Flipping The Educational Script

When it comes to our current educational system, there is certainly no shortage of opinions. Realistically, we need a more efficient, better way of educating young people and adults. Fortunately, there are some forward-thinking innovators who are up to tackling the task of improving how we educate and teach.

For many students, and instructors, memories of the classroom are comprised of boring lectures and staring at the clock waiting for the torture to end. Traditionally, the classroom experience has been very linear with the instructor providing lectures, students taking notes, and of course, the dreaded pop quiz or exam. However, with the continued adoption and advancement of technology, learning experiences are changing for the better. A recent article in Fast Company magazine covered the information provided from the world’s most innovative companies in education, which outlines some of the innovations we can expect over the next five years. These include:

  • Students will interact with others remotely.
  • Success of technology in the classroom will still rely on skilled instructors.
  • Degrees will be unbundled, and we’ll think about diplomas differently.
  • Students will have a voice.
  • Educators and institutions will be forced to adapt.

Many of the innovations these companies expect to see are available now, including the advent of collaborative learning and online communication for the classroom. The progression of learning is now a multi-dimensional process where teachers and students pull together to enhance the learning experience. It is critical for learning management systems (LMS) to begin working toward how individual students learn, rather than a providing a traditional classroom format online.

For these reasons, NEC has created a collaborative tool that literally flips the classroom, thereby allowing students and teachers to collaborate in a way that is powerful while really improving learning opportunities.

Knowledge is Power

NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided faculty a tool to expand upon course curriculums through the addition of content. Currently, teachers are working to flip the classroom using multiple resources and platforms such as YouTube, Google Drive, and Schoology. They need a way to provide a cohesive student user experience while minimizing the amount of time students spend visiting multiple sites. Therefore, NEC constructed the Collaborative Content Management Solution (CCMS) and has joined with PassTheNotes (PTN) to offer cloud-based learning management and leverage the best existing educational solutions.

It’s an integration of technology that empowers both students and instructors to “flip the classroom” in a way that now incorporates students in the process of creating curriculum. Using the foundation of PTN, NEC embeds the collaboration solution into our user interface, providing an efficient method for faculty and students to use the entire solution easily and seamlessly.

The effect is a “flipped” classroom, where students and teachers collaborate during classroom time (either in person or online) and students not only listen to lectures during their own time, but they can also contribute to the next class lecture by uploading content into an online folder. Think of it like this – what was normally lecture now becomes an interaction between students and faculty to really drive home learning, and what was normally homework time is spent listening to faculty lectures and allowing students to add their own input to the next classroom experience.

Today, the Internet and social media are a huge part of almost everyone’s daily life. Younger generations are constantly glued to their multiple portable devices. NEC is giving students the ability to be a part of their own educational experience by gathering existing industry knowledge to develop integrations to meet the ever-changing educational needs.

The benefit to faculty and students is tangible and already being realized for those institutions adopting a flipped classroom model.

Collaborative Learning

Teachers and faculty are not only able to follow the core curriculum in a more organized and simplified manner, but also are provided with the flexibility to add and expand upon their teaching elements. NEC helps faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content that better connects with students. In addition, NEC’s CCMS includes comprehensive training and professional development so that teachers can focus on education rather than the technology.

Students are developing a desire to be more engaged in their education. Through the flipped classroom, students can make this desire a reality. For instance, if a student is browsing the Internet and comes across a blog, video, or article that reminds her of something she is  learning in school, it can easily be uploaded into the class folder. If a teacher is providing a history lesson, students are given the opportunity to collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie in with the lesson. Then, not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not previously available. Through this process of sharing information, students are actively participating in their education. This creates a more personal learning experience whereby students can relate events in their life with classroom material.

 

Content Management and Collaboration
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Flip the Script

Education is rapidly becoming a #collaborative interaction between teachers and students.  It is now moving toward a workgroup team dynamic that is focused on the educational experience and leveraging technology to increase student engagement. Students are now finding that the subjects they are studying are not only interesting, but are also relevant in everyday life.

Plus there are additional benefits beyond the improved learning environment. Students are learning to work in a virtual environment, something employers will desire in future employees. In addition, they learn valuable teamwork and collaboration skills that will help them with their future endeavors.

If you desire more information on NEC’s CCMS and how we are flipping the classroom, check out the information on our Collaborative Content Management Solution page.

3 Questions Answered about IT Modernization in Government

Government-Mobility2014 marked the beginning of the Infrastructure Revolution for several industries, many of which are following in the pre-emptive footsteps of the national government.

In February 2010, the Department of Defense created the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) to reverse the historic growth of Federal data centers. The FDCCI has been seeking to curb this unsustainable increase by reducing the cost of data center hardware, software, and operations; shifting IT investments to more efficient computing platforms; promoting the use of Green IT by reducing the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers; and increasing the IT security posture of the government.

