Building mobility into the future of education

  • Influx of personal devices on campus, resulting in a data deluge
  • IT decision makers looking into providing dynamic learning environments

Building mobility into the future of educationTHE BYOD (bring your own device) trend is gaining popularity in Asia Pacific and the region will continue to witness strong growth, driven by burgeoning consumer demand for smartphones and tablets.
 
According to IDC, in 2013, mobile devices utilised under the BYOD model accounted for 22.5% of all consumer smartphone sales, followed by notebook PCs (11.7%) and tablets (4.9%).
 
One sector that is impacted by this trend is education. In today’s connected environment, students are bringing three to five mobile wireless devices on campus, including smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets, music players, laptops, and cameras.
 
The faculty and administrative personnel also have their wireless devices that need safe access to secured institution resources.
 
This influx of personal smartphones and tablets on campus, and the resulting data deluge, imposes a new set of security challenges.
 
In order to manage the escalating mobility needs of students and teachers, educational institutions have started deploying new network solutions that provide the necessary controls and automation to make their campus networks secure, flexible and easy to manage.
 
Schools and universities are now testing out more dynamic learning environments that can provide faculty and students with access to school resources regardless of where they are located. This has become a top priority for IT decision makers in education today.
 
Enabling seamless access for students and teachers
 
Network traffic has risen dramatically on campus in the past few years. Today, the ability to access the network, exchange both structured and unstructured data seamlessly and quickly from anywhere on campus, is a basic requirement.
 
In Asia Pacific, many institutions have already started investing in new wireless technologies and networks that not only provide high performance and full coverage, but also enable adaptive, cost-effective classrooms and learning spaces that provide greater accessibility to both faculty members and students, alike.
 
In India, the Aga Khan Academy, a 100-acre campus with 45 buildings, recently deployed networking solutions to connect students and teachers throughout classrooms, dormitories, research labs and athletic facilities.
 
This has resulted in a robust and secure network for the academy. The resulting network infrastructure enabled students to use their own devices to access network resources and the Internet from anywhere in the campus.
 
Advanced infrastructure
 
A Forrester report on technology in education underlined the idea that teaching focused on interactivity and engagement sparks creative learning and emphasises the importance of pupil-lead learning in effective personalised learning experiences.
 
Being aware of the benefits of interactive education, the Aga Khan Academy decided to enhance interactivity in the classroom by supporting the delivery of notes and lessons through real-time video applications and thus, providing students with a flexible approach to studying.
 
More than just a modernisation of teaching methods, this supports the idea of a best-in-class education network experience.
 
In Malaysia, Prince of Wales Island International School also deployed a new network infrastructure. The school needed high-performance capacity for its streaming media, and access to online educational instructional resources for students and staff.
 
The school now offers top-notch educational resources and the best facilities in every area – from science to the performing arts.
 
In Australia and New Zealand, the introduction of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) in 2008, designed to bring about a 1:1 computer-to-student ratio for years nine to 12, has driven schools such as Christ Church Grammar School in Claremont, Western Australia to deploy nearly 2 000 iPads to the faculty and student body.
 
The IT team realised that it needed a new wireless solution that could support the increased traffic from streaming video in classroom full of students and deployed a range of fast, high performance wireless access points, Ethernet switches and a management solution which interoperates with its existing MDM (mobile device management) solution. This enabled the network to respond to fluctuating demand.
 
Building mobility into the future of educationVisibility and control for IT staff
 
More than ever, education networks are becoming increasingly difficult to protect from possible unauthorised access through a multitude of devices.
 
Visibility and control of all of their network components – wired and wireless – from one central location are essential to prevent rogue access points (APs) from being plugged into the network.
 
Christ Church Grammar School in Western Australia needed a solution that could help it track and identify who was on the network; and when, despite a large number of devices connected to the same network.
 
The new solution offers the school and its IT team a high degree of control, allowing them to automatically disconnect any device that students may have tried to jailbreak, or one that is not supported.
 
Similarly for Prince of Wales Island International School in Malaysia, the school was able to guarantee a strong, secure network, ensuring only authenticated students and staff can access the network and its resources.
 
As students’ experiences continually evolve, schools need to meet changing technology needs by providing wireless connectivity for staff and students with secure, personalised services.
 
At the same time, classrooms are becoming more mobile and device friendly, reinforcing the need for high-performance network infrastructures.
 
Gary Newbold is the vice president, Asia Pacific and Japan, at Extreme Networks.
 
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