Community News

Putting the E in action for NRENs

Author: Ingrid Melve (Uninett)

Research infrastructure is the big flashy part of the NRENs. Everyone understands the importance of finding a cure for cancer, finding the Higgs Boson or understanding migration. Education is more about the small steps each student takes in understanding an academic topic, building stone upon stone until a master, bachelor or doctor emerges as a coherent being.

The NRENs in Europe all build infrastructure used every day in education: Internet connectivity, eduroam roaming, access to research data. Some NRENs engage closely with education and work with campus issues or specific services that support the educational processes.  At Uninett in Norway we are involved in a number of initiatives:

– Video infrastructure for higher education

– Federated login for the entire school system, enabling access to teaching/learning material

– Secretariat for the governments coherent ICT strategy for higher education

– Support for digital assessment, including best practice documentation for exam halls

– Documenting best practices for class rooms and auditoriums

– Procurement consortia for next generation digital learning environment and assessment solutions

Many of these initatives are also worked on in other NRENs.

Why care about education from an infrastructure perspective? Because we see the need for users in higher education to always have:

– Internet connectivity, with eduroam

– access to university data, for example educational video

– access to university digital tools, building the virtual learning environment

– basic digital competencies for the academic context

– shared understanding of basic security principles for the academic context

– the ability to share information (for example lectures or MOOC courses)

– close integration with research projects and research groups

Big parts of the Internet are built for consumers, but in order to learn it is not enough to be entertained or passively consume information. The academic part of the Internet is built for active participation between people and with data. Education is not possible without active participation, and participation require end-to-end services with contributions from all parties involved.

The E in NREN is important because:

– modern education is possible only when the online campus is integrated with the rest of the university

– video infrastructure is transforming education

– collaboration tools are essential for education: interacting with both professors, academic data and other students

We are inviting the E part of NRENs to a workshop on educational technology during TNC. Uninett and SURFnet want to explore and identify NRENs working on similar challenges around technology for education, finding NRENs who are eager as well as eligible to exchange knowledge.

Hope to see you at TNC16!

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