Category: Education

Post Pandemic Business Success is About Renewal
Post-Pandemic Business Success is About Renewal
As businesses regain their balance, the leadership must focus on renewal, not recovery, if they want to stay competitive in their market.

If there’s a lesson to be learned about the pandemic, it’s the importance of being adaptable. Another critical quality for survival was speed. There wasn’t much time to deliberate. Companies had to act fast. Acting with speed and agility wasn’t tied to the size of the company. It was less about ability and more about choosing to be quick and adaptable.

Covid-19 changed how we live and work on multiple levels. We’ve seen accelerated changes in consumer and business behaviors that are likely to persist. Strategies meant to restore things as they were before the pandemic will prove frustrating.

Business leaders need to look beyond recovery. As Rebecca Brooks points out in her article for the Forbes Agency Council, the pandemic revealed the flaws in our systems. All of them. Whether they were socio-economic, corporate, or governmental. “That’s why I’m not trying to lead my company back to where it was in December of 2019,” she writes. “That place and time are gone. I want a renewal— not a recovery — so that our people are equipped and prepared to handle the challenges we’ll face today and tomorrow.

Because businesses and consumer behavior will never be the same, business leaders are looking for technology, specifically digital technology, to lead the way. Digitizing operations use the technology to replicate an existing service in a digital form. Becoming digital means using technology to transform the service into something significantly better. Companies can’t afford to drop the value propositions that work, at least not right away. Nor can they afford to settle with running the business as they had before the pandemic. It is a different market now. In this climate of rapid change and delivery, there’s nothing worse than complacency.

Be Inspired by Technology

The whole idea behind digital transformation is to leverage all the potentialities of technology (namely cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence) to create and deliver better products and services.

Why is the ability to be inspired by technology such a prized commodity? Because now you can conceive an idea, get it funded, bring it to life, and scale it easily, quickly, and more economical than ever before. Andrew Hessel, a distinguished research scientist at Autodesk, said, “The gap between science-fiction and science is getting really narrow now; as soon as someone has the idea and articulates it, it can be manifested in a short time.”

A recent Gartner report on identifying future work trends recommends several methods for creating a future-of-work strategy. The recommendations include using the visionary imaginations of science-fiction writers. Apparently, there are many organizations already employing science-fiction writers to develop bold ideas. Gartner points out that creative thinking is critical for moving past incremental innovation. People often become trapped by cognitive biases (what they know and expect from everyday experiences). They become unable to see potential futures because they are weighed down by the limitations of present conditions.

Market Trends

While the crisis of covid-19 has boosted innovations in technology, it has also created shock waves of uncertainty which are particularly felt by investors and multinational companies. Having witnessed the vulnerability of long-distance supply chains, many business leaders are looking for more local options to replace global manufacturing partners.

ZARA store front in New York city.
ZARA, one of the most known retail companies in the world, has built its success on a solid cloud-based infrastructure.

The Spanish clothing retailer ZARA, founded in 1975, is one company that has been ahead of the trend. While most clothing brands floundered during the pandemic, ZARA was able to keep things moving because they had a shorter supply chain. Not an easy feat to pull off, especially when you have 2,270 stores worldwide. Most western brands use offshore manufacturing in Asia, where labor is much cheaper. The time between design and delivery of the finished product could be months.

Because ZARA used local manufacturers, they moved quickly from design to delivery in a matter of weeks. ZARA also benefited from having no stockpiles of unsold inventory, and they were able to respond to consumer trends promptly. This strategy of using local suppliers turns out to be an effective model. Other companies: in other industries have begun to follow its example.

Job Growth

The clothing industry was one of the markets hit the hardest during the pandemic. The manufacturing of clothing requires the work of many people. Consider that, in Asia alone, the clothing industry employs 43 million people. So, when clothing sales fall 73.5 % in the United States, Bangladesh loses out on $3.2 Billion in canceled clothing exports.

Worldwide, factory jobs will soon be a thing of the past because everything has been automated. Low-skill labor of all kinds will slowly continue to disappear over the next decade. It is anticipated that 1 out of 16 people will have to change occupations between now and 2030. This era of occupational transitions will require the need to train millions of people for new jobs. What benefits, such as sick leave or unemployment, be available for all workers (including gig workers)? The main areas of job growth will be highly skilled occupations: including teachers and training instructors.

Consumer Behavior

According to McKinsey & Company, consumer behavior that shifted in response to Covid-19: such as ordering groceries online and virtual healthcare, will continue at higher levels. E-commerce is booming. The virus also initiated a reversal of some behaviors, such as investing in the home. As the pandemic subsides, some consumer behaviors disrupted by Covid-19, including entertainment, leisure air travel, and remote education, will eventually make their comeback.

Hybrid or Fully Remote Workforce
Pie chart showing remote-work potential by numbers of days per week.
McKinsey and Company assessed over two thousand work activities to evaluate what work can be done without any activity loss in a work-from-home environment. In their research, twenty to twenty-five percent of the workforces in advanced economies were able to operate effectively without losing any of their efficiency. The number of remote workers since the pandemic has increased four to five times. Companies are now devising hybrid remote work plans that enable them to reduce office space saving money and increasing profit margins while giving workers more location flexibility.

During a video roundtable discussion entitled “What’s Up AEC?” Nvidia’s Senior Solutions Architect, Jimmy Rotella, said, “We had always seen a remote workforce coming. Analysts say that the pandemic has actually accelerated the work-from-home movement by 5 to 10 years.”

Now, there is a real focus on employees having options. They can work from home, in the office or both. In fact, the “employee experience” has become equally important as the customer experience.  Providing a great experience to both customers and employees is a defining aspect of a company’s brand.

According to a Fuze survey:

·       83% of workers do not believe they need to be in an office to be productive

·       43% believe they would be more productive working from home

·       70% of those surveyed between the ages of 16–44 want to be more mobile at work

·       88% use smartphones for work daily

·       49% use a tablet minimum of three times per week.

