Responding To Education’s IT and Technology Needs

Responses from Tapan Mehta, industry solutions marketing, Nutanix.

Education (both K-12 and higher education) has been impacted significantly becuase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational institutions and students around the world are trying to cope with the new norm whether that be via a hybrid learning model or in a completely virtual setting. In fact, the current pandemic is forcing global experimentation with remote teaching.

There are many indicators that this crisis is going to transform many aspects of life with education being one of them. The current pandemic could potentially have a long-lasting impact on both education providers and learners to deliver and learn in the new virtual environment. For example, do students really need a four-year residential experience? What training efforts are required for faculty and students to facilitate changes in mindsets and behaviors?

How are you guiding them? 

The suddenness of requirements to quarantine and social distance forced rapid shifts to online/distance learning with little time to vet all the options. We continue to work very closely with our education customers by providing the right solution to support the database, application, and security needs for learning in real time.

The ease of use of the Nutanix infrastructure platform enables them to provide media-rich course offerings in a secure and responsive environment, even as the number of students greatly increased. For example, we were able to help Florida Virtual School to immediately scale to the full 2.8 million students.

What issues are schools facing with their IT? 

Enabling remote learning (and teaching) required unanticipated expenses, while at the same time impacted revenue streams, particularly with higher education tuitions and residential income. Rapid shift to distance learning highlighted challenges of the “digital divide” where access to individual end user computer devices and the internet is not available to all students, teachers, and communities. Supervision of remote students, particularly minors, has also become a challenge as schools provide structure, safety and oversight for children of working families.

Schools are struggling to find the safe and effective mix between in-person and remote access, and many have boomeranged between in-person and remote instruction. In addition, the increased dependence on technology as a delivery vehicle exposes the system to a larger attack surface for cyber threats. Malware, ransomware, Zoom-bombing, cyberbullying, and cyber mischief (hijacking, etc) all use technology weaknesses to disrupt or corrupt the education process.

What areas of IT are seeing the most investment currently and why?

Given the on-going pandemic, most of the schools across the country are offering either a hybrid learning model or a completely remote learning set-up. In order to make this a viable learning environment for students of all ages, the bulk of the investment is going in areas such as VDI, DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service), software collaboration tools like Google Docs, and Zoom, and end-user devices.

Additionally, providing these capabilities in a secure environment is very critical to protect student information and defend the integrity of the system. The end-user experience needs to be immersive, irrespective of physical location, and the underlying infrastructure must have the flexibility to deploy optimally.

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