Beyond brick and mortar: Is your city prepped for the future of education?

Wed, 2015-08-05 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Schools, like cities, generally operate on tight budgets. So, how does a school efficiently and cost-effectively teach students at campuses miles apart?

Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland had to deal with that question. Its local campuses are three miles apart and it also offers online distance learning programs in Malaysia, India and China. While local students could drive or take a cab to the campus where a specific course was being taught, it would be an expensive solution.

The university hit on a better solution: online social collaborative workspaces where students and professors could work closely together. But the university's virtual learning environment (VLE), Moodle, required a special setup procedure that frustrated faculty and swamped the university IT department.

"Every time a faculty member wanted to set up a collaborative session within our Moodle environment, they needed to submit an IT support ticket that would take a significant time to complete," said Iain Bruce, a senior VLE developer at the university. "We wanted our IT team to be focusing on more strategic tasks, rather than being burdened with administration."

A solution from Cisco
Working with Council Lead Partner Cisco, the university was able to provide those social workplaces in the cloud through Cisco's WebEx collaboration software. Cisco and CirQlive, a Cisco partner and specialist in VLE optimization, enabled the university to schedule far more meetings than it had in the past and much more quickly and efficiently.

Other companies are making substantial contributions to distance learning, as well.

Ooredoo's Mobile Academy
Council Lead Partner Ooredoo continues to deploy its Ooredoo Mobile Academy service, a portal that allows distant users of the service to take a broad range of classes, ranging from languages to business skills – all through their smartphones. Customers in Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Indonesia now have access to the service – and the company plans to make it available in Tunisia and Algeria soon.

"The Ooredoo Mobile Academy liberates people's potential by giving them access to education wherever they are and whenever they want to learn," said Dr. Nassar Marafih, Group CEO for Ooredoo said. "The dynamic growth in active subscribers over the past six months demonstrates the huge appetite for mobile education in the Middle East."

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

Related materials…
Qualcomm white paper: 8 Essentials for Mobile Learning Success in Education
Four far-flung classrooms, one teacher: The case for ICT-enabled education