Now that the pandemic is winding down, organizations continue to think about how they want to work moving forward. Most employees now have a taste of what it’s like to work from home, and they want to keep it that way if possible. The trend for most companies has shifted in favor of remote and hybrid working scenarios. Owen Hughes writes, in his attention-grabbing article SPENDING ON TECH IS ABOUT TO ROCKET. BUT IT WON’T BE THE IT DEPARTMENT DOING THE BUYING, that the growth in IT spending will be around companies digitizing operations (moving to the cloud) and becoming digital.

Welcome to 2025

& Tech-Celeration

Zipline is the largest automated on-demand delivery service.
Zipline has made more than 150,000 commercial drone deliveries including blood, medicines, and vaccines. It has transformed national health systems by expanding access to care for millions of people.

The post-pandemic acceleration in the adoption of technologies is pushing us into the future at breakneck speeds.  The new word for this rapid adoption of new technologies is tech-celeration. Experts estimate the acceleration is at least 5 years. Healthcare and higher education are among the industries that have probably seen the greatest push towards tech-celeration. For example, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service built a telehealth system over a weekend and rolled it out to doctors across the country by the end of the following week. There were similar scenarios in the United States.

Although e-learning has been available to the public since 2000, it has been relatively dormant in university settings until the pandemic. Now, the online education market is expected to quadruple in revenue by 2026. Educational institutions are more open to using computers for distance learning and developing more robust online degree programs.

IT Moves to Center Stage

According to analysts, the surge in IT spending this year won’t come from traditional IT departments, but other areas of the business undergoing digital transformation. These units see IT charged as a cost of revenue or cost of goods sold.

John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner, said: “IT no longer just supports corporate operations as it traditionally has, but is fully participating in business value delivery. Not only does this shift IT from a back-office role to the front of a business, but it also changes the source of funding from an overhead expense that is maintained, monitored, and sometimes cut, to the thing that drives revenue.”

Mark Samuels’ May 22, 2018, article warns readers of the many pitfalls associated with digital transformation even as it acknowledges its importance to business renewal. A few years later, this urgency to transform into digital companies is as intense as ever. Like the acceleration of remote work, the pandemic pushed up the digital transformation agenda for everyone.

For more information please read parts 1 and 2 of WHY IS DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION SO IMPORTANT TO SUSTAINED SUCCESS? These highly informative blogs were based on research by Jeanne W. Ross.

New Crisis. New Opportunities.

Covid-19 created the opportunity for new businesses, as well as new types of businesses to emerge. According to the earlier referenced survey, the number of new business start-ups has doubled in the USA since 2019. During Covid-19, however, many workers in the United States were furloughed, laid off, or simply dropped out of the labor force for other reasons, and thereby embraced the opportunity to create the start-up of their dreams. New job titles have appeared on the horizon. For example, the research company Econsultancy tracked the use of the chief data officer title on LinkedIn for two years. In April 2016, 2,899 people were identified as chief data officers; by February 2018, there were 11,418.

 

IN CONCLUSION

Because of the changes brought upon by the pandemic digitization increased faster than ever thought to be possible and pressured many companies to move faster than they would have liked. It is now an on-demand economy (compliments of the cloud ecosystem). This is a new industrial revolution driven both by fear of digital disruption and the opportunities created by the cloud ecosystem.

The disruption caused by Covid-19 also offers a path to higher productivity and broad-based growth. Digital enterprises like Netflix, Google, and Facebook will only continue to get bigger. The Amazon model of fast and direct delivery will continue to blaze a path through online shopping.

Although the pandemic has contributed to a slowdown of globalization, the world has grown too integrated for globalization to be stopped. According to The Economist magazine, the biggest missing piece of the global puzzle is for business and government leaders to make interdependence work with resilience. Technology, and how people use it, will surely play a critical role.

Even before the pandemic lockdown, social media, mobile, analytics, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things pressured companies to become more digital. Digital technologies deliver ubiquitous data, unlimited connectivity, and massive processing power. Digital technologies enhance both the customer experience as well as employees.

Becoming a digital company means delivering new and improved product features. Too many executives rush into transforming their companies to become digital. Digital business transformation is a long journey. Leaders need to commit to the long haul while sustaining existing business.

Take notice of industry trends and identify which ones will have the biggest impact on your organization. Identify where your company has the greatest competitive advantages. Play to those strengths. Build relationships with providers who are dedicated to your success and whose expertise you can leverage.

 

Cloud technology enables online and in class room flexibility.
IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces Help Prepare Future Design & Engineer Talent for Sustained Success

 

 

 

Technologies are impacting every type of infrastructure imaginable. Not only is cloud computing changing everything about electronic design, but it is also democratizing the way we learn how to use the latest programs and optimize the way teams collaborate.

In an article that appeared on EETimes, the founder of Edge AI and Vision Alliance said cloud computing is changing everything about electronic design because more and more problems confronting designers are getting solved in the cloud. “The cloud is the number one force driving change in engineering departments around the world and has everything to do with almost every aspect of electronic design. It is drastically changing the way engineers work.”

The cloud is also changing the way student designers and engineers learn their craft.

Modern technology is about what many hundreds of thousands of remote computers can do to accumulate and store data and accelerate processing. It can transform the basic every-day personal computer into a super-fast powerhouse of a machine without investing lots of money in massive upgrades. Just as cloud computing is incredibly valuable to the working professional, it is indispensable for the Autodesk student learning to become a designer, an engineer, or an architect. In a recent CAD Community article, mechanical engineer Oren Klein (GoWesty) says, “It’s convenient to be able to work on dozens and dozens of projects independently on the cloud and not have to worry about file organization.”

IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces, in particular, offer tremendous benefits to building an Autodesk learning environment that is both future-proof and relevant. Future-proof because there is the flexibility to conduct classes and exercises online, on-campus, or a hybrid of the two. Relevant because using INFINITY Workspaces condition students to understand exactly how to operate in real-world digital working environments. For example, a digital business has accountabilities rather than structure. While there is structure, it’s more about teams understanding the mission than having a boss telling them what to do. It’s more about component owners and not project managers. Being able to experiment and try things out quickly is critically important in a digital work environment. This worldwide shift to digital reflects the growing need for professional organizations and educational institutions to widen their scope beyond traditional disciplines to support their members and industry in an increasingly multidisciplinary future.

Recent events have shown the importance of having a resilient IT environment. IT systems have to be reliable going into a crisis to keep students on track. Building your IT infrastructure on the IronOrbit cloud will protect your learning environment from being stopped by unforeseen events. A robust educational experience can continue on or off-campus.

Because IronOrbit’s cloud computing technology delivers GPU-Accelerated virtual desktops, students experience, whether they’re on or off-campus, a no-latency blazingly fast end-user experience. This translates to increased efficiency, productivity, and a richer learning experience unhampered by any hardware limitations. Students will become inspired by technology, unleashing their imagination, and nurture a real proclivity to solving problems and anticipating innovations.

Setting up your learning center on an IronOrbit cloud environment can happen in just a few weeks. A typical INFINITY Workspaces scenario will:
• Provide each student with a personal workspace
• Replace your computer labs with an “anywhere/anytime” virtual Workspace lab
• Remote Collaboration Across Dispersed Teams is Seamless
• Students benefit from a high-end user experience without having to invest in expensive heavy-duty computers
• Continuously updated files always available
• Add or subtract the number of users easily and quickly

Current Project Files Are Always Accessible & Up to Date

One of INFINITY Workspaces’ main benefits is your data is stored securely in a data center located far away from your school or training center. Increasingly, this is becoming the preferred way for AEC firms to store their data securely. Shifting design models and moving data off distributed PCs into your data center secures mission-critical designs and IP, speeds the design process, and gives design and engineering students more work-style freedom

IronOrbit’s virtual desktops enable mobile access and secure remote collaboration for project teams in multiple locations. Project work files, such as Autodesk’s Revit and Inventor applications, can be accessed by you and your students from anywhere and on any device. Users can view and work with large 2D and 3D models without lag or delay.

Share & Collaborate on Work Seamlessly

INFINITY Workspaces make it easy for students to share AutoCAD and Revit projects. They can even collaborate on those projects at the same time. Whether you want to give someone else view-only access, or you want to collaborate with the real-time, INFINITY Workspaces make it easy.

A unique characteristic of all IronOrbit INFINITY Workspaces is the high level of control administrators have over their entire ICT environment.

Perhaps the most important thing is that IronOrbit partners with you to replicate the same collaborative work environment learners will face in work environments worldwide.

To learn more about how IronOrbit can help prepare your AutoCAD students for sustained success, please call us at 888-753-5060.

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Our differences, rather than hold us back, make us stronger and more versatile as a whole. We collaborate effectively across groups and departments, working as one to demolish our goals and deliver consistent and ever-improving value to our clients.

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Virtual Learning and Distance Education
What’s Going to Save Higher Education?

This crossroads we find ourselves at is inspiring, scary, and uncertain all at the same time. As University leaders struggle to find ways to recover, they must also find ways to teach that are more aligned with what we know about human cognitive architecture and less about tradition. Holding onto tradition stifles many students, but It also holds educators back from seeing possibilities that can arise from bringing methodologies together with technological advancements.

In a May 5, 2020 HBR article – Higher Ed Needs a Long-Term Plan for Virtual Learning, James DeVaney, Gideon Shimshon, Matthew Rascoff, and Jeff Maggioncalda acknowledge the staggering impact that Covid-19 has had on the global education system and the skyrocketing demand for online learning programs. To be sure, these emergency remote teaching applications are stop-gap measures only.  “As the emergency subsides but normal fails to return, higher ed institutions need to do more. There’s a good likelihood that virtual learning, in some capacity, will need to be a part of education for the foreseeable future.

Higher education institutions need a response framework that looks beyond the immediate actions. They have to prepare for an intermediate period of transition and begin future-proofing their institutions. Universities need to provide their own online content from their own faculty. Many professors have never designed nor delivered a course online, and that’s the challenge – rethinking the whole approach to teaching.  We will come back to this point later.

First, we will look at another challenge that universities face.

The HBR article points out that if the coronavirus pandemic occurred a decade earlier, universities would have been devastated. Today we have cloud computing, broadband access, and widespread smartphone adoption to help organizations adapt quickly to almost any situation as long as the Internet is stable. But not all educational institutions are equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

Advanced institutions like the University of Michigan, Imperial College London, and Duke University have already invested time and money in pioneering digital education strategies. Their faculties have been accustomed to online teaching for years. For example, in September 2002, the MIT Open Course Ware proof-of-concept pilot site opened to the public, offering 32 courses. In September 2003, MIT Open Course Ware published its 500th course, including some courses with complete streaming video lectures. By September 2004, 900 MIT courses were available online.

 

Remote learner using multiple cloud-based education apps.

 “Institutions that lack the necessary prerequisites of online learning and remote teaching face a daunting challenge.”

Many education leaders believe that IT infrastructure issues must be addressed before any real progress can be made towards virtual learning.

In the March 31, 2020 HBR article What the Shift to Virtual Learning Could Mean for the Future of Higher Ed, Vijay Govindarjan and Anup Srivastava urge educators to collect data and pay attention to three questions:

1.       Do students need a four-year residential experience?

2.       What improvements are required in IT infrastructure to make it more suitable for online education?

3.       What training efforts are required for faculty and students to facilitate changes in mindsets and behaviors?

Regarding the second question – What improvements are required in IT infrastructure – Govindarjan and Sirvastava point out that online settings amplify the digital divide. Some students have access to the latest model laptops, better bandwidths and more powerful Wi-Fi connections, while others don’t.  “Digital divide also exists among universities, which will become apparent in the current experiment. Top private universities have better IT infrastructure and higher IT support staff ratio for each faculty compared to budget-starved public universities.”

