It is a frustration repeated in classrooms around the nation. We all know what it feels like to experience wi-fi problems, where signal strength is limited, or reliability is poor. But even on the best wireless networks, the massive increase in connected devices, often running bandwidth-heavy applications, can take its toll. The network limitations can take their toll on teacher and student productivity, so it is a problem well worth addressing before lost class time adds up. Fortunately, advances in technology mean help is at hand.
While amazing apps and collaboration are rightly attractive to school IT leaders, technology is equally important to solve everyday problems. Increasing teaching time allows children to benefit fully from lessons, and gives teachers the chance to devote more attention where it is needed.
The big advances we’re seeing are in networking. Imagine an environment where a child’s laptop stays logged in as she moves from maths to chemistry to Japanese class, with a secure network transitioning her connection between wireless access points (WAPs) as she moves around the campus. The network can even perform a roll call by noting when students’ devices are present in a classroom. Instead of finding a network connection and logging in in each classroom upon arrival, the children – and their teacher – can get straight to work.
For some schools, this is already a reality. Wireless networking leaders Aruba noticed the proportion of schools needing to improve wireless networking and focused its considerable development resources on finding a solution. When they wrapped it in an intuitive, granular control environment that can be easily managed via a smartphone, it was the icing on the cake.
The importance of granular control cannot be understated when it comes to the modern network. The administrator can view the types of device on the network, device health, and access rights of each user. Visitor rights can be established as a group; students can be allowed to access certain systems and not others, either by group or on an individual level, according to need. Teachers can be allowed into student academic records; office staff can be given access to accounts receivable systems, all as needed. Limiting users only to the systems they need to access is an important security practice.
Modern networks have much to offer when it comes to security, but this isn’t the only place they shine. Some now use artificial intelligence (AI) to track network health, alerting administrators to potential problems before they become crises. As in any business, downtime is costly, but the AI-enabled network prevents almost every incident. Unlike any business, a school must manage network problems at the same time as educating hundreds of youngsters, so eliminating that balancing act must be a welcome change.
AI effectively gathers information, whether it be about network performance or security, and every new piece of information serves to increase its capabilities. As this happens, it may recognise suspicious behaviour on a device, or an otherwise near-invisible change in performance of a storage device or server, and alert the administrator or take a pre-set action. In many cases, it can even self-heal, so the school IT department need not take action.
Solving problems like network overload, and easing network management burden has a knock-on effect. With students and teachers experiencing fewer disruptions, the IT team spends less time on support, which means there is more time available for the many new learning tools and apps emerging. It is, let’s face it, a more exciting task than fixing the same old login problems. As networking technology moves beyond functional to become an enabler, the world of education IT becomes an exciting place.
Time to learn more about harnessing the power of modern networks? Stott Hoare are experts in applying IT knowledge to improve educational outcomes. Talk to our friendly networking experts today.