Since then, the government has launched an IT modernization effort across departments which includes acquisition and deployment of more secure, collaborative, and mobile technologies—along with their associated skill sets and capabilities—to replace legacy environments.

By shutting down and consolidating under-performing technologies in the Federal inventory, taxpayers stand to save billions of dollars because of curbed spending on underutilized infrastructure. The smartest enterprises will follow suit, carefully architecting their path to modernization, leveraging key partners and modern technology architectures to create a more agile, secure IT environment.

What opportunities does modernization offer?

Legacy networking, communications and applications have become a significant IT and business problem in most industry IT departments. Not only do they require consistent maintenance from someone with a skill set that fewer and fewer people possess, they also carry a high cost of ownership and are difficult to modify when meeting ongoing business demands. Worse, with little leverage across these technologies, they are often forced to remain siloed instances, providing separate benefits to converging infrastructures.

IT modernization represents an opportunity for the evolution of government organizations’ (and others as well) existing application and infrastructure software, the goal being to align IT with forward-looking business strategies.

What are the immediate benefits of modernization?

While the government is actively modernizing its IT infrastructure, they will begin to find that they can react more quickly to the ever-changing environments (business, economic, political, etc). There are many results the public sector can expect from the process of modernizing. Namely:

  1. Intelligence – with converged infrastructures, including SDNs, virtualization, and distributed applications, leading to complete software-defined data centers with virtualization from desktop-to-network-to-applications.
  2. Agility – via improved standards for infrastructure programmability, data structure interoperability and fast infrastructure provisioning, leading to a more agile IT organization
  3. Alignment – by enabling IT practices that are more in line with business objectives.
  4. Responsiveness – as business changes create flux in organization size, location, and performance, IT is continually challenged to adapt at the speed of your business—a modern infrastructure puts IT in good stead to align with these changes.
  5. Flexibility and resilience – with systems that adapt automatically and recover from failure more quickly.
  6. Energy efficienciency – with technology and systems designed to reduce energy consumption.

To get the maximum strategic benefit from modernization, it is important to base your improved system on an architecture that is built on open standards and deployed on open systems. Just as important, is seeking holistic architectural thinking among your vendor suppliers that help you consider how a converged infrastructure can benefit your business.

What are the long-term benefits of modernization?

The success or failure of a consolidation/modernization initiative achieving long-term ROI depends on each organization’s goals. For many public sector businesses, long-term goals include: enhanced security, consolidating the infrastructure, and enhancing mobility.

Enhanced Security

Streamlining IT processes creates an agile IT infrastructure more capable of leveraging existing organizational vehicles for rapid delivery of tasks/orders. But none of this matters without a strong security platform that can withstand the stresses of and better respond to today’s cybersecurity threats.

A modernized IT platform must be hardened and able to detect, respond to, and report information security incidents, as well as developing situational awareness, utilizing authentication, reinforcing reciprocity, and leveraging automated assessments.

Infrastructure Consolidation

Today’s workforce demands applications that are always accessible and work consistently from any device.  Public-sector organizations that consolidate their enterprise networks—ultimately standardizing IT platforms, consolidating data and network operations centers, and optimizing architectures—create an infrastructure that is easier to manage and more secure in order to help support active user involvement.

Mobility Enhancement

As with most other industries, there is a significant push for both central and local government and associated not-for-profit agencies to move towards more flexible modes of working. Providing location agnostic access to data is a hot topic for the public sector as is the desire to provide better standards of service to employees and customers. Transparent communication has the potential to accelerate productivity and help realize mission requirements—provided it can be achieved in the face of the escalating austerity of ever-changing security measures.

Modernizing and consolidating IT infrastructures helps address unique resource challenges surrounding public sector enterprise mobility. Consolidation also enables government agencies to implement scalable enterprise mobile management solutions that extend to users, devices, applications, content, data, email and networks.

JITC Certified Unified Communications

Defense agencies are under increasing pressure to bring their disparate web technologies together.  That’s why the DoD has created the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) certification, so all IT investments—including collaborative communications solutions—can be protected.

NEC’s UNIVERGE®3C solution has been thoroughly vetted by the JITC against the highest government standards, and has been added to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Session Controller Approved Products List (APL) for Unified Capabilities.

The APL is a single, consolidated list of products that have been certified and approved for use in DoD networks to provide end-to-end unified capabilities. UNIVERGE 3C is certified as a Local Session Controller, referred to by NEC as Unified Capabilities Session Controller (UC SC).

The JITC evaluation process is highly respected by commercial organizations because JITC testing meets and frequently exceeds enterprise security levels. With Security Officers confident in the solution, the deployment process can be accelerated.