And the question of IT infrastructure doesn’t stop at digital equality. “Software for conference calls may be a good start, but it can’t handle some key functionalities such as accommodating large class sizes while also providing a personalized experience. Even in a 1,000-plus-student classroom, an instructor can sense if students are absorbing concepts, and will change the pace of the teaching accordingly. Instructors and students must note and should discuss their pain points and facilitate and demand technological development in those areas.”

Now that we have explored the IT infrastructure for online education, let’s return to our original challenge – the traditional old school (pun intended) approach to teaching.

Black and White portrait of John Dewey

 

There has to be whole new structure to how material is presented. Learning methodologies have to be reconsidered. In the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk is often seen playing 3-Dimensional Chess with his second-command Mr. Spock. Invariably, Captain Kirk loses and the series is filled with Spock commenting about people’s actions, indicating 2-dimensional thinking. They’re not considering the X,Y and Z axes of outer space. It seems an apt metaphor for the way educators are trying to solve the puzzle. They know they have to transform, but how? How does a traditional university mindset transition from an in-person classroom environment to an online or hybrid model?

Educators will have to expand their views and ideas of how to present information. They must walk into another environment where there are more options and several possible integrations. Not just adding multiple activities, re-imagining seminars, and fine tuning how they teach courses online, but also dramatically rethinking the whole approach. Take a look at the technological mix of simulators and the emerging science of augmented and virtual reality.

 

Imagining Three-Dimensional Education in the New Normal

Curtis Bonk, Indiana University’s Professor of Education and author of The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education, tells us that, “This is a revolution. Education doesn’t have to take place with the teacher front and center and students sitting in rows. It can take place outside, under a tree branch, on a boat or plane, in a grocery store or while hiking, if you have an Internet connection.”

Imperial College London is one of the institutions that was set up with cloud-based, distance education systems before the pandemic started. They are certainly in a better position now because of it. They’re using the phrase “multi-mode teaching” to describe how they are approaching this coming fall semester. Others are using the term “blended learning” to describe the same hybrid approach to the online/on-premise teaching environment.

“Our multi-mode learning in the Autumn term will be a change from the traditional university experience, but we are confident it will be an exciting, innovative and most importantly safe approach for our students and staff in these uncertain times. It will also enable students to graduate from the College as highly skilled individuals, sought out by employers.”

Imperial College London has been at the forefront of utilizing the cloud for GPU-heavy, cloud-based applications such as augmented and virtual reality, interventional radiology simulation, and virtual 3D modeling for their Department of Earth Science and Engineering. Even using cloud resources to bring in guest lecturers via hologram teaching has been explored and used by Imperial College London.

 

The Challenge of Specialized Schools in Today’s Environment

The example of Imperial College of London’s innovative thinking puts a spotlight on the issues that specialized schools are facing right now in relation to the discussion of on-site and learn-from-home teaching scenarios. While other schools may be able to limp along with off-the-shelf video conferencing tools for a while, schools involved in architecture, engineering, design, animation, and video production are struggling.

Why?

Because the GPU-heavy applications (like AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS) utilized by these schools and their students have significant hardware requirements not found in your average laptop –  a solution has to be sourced. To solve their dilemma, these specialized schools are moving to solutions like IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces that allow users to use NVIDIA GPU technology in a cloud environment. With this configuration, teachers and students can use average computers to access cloud-based GPU-heavy programs with zero latency. This use of the cloud’s computing power and ability to help schools save money on in-house IT hardware demonstrates one of the reasons that schools with science, engineering, and art departments are considering the cloud as well.

 

A Priority Higher Than Education

Francis Jim Tuscano, founder of empowerED, brings an important truth to light in this new era of education.

“In the new normal, as students get exposed more often to the Internet, teachers should always consider student’s privacy, safety, security, and digital well-being as top priorities for a successful remote or online learning.”

With increased screen time comes more opportunities to endanger students with online threats such as Zoom-bombing, cyberbullying, and predatory behavior. Part of imagining a “new normal” in education includes a heavy dose of technology focusing on the online safety of students. Safety has to take center stage.

Bringing all of an institution’s students into a controlled, protected, cloud-based learning environment is one of the ways schools, community colleges, trade schools, and universities are handling the security issue.

Helping Post-Secondary Teachers Utilize the Full Range of Their Skillset

Today, like no other time in history, information is available to anyone for free. The Internet is full of books, articles, videos, courses, etc. We no longer live in a world where teachers are the sole source for obtaining knowledge on a topic.

But, teachers were never just the person who reads a book and then presents the material to the class. They’ve always taken on the role of facilitating the educational journey of the students and coaching them on their individual paths. The abundance of information and the proliferation of the technology used to access this information has had an impact on the evolving role of the educator in our society.

Educators are now leveraging IT solutions to replace or supplement traditional learning norms with self-directed learning experiences that are personalized to the student’s education and life or career trajectory. The classroom – whether virtual or on-site – is facilitated by the faculty to become a zone of guidance, collaboration, and communication, as well as instruction.

Where Did Education Technology Begin? — A Nod, and a Connection, to the Past

Education technology has always been with us. It’s just improved over time. There was a time when education was learned by word of mouth, then Gutenburg invented the printing press. It wasn’t so long ago that grade-school students used tablets and chalk in one-room schoolhouses. Today, paper and pen have been replaced with an iPad or Android tablet and stylus. Cloud-based administration and teaching environments are the next steps in this ever-evolving process.

To answer the question more directly, the use of hardware and software for school administration and teaching has its origin in universities across the world and in the military. Each of these institutions had the impetus and the resources in the early days to imagine what technology could do for education.

