In recent times we have seen technology become central to the operation of educational institutions and supporting the student learning experience. The shift towards digital learning skyrockets the need for this to be embraced by the education sector. With the right guidance, digital transformation can, for example, enhance the student learning experience, improve the quality of teaching and learning, provide better protection against cyber threats and increase organisational efficiencies. At Jisc, we recognise the support we are required to provide for our members in this rapidly changing space, by helping to deliver on the requirements of their digital environment.
Based on our research and analysis, we believe HE and FE institutions also want Jisc to help measure and track IT trends regularly. Our findings from members suggest that FE colleges are “keen to understand what operating systems other colleges are using, what percentage of different devices are used (laptops, desktops, tablets etc.), and what other technologies colleges are using (e.g., AV, networking, firewalls, student Management, backup solutions)”.
How are we going to support this?
To support the demand and requirements of the education sector, we need rich data to subsequently extract evidence-based insights to help our members. Thus, we have initiated the ‘IT Estates’ project, which aims to do just that. We aim to collate rich data on our members’ IT estates so that we can, for example (but not limited to!):
- Be better digital transformation partners for our members
- Spot common IT trends and challenges in the sector
- Build products/services that the sector demands
- Negotiate deals on behalf of the sector
Having this level of business intelligence is imperative to our mission of advancing our members’ digital transformation.
What data are we talking about specifically?
When we suggest collating rich data on our members’ IT Estates – what do we mean? As part of this project, our research solidifies the key areas of information we need to support our members in the present digital reality. These areas include:
- Network infrastructure – e.g., LAN/WLAN setup, transmission mediums (wired or wireless, band sizes), network software
- Cyber security – e.g., Firewalls, penetration testing
- Management information systems – e.g., Student management systems
- Devices – e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, operating systems etc.
- Data Architecture – e.g., servers, storage, backup solutions
Collating and restructuring the data from our members is the largest hurdle we are trying to overcome. Understandably, some members are cautious when sharing data of a sensitive nature, e.g., about their cyber security. In addition, ensuring the collection of accurate and up-to-date data is necessary, and definitely not easy! However, it is our responsibility to communicate the gains that this would lead to for them as a result of their engagement.
We plan to overcome this challenge by exploring the following:
- How can we ensure the data is used in a way that our members are comfortable with?
- How can we support our members in providing accurate information and enable them to do it efficiently?
- How can we regularly share valuable insights into the sector?
- How can we engage our members to participate in providing the data?
- How can we get the most out of the member data Jisc already has?