JITC certification requires compliance with hundreds of security measures as well as the ability to withstand extreme attacks on the software. Being JITC accredited means that we fully meet US DoD requirements and often surpass the security best practices of global commercial customers.

Visit us at Enterprise Connect booth 1121 to learn more about NEC’s JITC-Certified UNIVERGE 3C solution.

How to Choose a Cloud or SaaS Vendor

2015-02-26_1113Choosing a cloud and SaaS vendor can be tricky for SMBs with small IT organizations and larger corporations looking to lower operating costs. There are many benefits to choosing cloud or SaaS over on-premises but the route to those benefits is not always risk-free.

Difficulty vetting cloud or SaaS vendors is a common problem in today’s IT world. We see many organizations that continue to sweat older assets, having used on-premises software for many years. Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research, has pointed out, however, that more than 90 percent of businesses are starting to employ these technologies on some scale.

Vetting cloud or SaaS vendors can be very easy if you take the right approach. Rather than simply taking trusting the vendor’s qualifications or what you’ve read/heard, you should validate each claim the vendor makes to ensure that they don’t overstate their capabilities.

Verification is the key to success when choosing a cloud or SaaS vendor. Here are our tips to help you make the comprehensive assessments needed to make the right choice.

Vetting the Business

You wouldn’t buy a car from a manufacturer you knew nothing about. The same should be said of a cloud or SaaS solution. When your business is thinking about adopting a new cloud or SaaS technology, its imperative that you vet the vendors’ businesses as well as their technology.

You need to ensure that their leadership is strong, their business model is sound, and that the firm has the financial stability to survive the stressors of the current economy. This stage is the time to ask the tough questions, and get real, specific responses in return. Keep pressing until you get a real answer, one that’s supported by policies and procedures. Questions like these can help you determine the viability of the business at large:

  • Do you have a burn rate where you are making less than you are spending? If so, how long is the runway where you can survive at this pace without new partners investing?
  • Is your leadership rounded and truly qualified? Do you have a technologist at the helm, and has he surrounded himself with the operational, financial and sales expertise to keep turning out great products and services?
  • How do you maintain accountability for your administrative staff in regard to the control and management of customer data within/and outside of your application? What security challenges might we face if we give you direct control over our sensitive or compliance-relevant data?
  • How do you address government regulations?
  • Can we adjust our services as the business evolves?
  • Where does my support come from (vendor, support partner, etc.)?
  • What will I really pay?

Vetting the Technology

Just like with the manufacturer situation stated above, you probably wouldn’t buy a car you hadn’t test driven or looked under the hood of either. In order to determine whether the products/services you’re vetting work properly, you’re going to need to get your hands dirty and test each cloud or SaaS product/service for yourself. Does the product/service have known glitches/issues? Will it fit into the environment(s) as expected? Will it work with all of your platforms and impacted software products?

Now is the time to get the engineers involved to assess the technologies behind the vendor and ensure that they are ready for your purposes. Again, specific instances and case studies will help provide proof points to the vendor’s claims. Questions like these can help determine the efficiency, security, and usability of the technology itself:

  • What role does customer input play when your company plans updates and enhancements?
  • Can I see the software/technology’s R&D roadmap? What other changes are planning for performance and usability? Is this investment actually future proof?
  • Can you describe your data center?
  • How do you define uptime and downtime?
  • How frequently do you test your disaster recovery procedures?
  • Do you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
  • How different is our current infrastructure from yours?
  • Can I move existing apps/services from my private cloud to your public cloud without massive reconfiguration?
  • How do you support my workforce’s mobility requirements?
  • How are my apps and data protected from other users on the same cloud servers?

Vetting their Customer Service

Let’s hit the car analogy one more time. You wouldn’t buy any car from any manufacturer if you weren’t going to get service and support to help you maintain the car over the course of its life.

So when vetting vendors, you need to ask point-blank if they are ready to handle you as a client. The only question that need to be asked during this phase is, “Can I speak with some of your customers?” Current customers are the best resources when it comes to determining whether the vendor’s product/service is on par with what you are expecting.

Don’t settle for the few they give you either. Look at trade shows and vendor events for customers that aren’t raving fans. Looking for non-specific issues can save you a lot of headaches in the future. Be skeptical, but open-minded. Knowing the issues that could arise will help you prepare for them in the future.

Vetting cloud or SaaS vendors can take up to 200 man-hours and could require some policy changes on your part. To do it right, though, you do need to assess more than the technology—you need to look at everything; the vendor’s business, technology, security, service, and employees. While it might seem like a bit of an undertaking, spending more time up front will save you headache and frustration in the end.

