According to recent Speak Up data from Project Tomorrow, 80 percent of students in grades nine to 12, 65 percent of students in grades six to eight, and 45 percent of those in grades three to five use smartphones. In 2008, only 20 percent of teachers owned one. By 2012, that number had jumped to 67 percent.
The beauty of mobile devices, combined with today's unified communications and collaboration tools, is that they make 24/7 access to content and applications possible. The desire for this capability is readily apparent in K–12, where users increasingly access resources remotely, outside of the school day, from school-owned and personal devices.
When CompTIA surveyed 500 K–12 and college educators, administrators and IT staff in 2011, four in 10 school respondents said they would implement UC solutions by the end of 2012. More recent data from IDG Enterprise shows that the education sector will, in fact, see the most growth (72 percent) in UC implementation by 2015, and that three-quarters of all organizations are accelerating their UC plans because of mobile adoption.
Given these realities, it has become increasingly important for district IT managers to extend the power of their schools' UC solutions to mobile devices. After all, teachers and staff can get more done if they have easy, flexible access to email, calendars, voicemail and instant messaging — not to mention their lesson plans and other curricular resources — on their smartphones and tablets. They also can save their districts money and time by collaborating with peers via video and audio conferencing when it's most convenient for them.
Students, meanwhile, benefit from these opportunities to learn outside the classroom by collaborating with peers on group activities in the cloud and via instant messaging and other anytime, anywhere communications with their teachers.
What, then, does true on-the-go UC connectivity look like?
InformationWeek's 2013 "State of Unified Communications" report noted that vendors looking "to hit the sweet spot of UC promise" must offer compelling services that truly unify communications while fully and intuitively integrating mobile devices.
CDW Cloud Collaboration simplifies this process for district IT leaders and stakeholders by leveraging the cloud to deliver UC applications efficiently and effectively, in real time. The solution bundles Cisco Systems telephony, instant messaging, presence and unified voice messaging with CDW's managed services, giving end users scalability, on-demand deployment, manageability, enterprise-class security, cost efficiency and industry-leading technology whenever and wherever they need it.
And now, through a partnership with Esna Technologies and Google, CDW offers native access to CDW Cloud Collaboration within Google Apps — a popular option for school users seeking 24/7 access to their documents (and one another) — from any mobile device. Through Esna Cloudlink 4.0 for Cisco, CDW Cloud Collaboration users can easily access UC tools such as presence, voice and video communication, and call management right from Google Apps. For the 25 million students, teachers and school staff worldwide using Google Apps for Education, this is a significant leap forward.
The bottom line is that tech-savvy students now expect fluid access in their learning environments. Thanks to UC, IT leaders have the tools to provide that experience.