Education writer and speaker, Audrey Watters, gave a speech at the CENTRO symposium  in Mexico City in which she said, “When we talk about “the future of education” as an explicitly technological future, I want us to remember that “the history of education” has long been technological – thousands of years of writing, hundreds of years of print, a century of “teaching machines,” 75 years of computing, almost 60 years of computer-assisted instruction, at least 40 years of the learning management system, more than 25 years of one-to-one laptop programs, a decade (give or take a year) of mobile learning.” 

In that same speech, Audrey Watters gave the following insight, “Technologies are as likely to re-inscribe traditional practices as to alter them.”

Collaboration teams working remotely.

Is the Advancement of Education Technology Inevitable?

The short answer is, YES. However, the subject is more nuanced than a simple YES/NO answer. Over the years, education technology has followed the advancement and acceptance of technologies in business. As the competition in the business world winnowed the best from the field of available technologies, educators then felt comfortable adopting and adapting those systems for educational purposes.

The cloud is no different. It’s really only been over the past ten years that businesses have discovered and embraced cloud technologies for the business realm. Education has now followed suit, being pushed in this instance dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education technology will continue to expand and evolve, partially because education is a large market. For example, as of today, more than 20,000 education applications have been developed for the iPad alone. As remote learning and hybrid models become a mainstay, the practical applications of technology become more apparent.

Universities have even used the cloud to facilitate Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to help people gain an interest in the sciences and give people an opportunity to further their education during the pandemic. These same technologies will continue to be utilized as everyone from trade schools to Ivy League institutions, like MIT, engage the public and influence the next generation of students to come to their school.

 

Is Education Technology Really a Disruptor?

While it’s easy to talk about disruption and use words like “transform” or “revolutionize,” the truth is that technology should be viewed as an enabler.

Here’s an example, for hundreds of years, voting for our political leaders was done by paper ballot. Those paper ballots were then counted by hand.

Now, we have ballot-counting machines, and some municipalities allow electronic voting.

Has that changed politics? Not really.

But these advancements have made it easier for precincts to tally and submit their constituents’ votes.

Educational technology is the same.

Yes, some things will change, but most things will stay the same. The difference is, cloud-based technology will make it easier for teachers and administrators to accomplish what they are already working hard to do each day.

One of the challenges colleges and universities are currently facing is the public opinion of higher education without the trappings of the facilities, classroom environment, and college social life experience. By going further than simply moving existing educational techniques into the cloud, colleges and universities can provide educational value that wasn’t available within the limitations of a physical classroom. There are new opportunities to learn in ways that more closely resemble real-world experiences.

Researchers in the Learning Sciences are “dedicated to the interdisciplinary empirical investigation of learning as it exists in real-world settings and to how learning may be facilitated both with and without technology.” (isls.org). An important point to keep in mind as we explore this question of virtual classrooms is that “not all learning is the same.”The best way to learn probably is through Authentic Learning where students learn by performing the actual task itself. The second-best way is Situated Learning which is the closet to the real thing as possible. Students learn through simulation and solving problems in context.

Dr. Michael Kolodziej, in his online video presentation to National University on The Future of Virtual Education,  points out, “Along with new opportunities come new realities and new possibilities.”

New Realities. New Possibilities.

There are four categories of learning technology: Simulation, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and Virtual Reality. A Simulation experience happens on a flat screen, while Virtual Reality is immersive. Kolodziej shares a fascinating video recording of him in full VR regalia, exploring the International Space Station. Not only does he get to explore the space station, but he also gets to exit the station, travel outside and make a repair using hand controls. “It’s an incredible immersive experience allowing you to imagine the context, to be in the context of a situation without having to actually be there.”

Sustine Chapel
On YouTube you can plug ito a 360 Virtual Reality tour of the Sistine Chapel.

Dr. Kolodziej goes on to share another example of Virtual Reality learning by exploring – this YouTube video shows an immersive VR of the Sistine Chapel. Of course, on YouTube it sits on your flat screen, but plug your Smartphone into a Virtual Reality headset and you’re suddenly there. “You are immediately immersed and transformed into a new space and time. You can think about, experience, and see things in ways that weren’t previously possible. You can travel the world in Virtual Reality.

 

 

 

 

 

The splash page of "A Walk Through Dementia" website.
Developed by the Alzheimer’s Research Center UK, this app presents a virtual reality experience. Visitors are able to look at everyday life through a new lens.

Similarly, another virtual reality model can be found online at A Walk Through Dementia.  The experience is designed to give visitors a better understanding of how someone with dementia experiences everyday life.

Prior to this VR experience being added to a college curriculum, students were tasked with reading a textbook and answering some questions. That’s the traditional model. Using VR for immersive learning enables a paradigm shift by standing in the shoes of someone having trouble finding their way home. You can truly understand what it’s like to have Dementia. It’s a much more impactful way to learn.

 

Comprehensive Approach – Not Just Plug and Play Software Solutions

Ursula Franklin (1921-2016), during her forty-year tenure at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, described technology as a much larger picture than software or hardware. She saw technology as a holistic system comprised of organization, methods, procedures, and mindset. For her, the hardware and software only played a supporting role in what she saw as the larger nature of technology.

Let’s face it.

There are hundreds of companies out there promoting technology solutions for educators. Some of those technologies are fantastic and will help your school immensely. Others fall short of fail miserably and should be pulled from the shelves.

What most aren’t discussing is the need for an over-arching approach to a systemic adoption of technology that will have a positive impact throughout your school, community college, or university.

Why?

Well, most of the technologies currently offered to educational institutions are built to address one issue. For example, the online conference tool Zoom, which was adopted by millions of teachers and students worldwide despite the fact that Zoom has a history of security problems.

Moving into a cloud environment allows you to leverage the cloud to comprehensively and systematically overhaul how your school is using technology at all levels including security and compliance. Other standard cloud benefits include cost savings, ease of use, increased storage capacity and automation, and freeing up IT staff.