SaaS and Cloud in Perspective: UCaaS

Let’s take a quick look at a unique cloud and SaaS perspective: UCaaS.

Let’s say you aren’t ready for a full cloud deployment. You still have some reservations about the public cloud, and you have on-premises assets you want to continue to use. Research is actually beginning to show that “Hybrid Cloud UC Demands Unified Platform Management”. This is one of many cases where UCaaS makes sense.

The market for UCaaS is growing pretty rapidly. Among IT pros responding to a 2014 Spiceworks survey, 11% had adopted UCaaS. However, another 12% indicated they are planning to adopt it in the next year, more than doubling the number of people using UCaaS today.

Some suggest that growing confidence in hosted solutions in general is the impetus for the projected dramatic increase in adoption. Much of that confidence is due to the service providers’ dedication to security improvements.

We are excited about the opportunities UCaaS presents to the cloud and SaaS Markets.

Fear of vetting vendors shouldn’t hold you back from learning more. Check out the Reducing UC Costs and Increasing Business Performance whitepaper to take a deeper dive into the advantages of UCaaS, market drivers, concerns, and what to look for in a provider.

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Unified Communications as a Service Re-Coups Losses for Businesses during Cold Weather Outbreaks

nec-unified-communications-as-a-service-winter-stormIt’s that time of year again. Blizzards like Winter Storm Juno are ravaging the North-Eastern United States. People are snowed in and can’t get to work. The effects of the storm will be felt across seven states this year—meaning more SMBs and Enterprises will grind to a screeching halt in 2015 than did this same time last year. Businesses across the country will take a hit in sales and service departments, delayed by loss of employee manpower and lack of customer activity.

So now seems like the right time to continue the discussion on enterprise technologies that facilitate mobility and remote work during bad weather and emergencies. The market for UCaaS is growing rapidly, and UCaaS is seeing widespread adoption in organizations of all sizes. If you’re at home right now thinking “maybe it’s time I start thinking about facilitating remote work environments for our team,” then I suggest you take a look at last year’s article, published in it’s entirety, below.

 

Winter Storms Ion and Hercules, followed by a polar vortex, are spreading a swath of heavy snow across the American Midwest and ushering in dangerously cold temperatures throughout the United States. As of Monday, there were more than 100,000 people across six states without electricity, with temperatures continuing to fall. Flights have been canceled nationwide, and people are staying indoors.

It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in parts of the Midwest and Southeast, and businesses across the country are feeling the weight of the storm hit their bottom lines.

What many people don’t know is that having Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in place means that businesses can actually stave off some of the sales losses seen during cold weather outbreaks.

Inclement Weather and Remote Workers

Firms that have adopted UCaaS or cloud-based communications could find that it curbs the amount of revenue lost from storms during the winter. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that cold weather snaps can seriously affect small and medium sized businesses. While places reliant on foot traffic are most at risk, any business can be beset by weather delays.

Working remotely, or in the cloud, is increasingly feasible and beneficial thanks to services like UCaaS. Tools like softphones, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing can keep your business up and running even in the worst weather conditions.

How UCaaS Solutions Can Help

By giving your employees access to cloud computing services such as remote desktops and softphones that can be accessed from home or at work, organizations can ensure that employees are continuously able to do their jobs even if they cannot physically get into the office. This allows you to keep employees safe when conditions are too dangerous to travel without losing, what many times can end up being multiple days of, employee productivity.

UCaaS is one of the few services that can offer the tools required to help keep businesses communications running smoothly.  This is critical for organizations that rely on communication for their revenue. In the normal course of doing business, or remotely during inclement weather periods, Unified Communications Solutions can:

  • Integrate email, voice and instant messaging into a cohesive communications system so all employees can stay in-touch as needed.
  • Provide access points to all data used by your organization, so users can communicate with others inside and outside their organization more easily and more quickly.
  • Lower overall IT and telecommunications costs, particularly for labor, because of the inherent economies of scale available with an integrated communications platform.
  • Provide access to carrier-grade communications that deliver consistency with easy-to-use functionality.

UCaaS solutions are just one of many cloud-based solutions businesses can utilize to protect themselves during inclement weather.

In the event of a cold weather snap, the right UCaaS solution can easily adapt to your changed situation without any extra spending on your part. These services house your businesses data in centers that are part of global networks. This ensures that once your data is backed up, it is mirrored in multiple data centers across the globe, meaning that there is more than one copy of your data to rely on in the case of a disaster or emergency.

With these types of disaster recovery options, it becomes easier to see how UCaaS and cloud-based services can help create a safe and secure solution to protect your businesses applications and data, helping to insure your businesses against losses caused by winter weather storms.

Contact NEC representatives today to learn more about our cloud-based solutions and their disaster recovery benefits.

 

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