Bay State College is a private school located in downtown Boston near the Charles River. It is also a stone’s throw to the iconic Cheers bar made famous in the 1980s by the television show. With a student population of close to 1,000 students, the school felt it could reopen its campus more safely than larger institutions like MIT and Harvard across the river, which were still closed. I recently spent time with Jeffrey Myers, CIO for Ambow Education USA, responsible for information technology at Bay State College. We discussed how he and his team worked with Cisco Meraki to facilitate a safe return to campus for students.
Distance versus in classroom learning
There is no debate that the pandemic solidified the role of video collaboration in distance learning. Having two daughters in college, I know firsthand how instrumental Cisco WebEx, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been in buoying primary, secondary and collegiate education this past year. Still, while distance learning was adequate for programs in fields such as animation and engineering, but it is not optimal for others. The curriculum at Bay State College, which includes nursing and physical therapy, requires students to be physically in a classroom to meet specific accreditation requirements. To solve this challenge, the school turned to Cisco Meraki’s connectivity solutions.
Cisco Meraki and location-based services to the rescue
I have written about the power of location-based services (LBS) in the past, coining the term “experience networking” to describe LBS and its superpowers—if interested, you can find that article here. Bay State College turned to Cisco Meraki to help manage several initiatives tied to a safe return to campus, including spatial awareness, capacity measurement and Covid19 contact tracing. Student ID badges with Bluetooth Low Emission (BLE) beacons work in tandem with triangulation on Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi access points to facilitate overall visibility. What is impressive to me is that Bay State College is accomplishing all of this without the need for a discrete LBS application such as Cisco DNA Spaces. However, I would expect the school will evaluate such applications as it continues to refine the overall deployment.
As we begin putting the pandemic behind us, I believe much of what Bay State College is implementing will become part of a hybrid learning model that will parallel the hybrid work model in the enterprise. Video collaboration is here to stay, and some students may choose to continue their education virtually. For others, schools such as Bay State are working hard to ensure a safe return to the traditional campus environment.