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Following disruption caused to the education sector by Covid-19, SCC and Cisco are working with universities to connect classrooms and campuses affected by the pandemic. Many organisations are transitioning to virtual course delivery, with some accelerating plans to make remote digital learning a permanent replacement.

In many respects, this suits modern day students who typically are hyper-connected mobile users, with high expectations that are constantly changing. With less time and smaller budgets, many universities were already juggling Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, together with analytics to understand student behaviours and improve student outcomes, plus cloud for greater flexibility and cost savings.

This means more data and more threats – and that was before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. In response, universities are looking for more streamlined processes and new innovation. Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) revolutionises how universities design, build, and manage their campuses, providing the foundation for a network that is constantly learning, adapting, and protecting. This enables faster deployment with simpler, centralised management so that networks are up and running in days rather than months.

Students, faculty and staff have high expectations – Cisco DNA keep meets them with network-driven insights for greater student engagement and smarter operations on campus. It is able to generate pervasive analytics to provide more relevant experiences, optimise space utilisation and increase productivity, whilst lowering complexity and costs.

Cisco DNA keeps data secure with continuous, faster threat detection and security embedded network wide – a key consideration given the proliferation of malicious attacks as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Threats have become more sophisticated and more frequent, as hackers use messaging related to the virus to target vulnerable organisations whose employees are now operating in an entirely new setting, at home, that the majority are not used to. With university staff working remotely and students accessing the network from home, there is a greater emphasis on individuals to stay vigilant and help protect the network.

Universities leaders are clearly aware of the threats cyber-attacks pose to their institutions and those who learn and work in them. Two-thirds of survey respondents (66%) to a Cisco and Centre for Digital Education (CDE) survey of 175 stakeholders involved in higher education campus safety ranked cyber-attacks a top concern – superseded only by active shooter events and assaults.

The recognition of the threat, in many cases, may come from direct experience. In a 2018 Cisco survey, 60% of higher education institutions reported at least one public security breach – a rate 5% higher than the average across all industries. Cyber threats have been exacerbated in recent years by the proliferation of student-owned laptops, smartphones and tablets on campus networks. Security experts also point to the growth in connected campus IoT devices, including traditional systems like HVAC but also newly connected services like internet-enabled washers, dryers and vending machines.

Not surprisingly, more than 70% of higher education leaders responding to the Cisco survey said IoT and student devices pose a high or moderate security risk on their campuses. More surprising is that nearly one in three (29%) respondents have already faced attacks in operational technology areas, including the IoT-driven hardware and machinery described above. Another 36% anticipate attacks in the next year, according to the survey.

Cisco DNA solutions are helping to transform the classroom and ensure security by enabling digital learning through the connected classroom. It enables students to learn anywhere, anytime, with a robust campus network that supports a multitude of users, applications and data types in high-density, dynamic environments. Cisco VPN solutions support digital learning experiences such as flipped classrooms and online classes by protecting data while giving mobile students access to the campus network.

Cisco VPN solutions also offer secure access that connects students and faculty to peers around the world, expanding learning and research opportunities. Cisco Stealthwatch, Umbrella and Identity Services Engine (ISE), can protect students, staff and faculty across both the physical and virtual campus, whilst Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) use WiFi and location analytics technology to enable context aware experiences, services and content while optimising campus facilities. Cisco Enterprise Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) supports the scalable deployment of digital work hubs with integrated collaboration solutions across distributed locations.

With Cisco DNA, campus administrators and educators can provide accessible resources to improve graduate employability and workforce preparation, address decreased student retention and increased competition for students, faculty and staff, improve campus safety, increase administrative and management efficiency, optimise campus space utilisation and sustainability, foster business and research collaboration, encourage new markets and revenue streams and support digital fluency

Education IT leaders can prevent security breaches from inside and outside the campus, support technology innovation and new ways of teaching and learning, cope with smaller budgets, greater network complexity and increased operational costs, manage institutional data through data standards, integration, protection, and governance, use business intelligence and analytics to understand staff and student behaviours, and produce scalable and student and staff focused systems, services and processes.

Delivered in partnership with SCC, Cisco DNA heralds a new era of networking for universities.

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