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Over the years, colleges and universities have expanded their use of unified communications (UC). At first, UC was used primarily for administrative purposes. However, higher education institutions now recognize that UC has a place in the classroom as well.

Expanding the use of UC makes sense as college and university students increasingly depend on technology to conduct research, finish assignments, and communicate. According to the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, at least 19 out of 20 students own a laptop or a smartphone and almost a third of students own a laptop, smartphone, and tablet.

UC gives students and professors numerous options for using technology to communicate and complete projects. Access to a suite of integrated communications tools allows members of the university community to exchange information in the ways they prefer. They can communicate from wherever they are located, whenever they want. 

Here’s a closer look at 3 contributions UC makes to higher education:

1) Enhancing Collaboration

collaboration-with-firstlight-and-unified-communicationsCollaboration takes many forms in higher education. Research is a university’s bread and butter, bringing grant dollars to the institution. To conduct successful research, faculty members and students need to be able to share information quickly, reliably, and safely.

Collaboration is also being encouraged in the classroom. Professors frequently assign students to work on group projects, such as presentations or lab work. These students need a way to communicate with their partners outside of school hours to complete these projects.

Administrators and faculty must collaborate to ensure the college or university meets accreditation requirements. Collaboration also helps administration and faculty develop and implement innovative ways to educate. Faculty can call in guest lecturers and other experts from across the country or even around the world with relative ease.

UC provides all the tools that universities need to encourage collaboration. Video conferencing, instant messaging, and file sharing give students, faculty, and administrators many options for exchanging information and working on projects. 

2) Increasing Access to Education

Today, the university student body is very diverse. Many non-traditional students are working on degrees. These students may be older and have family and work responsibilities that keep them from attending classes on campus. Higher education institutions are meeting the needs of non-traditional students by offering more online classes.

The 2017 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report found that online learners listed convenience, work schedules, and flexible pacing as the top 3 reasons for enrolling in an online program. With online classes, students can get their education while earning a salary and raising their children. Students that live far away from campus can still attend classes. These students can also complete their degrees at their own pace.

UC tools have also come a long way. Innovative solutions like Ciscso’s Webex platform allow one-button video/audio meeting opt-in for meetings on any device. Tools such as Webex enable students to have face-to-face interactions with professors, even while learning from a remote location. Students can use instant messaging, video conferencing, real-time annotation and file sharing to communicate effectively and turn in assignments. UC helps students approximate an on-campus experience while studying from home. 

3) Preparing Students for the Workforce

Preparing-Students-for-the-Workforce-FirstlightUniversities and colleges are no longer ivory towers where students are isolated from the realities and pressures of the outside world. Today’s students are expected to graduate ready for the workforce. Most students participate in some type of work-study program or internship that prepares them for the business world.

UC helps to prepare students for working after graduation by supplying them with communication tools that are used in the workplace. With UC, students grow accustomed to using teleconferencing and WebEx for classes or meetings. They learn to use voicemail and instant messaging in a professional way to communicate with professors and other students. 

Making UC for Higher Education Possible

To take advantage of the benefits of UC, colleges and universities need to lay the right groundwork. Effective UC requires superior bandwidth and internet services. Choosing a UC provider with the right network makes these requirements attainable.

FirstLight understands how challenging it can be to support UC at institutions with multiple campuses and online classes.  We provide an entire portfolio of telecommunications solutions for higher education. Our experts are experienced in working with higher education institutions to support audio, video, and distance learning initiatives. All our UC offerings are supported by an extensive fiber optic network that spans the Northeast.

Bring the power of UC to your campus. Find out how from the experts at FirstLight.