 

The Democratization of Education

Beyond our borders, countries are looking at cloud technology to bring equality and democratization to their educational systems. Anita Lie, Professor of Education at Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya, in a Jakarta Post article titled, “The New Normal in Education” stated, “Re-imagining anew forms of education may open doors for more equitable quality education for all young Indonesians. Despite all the COVID-19 maladies, the pandemic disruption has brought awareness to new possibilities in reviving our education system and in ushering young Indonesians into the future on a more level playing field.”

One of the concerns surrounding online educational opportunities here in the USA is the cost of devices and Internet for the student learning from home. Fortunately, the cloud gives greater opportunity to marginalized and under-served populations that may not have the resources for a fancy computer with all the bells and whistles. Instead, cloud portals can be used to allow any student with any device that has the bare minimum power to surf the Internet (which nearly all do) to be able to learn in the same online environment as a student with financial advantages.

3 female students and one dark skinned male student at school tables wearing mask.

 

How Can Technology Help Educators Imagine the Next Evolution of Education?

Cloud-Based Learning Management Systems (LMS) – Learning Management Systems have their origins in the late 1990s. Since that time, they have become a critical tool in education delivery. In more recent years, Learning Management Systems have found their way into the cloud to enable easier and secure data storage and workflow mobility for school administration departments. The flexibility of the cloud allows administrative teams to discover new and more efficient ways of operating.

Modular Learning vs. Linear Learning – Cloud-based learning platforms allow for some flexibility in adapting education to the individual. Sure, everyone has to learn certain things in order, but niche electives can be offered, and students can enjoy a far more tailored educational experience. Delivering niche electives in a modular learning format helps students get used to learning in the ways that they will later in life.

Online Education for the Ways People Learn – Visual learners, academic learners, auditory learners, and tactile learners have different preferences. The use of cloud infrastructure and lessons pushed out in print, audio, and video allows an educational institution to deliver the same material in a way that each student will best understand the material. Thought will have to be given to determine how to best facilitate the ease of learning for hands-on, tactile learners. However, this is a challenge even in a traditional classroom setting.

Avatars – Some of the hesitation of students regarding live online classroom interaction is the video component. Thankfully, online gaming granted us the concept of the Avatar. When schools give their students the option between creating an Avatar version of themselves or a live video feed, it helps deal with concerns students may have with their appearance or hesitation with showing their living conditions on camera. Although these issues must be lovingly addressed in the proper setting, Avatars help bridge the gap and allow for more comfort in an online classroom for those who are uncomfortable with the camera. Avatars help level the playing field for some students in a way that cannot be leveled within a classroom environment.

IN CONCLUSION

Although educators responded swiftly and effectively to the pandemic, there’s still more to be done for long-term recovery and paving the way for future sustainability. It’s critical that universities take action now to develop their own long-term strategy, allocate resources, or perhaps devise new ones. For example, streamlining operations and offering more options customized to the individual needs of the student. Virtual learning is sure to play a key role, but developing the strategy will have to embrace the kinds of instructional connection points present in a traditional classroom environment. Interactivity is important. As Johns Hopkins University’s professor William G. Durden points out in his insightful article Turning the Tide on Online Learning, people need to be seen, heard, and exchange ideas. This is the kind of impact that helps affirm identity of the student by the instructor and the other students. As long as people are able to engage that way, and the content they’re learning is substantial, they will stay motivated over a sustained period of time.

Closing with the visionary words of Dr. Michael Kolodziej talking about Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Learning, “Learning is more than information transfer. The idea that we can program a machine and the machine can program the person is seductive from a process and scaling perspective. The reality is that these things are not that simple. When we think about how to get educators into the meaningful stuff like good learning, authentic and situated learning, we know that Artificial Intelligence platforms can helps us, but they will never replace us.”

How can educators convert this crisis into an opportunity? That’s the big question.

 

To learn more about how we’re helping to answer that question, please call 888-753-5060 or visit our Education Solutions below

 

 

 

 

Got Enough Bandwidth For Distance Education?
Header Image & Image Description

Got Enough Bandwidth For Distance Education?

Section 1

Author: John McMahon

Read time: 7min

Virtual Learning and Distance Education struggle to find the right combination of technology to effectively teach online. Educators around the world are now in some phase of COVID recovery. Each state and county have their own guidelines which are shifting constantly as the situation changes. Some schools may have full classrooms again. While others will be working with smaller, social-distanced class sizes.

Maybe, your school, college, or university will decide that everything is moving towards a long-term virtual model. For most educational institutions, it’s going to be a hybrid arrangement between on-site classroom attendance and virtual, distance learning.

So, here’s the question that thousands of school administrators across the country are considering:

Can My Network and Internet Connection Handle the Traffic of a Virtual Classroom System?

It’s a good question. Why? Because now, more than ever, technology impacts the quality of your students’ education.

To put the issue simply, a generation that thrives on streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, and Apple TV, aren’t going to learn well with video that is stuck buffering and audio that’s out of sync. You have to get your network’s upload and download speed working smoothly before you launch this year’s fall semester.

 

What Network Upgrades May Be Necessary?

For the most part, school networks across the country have been put in place for low-data functions like email, online collaboration, and web-surfing. They basically help the school keep in communication with students and parents, offer minimal learning and classroom functionality, and allow teachers to show videos in class. The basic networks won’t be enough when it comes to streaming lectures from all your classrooms and handling the incoming data streams from students offsite.

You may need an entirely new network, or you may need one or some of these upgrades:

  • Upgrade from copper wiring to fiber optic cabling
  • Extended WiFi coverage with new routers and more wireless access points
  • Upgrade cabling for hardwired stations in each classroom
  • Integrate a secondary internet service provider for a redundant internet connection

 

What Upload and Download Speeds Do You Need?

The conversation of upload and download speeds gets complex quickly and is dependent upon a multitude of factors, including the number of concurrent students on the system and the quality of audio& video streams broadcast to remote students.

