New and emerging collaborative technology is creating exciting opportunities for students, faculty and staff across the country’s approximately 5300 colleges and universities. The opportunity to connect remote campuses and people, allowing experts and professors from far-flung areas to teach as though they are standing shoulder to shoulder with students and to enhance student teamwork and visualization through interactive whiteboards and videoconferencing, are not nice-to-haves for institutions trying to remain competitive; they are must-haves. No institution can afford to be the last to get onboard. That means that higher education is a fertile landscape for integrators looking to expand their business.
Colleges and universities already know that they need to adopt collaborative technologies to stay relevant. From the east coast to the west, collaboration technologies, including interactive kiosks, 4K classroom whiteboards, creative arts studios and HD videoconferencing, are expanding at a breakneck pace and need integrator expertise for successful implementation.
One of the more interesting types of venues for collaboration technology emerging on college campuses (and an opportunity for integrators to plug in) is the makerspaces popping up in labs, libraries and student centers. Makerspaces are collaborative work spaces stocked with tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, hand tools and welding equipment where participants can innovate, design, prototype and build everything from practical devices to art. Already, on campuses including Stanford; the University of Texas, Austin; North Carolina State University; USC and Columbia, students use these studios to create tangible portfolio pieces to satisfy course requirements in engineering, architecture, design and art classes, as well as for future employer interviews. Increasingly, makerspaces are embracing virtual participation, using videoconferencing to provide input and inspiration from remote experts.
Another example of an institution on top of emerging collaborative technology trends is Portland State University (PSU), which created a high-tech collaboration space for students, researchers and community stakeholders to come together and work through ideas with largescale visualization technology. The university envisioned a place for local government and private companies to work alongside PSU researchers on a variety of projects that link data sets, visualization and decisions.