One of the biggest concerns we heard from many members of the BILT was about security. The booming trend of BYOD and the expansion of the Internet of Things increases the risk to business networks. How can we bring the topic of security into every IT course we teach? Security practices cross the spectrum of IT and if students are “security unaware” it can be dangerous – at school, at home and when they move into industry. Students will need to be operationally ready, with an element of security knowledge as it applies to their area. As one BILT member put it, “Networking without security isn’t networking.” The focus needs to be on implementing real world security steps into each lab students do, in each course they take. For example, students need to learn about change control process: having the proper documentation as well as approvals and sign offs before changes are put into production. This measure needs to be implemented into all labs to reinforce these real world control measures. Implementation of changes without change control procedures can cause critical outages.
Part of the discussion on security focused on alternative technology, such as biometrics identification (fingerprint scans and such) and how even those technologies can and will be hacked. It’s one thing to have a password hacked – all you have to do is change your password. What if somehow your fingerprint was hacked? One BILT member mentioned FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance that is working to standardize user authentication and biometric security with the goal of eliminating the need for traditional passwords.
Big Data Analytics
We generate so much data, from users and sensors with the Internet of Things. How can businesses use data analytics to understand how they can better serve their customers and predict issues and failures? Also, how will businesses protect the security of the data collected, and perhaps more importantly, the data that is derived from analyzing patterns of data? There will be great jobs for students relating to analyzing big data.
So many large companies are moving to software defined networking and they are putting pressure on big vendors, such as Cisco, to play ball. Businesses want cheaper, universal, flexible hardware, and they aren’t afraid switch to other vendors who will supply it. The appetite for expensive proprietary hardware is waning. This trend is something our BILT members have been discussing for a while, and now that it is being adopted by industry, we have to work to find ways of integrating the concepts into our curriculum. We have a “Tiger Team” of BILT members and faculty that are set to discuss this at an in-depth working session. In addition, one of our partners at Florida State College at Jacksonville will be working with his BILT team to define objectives for a new course in this area.
Essentially, this idea has been around for a long time, but as with any new buzzword, it is now becoming more important for our students to understand the concepts and how it relates to the businesses they will be applying to when they graduate. Digital transformation refers to the strategy of applying technology to a business challenge/opportunity. It is not only important for grads to understand the technical aspects of their fields, but also the business reasoning and strategies IT supports.
IT Generalist vs IT Specialist
A few of our BILT members are also seeing a need for students to be more well rounded and have the capacity to handle a variety of technical positions. This trend requires us to try to instill our students with an understanding that a degree or certificate isn’t the end of their education. Graduates will have to come back frequently to learn new skills, get certifications in new technologies, and continue their education for their entire career. There are also paths, such as DevOps Engineers, that will require a blend of IT and software skills, and a passion for learning.
So how do we get this all in? This is a common issue facing our entire network of colleges. With reduced number of credit hours in our degree programs (many down to 60 for an associates), it is increasingly difficult to include everything into one degree. And this is why having frequent discussions with an ENGAGED Business and Industry Leadership Team is so vital. They can help prioritize the skills students need to learn based on business needs. Also, business leaders can come into the classroom to discuss these topics and trends that students need to be aware of. We can offer classes based on the needs, in a series of stackable certificates, or additional specialization tracks added on to our degree plans. Also Continuing Education is an option for just that – continued education past a degree. In addition, we can work with our university partners to develop pathways for students to transfer into four year programs, such as UNT’s BA-IT degree – which accepts workforce credits into a BA degree that is ABET accredited.