To simplify the discussion, let’s take a look at a few of the systems which you are familiar with:

  • Skype suggests 8Mbps upload and 512kbps download with a group of seven or more participants.
  • Zoom recommends 3Mbps upload and 2.5Mbps download for sending and receiving 1080p HD video.
  • Google Meet needs 3.2Mbps upload and 4.0Mbps download with 10 participants.
  • GotoMeeting requires up to 8Mbps upload and 1mbps download for teachers that want to screenshare notes and virtual whiteboards with their students.

 

The numbers may seem reasonable and easily accommodated by each school’s current setup until we realize that these numbers would be minimums for each classroom. For example, it starts adding up quickly if you have over a hundred classrooms. You have to multiply the speed required for the application you want to use by the number of classrooms you have. You should also add bandwidth for any administrative needs.

 

//www.ironorbit.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/fiber.jpg

The Internet isn’t great! 

The IronOrbit solution doesn’t use your local bandwidth, it uses ours. We have 5 separate gigabit connections to the Internet, so your bandwidth basically becomes unlimited. Imagine, any slowness or frustrations faculty and students have been having with their internet connection will vanish. In its place will be a seamless experience that matches that of a high-end physical PC, except this one is optimized for today’s modern apps with all the benefits of cloud technology, including rapid turn-up, service elasticity and cloud-economics.

What to Do?

Like any complex task, it’s essential to contact IT professionals who are familiar with these types of challenges and demands on technology. It’s equally important to look at the track record of the consultants you are bringing in to advise you. Are they experienced in setting up reliable virtual environments where hundreds or even thousands can access your virtual desktops remotely?

The IronOrbit team stands apart from our competition in this area because we don’t have to rely on the cloud infrastructure of Skype, Google, Zoom, or Citrix/LogMein to provide your educational facility with top-notch distance learning capabilities. Our IT specialists work with our clients and their internet service providers to deal with any bandwidth issues.

Then, we provide an online platform to stream classroom audio & video from our global network of private and highly secure Tier 4 datacenters. It’s a turnkey solution and available for a low, fixed monthly fee.

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Have Questions?

Let us help you get your classrooms on track for the fall. Just call us at

(888) 753-5060

We’d be happy to have a no-obligation conversation with you. Or click below to learn more about our Education Solutions.

Education Solutions
Virtual learning methodologies will have to be adopted as universities struggle to recvoer.
What You Need to Know About Setting Up Online Learning
Header Image & Image Description

What You Need To Know About Setting Up Online Learning

Virtual learning methodologies will have to be adopted as universities struggle to recvoer.
Section 1

Author: John McMahon

Read time: 4min

As the demand for online learning skyrockets, educators realize they’re in the midst of an enduring digital transformation. The dynamic state of our current learning environments have forced many schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions to move to an online classroom setup. Some institutions were providing online learning portals before the COVID-19 pandemic and are familiar with the structure and requirements.

However, many school administrators are struggling with the setup, security, and ongoing maintenance of converting to a technological education platform. If your institution is one of that is frantically grappling with the need to source, purchase, install, and train on new equipment, don’t worry. You’re not alone, and we’re happy to help.

Cloud Computing has Made Virtual Classrooms Affordable, Secure, and Intuitive for Both the Teacher and the Student.

The schools, colleges, and universities that IronOrbit works with are having success with distance education by leveraging cloud workspaces and Microsoft 365 combined with the cloud-based tools they are already using. With these administrative tools in place, it’s time to consider integrating an interactive online audio and video interface between your teachers and their students at home. Many educators are trying to figure out the best video conferencing tools available to them and their students. Maybe you’re making do with one of these solutions now. But like many others, you’re finding that audio and video quality or speed of customer service are suffering on these platforms because they weren’t designed to handle the volume of traffic that they are today.

So, what’s the solution?

The answer is a cloud-based online classroom built and designed for your institution, faculty, and student body. Our custom solutions solve the following problems:

  • Audio and video issues caused by vendor limitations
  • Audio and video issues caused by computer processor power limitations
  • Extended wait and hold times for customer support
  • Lack of training for your staff, faculty, and students
  • High costs associated with in-demand video conferencing services
  • Cyberattacks and security breaches
Text books, students, and faculty interact virtually on mobile devices and other electronics.

Here’s What You Need to Know about Setting Up Robust and Secure Online Learning Environments

1. Build for the Future
There are a number of video conferencing solutions on the market that could be used in a pinch. That doesn’t mean they are the right fit for you. You want the online student experience to be as engaging as possible. If you have courses in architectural design, 3D modeling, film editing, or animation, you need the end user’s experience with these programs to be seamless…just like it was in a classroom environment. Get the right advice from the beginning. Set up an online learning environment that will provide you quality service today, tomorrow, and well into the future. This will save you time, money, hassle, and headaches.

2. Think about Security
Every school is flocking to cloud-based, video conferencing right now. Few are thinking about securing their calls and protecting their students’ and teachers’ confidential information on these platforms. Don’t trust the platform you choose will secure your information. By partnering with IronOrbit, you benefit from our cloud security expertise. Working together, we’ll make the right choices for your institution.

3. Choose the Functionality that Works for You
When you move from cloud meeting applications designed for small business to business meetings, to enterprise solutions developed for hundreds of attendees, you get more options. Educational institutions are different than small or large businesses, and having the ability to configure your online classroom platform to your exact specifications makes a world of difference for teachers, administrators, and students.

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Future-Proof Your Learning Environment

For more information about future-proofing your learning environment, please call

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Or click below to learn more about our Education Solutions.

Education Solutions
3 Things You Should Do To Launch Online Courses

The Traditional Classrooms Have Moved On-Line

What You Need to Know About Setting Up Online Learning

The dynamic environment in which we all now work and learn has forced many schools, colleges, and universities to move to an online classroom setup.

Some educational institutions were providing online learning portals before the COVID-19 pandemic and are familiar with the setup and security requirements. However, many school administrators are struggling with the setup, security, and ongoing maintenance of what is now a technological education platform.

