloading unknown applications by using content filtering, group policies, and advanced malware protection. If a device is lost or stolen, especially one holding sensitive information, you can easily identify its location and retrieve it or remote wipe its contents. Most importantly, by protecting all of the devices that students and teachers use every day, the network can remain secure from common endpoint security vulnerabilities.
Schools and colleges big and small have become regular targets for cyber attacks. Cyber criminals often gain access to private student data or important research, and threaten to share this sensitive information. The first line of defense comes by creating group or user-based policies for students, teachers, and staff, and restricting who can access various parts of the network. With integrated intrusion protection and malware scanning, users can easily stop malicious threats and files before they enter the network while prioritizing trusted educational applications with Layer 7 firewall and traffic shaping rules. With increased network visibility, you can track and shut down rogue APs, set up email alerts when rogues are detected, and contain rogue SSIDs, AP spoofs, and packet floods. Most importantly, with a cloud-managed solution, you can ensure the latest firmware updates are pushed to the network automatically to guard against the latest security threats and vulnerabilities.
Schools are tasked with providing safe learning environments for all students and teachers, without fear of trespassers, poor behavior, or unforeseen incidents. With smarter security cameras, you can quickly identify when a person is where they shouldn’t be and view video analytics of school activity to identify high-risk areas. You can also help deter threats and incidents with the ability to quickly search recorded video and easily share with parents and law enforcement. With granular access controls and visibility from any Internet browser, teachers, principals, chancellors, and even the fire department can view groupings of cameras, or a single camera, and act accordingly. Plus, with video data encrypted at rest and during transport, you get even more protection against cyber threats.
With the perfect blend of endpoint, network, and physical security, Cisco Meraki helps provide the safest environment for schools and colleges. By managing all of your security solutions from a single, web-based dashboard, you can dramatically simplify device, network, and security camera management through remote configurations, video monitoring, and application deployments. The full stack of Meraki solutions work together seamlessly to provide a secure offering for schools. Meraki keeps devices protected, data encrypted, and students safe, while enabling the IT department to spend more time on impactful projects and less time managing and troubleshooting their security solutions.
Your parents probably urged you not to spend all of your time playing video games or you likely limit the amount of time your kids can spend with a controller in hand. But what if I told you that kids nowadays get into college, even with a scholarship, for playing video games?
eSports has taken the college sports scene by a storm, with more and more colleges and universities offering eSports teams every year. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) was formed to support this growing program, and ESPN broadcasts video game competitions. Different video games have specific competitive seasons, making this an exciting year-round sport. Games include Dota 2, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Halo, and many others. Believe it or not, more people watch eSports competitions in a year than the NBA finals.
Different capabilities are needed to support an eSports team than for a more traditional sport like baseball or football. Ditch the large stadiums and bleacher seats; complex computer labs are required to support the high-quality computers and accessories needed to play the games, with viewers tuning in online to watch the matches take place. To support this, a high-density, reliable, and secure network is necessary to ensure eSports games can go on without hitting the network client limit, experiencing bad latency issues, or having the network go down altogether. And a strong Internet connection is imperative to making sure eSports competitions can go on without a hitch.
The IT team at Illinois College knows this all too well. When deciding to launch their eSports program in the summer of 2017, they knew they needed a robust network to support a room full of gamers eager to win League of Legends championships. But first, they had to build a brand-new facility in the middle of campus, stocked with several computer and console gaming stations. Equipped with Cisco Meraki MR access points, MS switches, and MX security appliances, the Meraki Gaming Center was born. Students can now receive full-ride scholarships to join the Illinois College eSports team, a part of the school’s overall athletics program.
Think you can go back to college for your Mario Kart skills? Probably not. But when incoming students start pressuring your college or university to provide an eSports team, will you have the network to support it?
Watch the webinar recording with Illinois College CIO and Assistant CIO, Marc Benner and Patrick Brown, to hear how they are supporting their eSports program with Meraki. They also have a full-stack Meraki solution that supports all students and teachers on-campus, complete with access points, switches, security appliances, security cameras, and endpoint management, for a robust network for all students. You will even see a demo of their Meraki dashboard.