Modern considerations in higher education learning environments

Modern considerations in higher education learning environments
The higher education sector is one of the key verticals for solution providers and systems integrators alike. In the recent past, the sector has come under scrutiny due to several attacks, especially those like active shooter incidents. 

The first point to consider while securing universities is understanding what key sites require protection.

“As with any large campus environments, the higher education community is concerned with securing the physical assets, intellectual property and keeping personnel on their campus safe,” said Chris Peckham, SVP, Chief Technology Officer and Special Projects at Kratos Public Safety & Security Solutions. “In a corporate environment, most employees leave the facilities at the end of the day but higher education campuses have active laboratories and facilities that need to be available 24/7 as well as providing a safe environment for student dorms. These additional factors add a challenge in securing the facility so that these people can move freely while still maintaining security to deter crime and mitigate security threats.”

There are also a number of issues that need to be considered in any security design and SOP in a campus environment. These include adhering to Clery Act regulations, proper incident reporting, campus wide video surveillance and resolution requirements, mobile applications for public as well as dorm security, one card technology and emergency notification – getting the message out through multiple media sources.

Others point to the difficulties of reaching the right mix of technology and manpower. “The university security environment is fairly unique and presents some challenges rarely found elsewhere,” said David Ella, VP of Product Marketing at AMAG Technology. “Especially challenging is the semi-open campus environment and the need for free access for students and the general public in many areas.”

“Combining highly responsive on-site security officers with technology to identify and respond to developing issues quickly is key. In controlled areas, technology to provide a building or campus-wide lockdown quickly and effectively is crucial. Providing automated visibility to real-time video and immediate response to alarms and access control transgressions through a full integrated security system will help mitigate risks and proactively speed response,” elaborated Ella.

“Let’s take a couple of examples,” he continued. “An external door to a research lab is held open. The security team needs to know about it quickly. Within ten seconds, they should have the live and recorded video from around that door presented to them so they can determine an appropriate response. Secondly an audio call station button is pressed on route to the local public transport hub.

Instantly, the cameras in the immediate vicinity should be displayed to security control center employees or to roving security officers on their mobile devices. The student should be able to verbally communicate to a security officer who can actually see the student.”

Going Beyond Security

Some universities have gone beyond traditional security solutions and installed systems that take advantage of the latest technology. When someone presses a transmitter button on the Nazareth College, Pittsford, New York campus, it could be a call for assistance from Campus Security and Safety – not a car door unlocking, a professor’s pager or a student’s cell phone buzzing. The keychain-style transmitters hanging from backpacks or purses are the most overt sign of the security program that protects everyone on the Nazareth campus but they are only one component in a larger system.

Initially installed in the early 1990s, the Bosch Security Escort system was meant to act as a product showcase and beta test site. Manufactured and marketed by Bosch Security Systems, the system is a wireless help-call and asset tracking system that allows a central security administrator to locate and track people or property anywhere within the system’s electronic boundary. Technological advancements in several universities have gone beyond regular security systems and many of them are now experimenting with concepts like smart classrooms. A company that provides solutions in this regard is Blackboard.

“Blackboard solutions comprise learning management systems, online collaboration and analytics tools, and mobile apps, allowing thousands of higher education, K-12, professional and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online and enable student success,” said Demetra Katsifli, Senior Director for International Industry Management at Blackboard.

Providing Safe Learning Environments

Security in campuses continues to remain a hot topic as creating safe and secure learning environments is quite a challenge. With the advancements in technology, however, higher education institutions are looking to go beyond traditional security toward integrating solutions that are instrumental in their everyday functioning. With more technologies like IoT and connected devices coming in, it would be interesting to see how these places further advance their solutions.
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