If your institution is one of those that is now frantically grappling with the need to source, purchase, install, and train on new equipment, don’t worry. You’re not alone, and we’re happy to help.

Cloud Computing Has Made Virtual Classrooms Affordable, Secure, and Intuitive for Both the Teacher and the Student.

The schools, colleges, and universities that the IronOrbit team works with are having success with distance education by leveraging cloud workspaces and Microsoft 365 combined with the cloud-based tools they have been using all along. With those administrative tools in place, it’s time to get rolling on an online audio/visual interface between your teachers and their students at home.

Many educators are trying to figure out the best video conferencing tools available to them and their students. Maybe you’re making do with one of these solutions now. But like many others, you’re finding that audio/video quality and speed of customer service are suffering on these platforms because they weren’t built for the volume of traffic that they are now facing.

So, what’s the solution?

The answer is a cloud-based online classroom built and designed for your institution and your online students. Having our custom setup solves the following problems:

• Audio and video issues caused by insufficient vendor resources
• Audio and video issues caused by limitations of computer processor speeds
• Long customer support lineups
• Lack of training for your staff, teachers, and students
• High costs associated with in-demand video conferencing services
• Cyberattacks and security breaches

Here’s What You Need to Know About Setting Up Robust and Secure Online Learning Environments

1. Build for the Future
There are a number of video conferencing solutions on the market that could be used in a pinch. That doesn’t mean they are the right fit for you. You want the online student experience to be as engaging as possible. If you have courses in architectural design, 3-D modeling, film editing, or animation, you need the end-users experiences with these programs to be seamless…just like it was in a classroom environment. Get the right advice from the beginning. Set up an online learning environment that will provide you quality service today, tomorrow, and well into the future. This will save you time, money, hassle, and headaches.

2. Think About Security
Every school is flocking to cloud-based, video conferencing right now. Few are thinking about securing their calls and protecting their students’ and teachers’ confidential information on these platforms. Don’t trust the platform you choose will secure your information. By partnering with IronOrbit, you benefit from our cloud security expertise. Working together, we’ll make the right choices for your institution.

3. Choose the Functionality that Works for You
When you move from cloud meeting applications designed for small, business to business meetings to solutions developed for hundreds of attendees, you get more options. Because educational institutions are different than small or large businesses, having the ability to configure your online classroom platform to your exact specifications makes a world of difference for teachers, administrators, and students.

For more information about Microsoft Teams and how we can help, Discover how quickly you can host online courses that are powerful, engaging, and seamless.

Call us at 1-888-753-5060 or click here.

The Benefits of Hosted Desktops for Colleges

Did you know that hosted desktops for colleges can decrease IT costs and increase the manageability, accessibility, flexibility, and security of their IT?

Hosted desktops are Windows desktop operating systems (usually Windows 7 or 8.1) that are installed and maintained on the servers of an IT hosting company. Users can easily access a hosted desktop via the Internet from a computer, tablet, smartphone, or thin client.

As with locally-installed Windows desktop OSes, you can use hosted desktops to install and run any Windows-compatible application. In most cases, each user is assigned to a specific hosted desktop, and this desktop retains all of the user’s files, applications, and settings, even after he or she logs out.

Is it worth the investment?

Usually, you pay the hosting company a monthly, per-user fee for your hosted desktop.

Some hosting companies also include IT management and support services with their hosted desktops. The support services include 24/7 technical support, security and performance monitoring, malware scanning, patch management and managed data backups.

Take note that the hosting company will continually update all of the software on your hosted desktops for you, including the OS and all of the PC applications.

For growing businesses with a primary focus on growth, using hosted desktops is definitely an advantage.

Most colleges use hosted desktops in the following ways:

  • Faculty and staff use them as their primary work desktop.
  • They use them instead of locally-installed operating systems in computer labs.
  • Hosted desktops provide students with access to certain applications that they need to be able to complete their coursework. Especially applications that they might not be able to afford on their own, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, the Microsoft Office suite, and STEM applications like MATLAB and SPSS.

What are the main benefits of hosted desktops for colleges?

  1. They can decrease your IT costs

With hosted desktops, colleges don’t have to purchase any expensive onsite IT hosting hardware such as servers or storage arrays, and they don’t have to hire any additional IT personnel to manage them.

Hosted desktops are easily accessible from low-cost devices such as refurbished PCs or thin clients. They require less maintenance (since they don’t have hard drives or locally-installed operating systems) and are much more energy efficient than standard PCs.

In addition, users can securely access them from their personal devices. This means that the college doesn’t need to spend money on student devices. As an effect, colleges reduce their spending on computer labs.

  1. They are easy to manage

Hosted desktops are relatively easy to monitor, protect, update, troubleshoot, and back up. This is because they’re software-defined assets and are centralized onto a relatively small number of interconnected servers.

In addition, some hosting providers will handle many IT management and support tasks of the hosted desktops themselves.

  1. Easily accessible from anywhere, with any device 

Where there is an internet connection, you can access hosted desktops with any device. Whether you’re using a laptop, desktop, tablet, or a mobile phone.

This allows faculty and staff to access their work-related files and applications no matter where they are. It also allows students to access important resources no matter where they are. Whether they’re in class, at a computer lab, in their dorm room, or somewhere off campus.

  1. Easy to deploy, expand, and downsize 

You can quickly and easily add any amount of desktops, processing power, and storage capacity to your hosted desktop deployment at any time.

Downsizing or decommissioning your deployment is easy. But, the best thing about it is that you no longer have to deal with a pile of useless, expensive hardware.

The flexibility of this service makes it easier for colleges to adjust their IT as courses, faculty, and students change from one semester to the next.

  1. They are highly secure

Hosted desktops are highly secure. The data remains on the hosting provider’s servers at all times. The centralization of this data makes it easier to protect and prevents data loss from occurring. 

Plus, malware infections are easier to isolate and remove from hosted desktops than they are physical PCs.

To sign up for hosted desktops, colleges should contact their preferred IT hosting provider.