Some students cannot afford such tools and are at a disadvantage; Sunway wants equal access for all
Smart WiFi network will deliver virtualised educational software applications to 12,000 students
THE Sunway Education Group has selected Ruckus Smart WiFi solutions to build a campus-wide wireless infrastructure to enable more than 12,000 students to access educational software applications via the school’s virtual network.
The wireless network will be powered by over 100 Ruckus ZoneFlex access points (APs), and centrally managed by Ruckus ZoneDirector 3000 controllers, Ruckus Wireless Inc said in a statement.
“In today’s IT-enabled learning environment, students at Sunway University and Sunway International School are required to use a wide range of education software tools for e-learning, research, projects, design, and developing print and video presentation materials,” said Tan Siao Yuan, senior manager of operations, IT Services for the Sunway Education Group.
These include software applications for editing graphics and images, videos, drawing architectural and engineering designs, and computing statistical and data analyses, he noted.
“However, because the cost of ownership of a whole suite of these tools is very high, many students cannot afford to have personal copies of these software applications, resulting in a situation in which some students have historically been disadvantaged in their learning process,” said Tan.
“We aim to give equal access to all students,” he added.
The IT Services department initiated the iLab virtualisation project in August 2012 to ensure that all students enrolled in its programmes have equal opportunity to access the tools they need in their learning needs, Tan (pic) said.
“iLab was the first education-based software and application virtualisation project of its kind among Malaysian institutions,” he claimed.
“Under this project, we acquired all the requisite education software tools and databases and placed them in a central server, which was enabled with application virtualisation solutions.
“Students can now access this virtualised server with their student login ID via wired-LAN (local area network) on networked desktops in computer labs on campus or via our campus-wide wireless network,” he added.
The Sunway Education Group evaluated proof-of-concept (POC) solutions over six months, and finally decided on a wireless model that would enable it to take advantage of the emerging Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.
“We noticed more and more students were bringing their own mobile computing devices like tablets, laptops and smartphones to school,” said Tan.
“Our successful POC works well with Ruckus Smart WiFi technology, which is capable of handling a high-speed and high-density environment,” he added.
Back in 2009, the Sunway Education Group made the first move to use Ruckus at Sunway International School, which operates on a wireless computing environment for all its learning needs.
Convinced by the “significant performance improvements” over Sunway International School’s legacy WiFi system, the group eventually decided to standardise on Ruckus at Sunway University as well, Ruckus Wireless said in a statement.
Now, Ruckus Smart WiFi blankets the nine-hectare Sunway campus covering classrooms, indoor and outdoor student activity areas, auditorium, libraries and labs; facilitating the successful rollout of the iLab project, the Sunnyvale, California-based company said.
“Sunway’s iLab is an excellent example of how tertiary institutions can leverage technology to enhance the learning experience of students, many of whom bring their own mobile devices to school,” said Louis Au (pic), Ruckus vice president for Asia Pacific.
“Ruckus Wireless successfully worked with Sunway Education to provide a highly reliable, high speed and robust wireless infrastructure to roll out its BYOD solution that has improved the quality of instruction and higher standards of education,” he added.
“The response from our student population of 12,000 at that time was overwhelming with data traffic increasing 70% after the launch of iLab,” said Sunway’s Tan. ”Our network now handles as much as 750 gigabytes of data daily, equivalent to 64 megabytes per student.”
Density was a major concern. Students typically assemble in groups and access WiFi together. This environment is especially more challenging in study areas where there are even larger numbers of students concentrated at any given time.
During peak hours such as lunch breaks and examination seasons, thousands of users in libraries and other common areas are accessing the wireless network concurrently.
“Ruckus BeamFlex smart antenna technology is designed to solve problems caused by high-density environments, where smart mobile devices that constantly change their location and orientation can degrade performance of other WiFi products that cannot adapt to such changes,” said Au.
“Our technology has the ability to increase signal gain, mitigate RF (radio frequency) interference and allow each access point to adapt to the changing nature of WiFi signals from each connected mobile device,” he added.
With such a large base of users, the security of the WiFi network is also a major concern for the college. Ruckus said its client fingerprinting technology allows the IT Services department to identify all devices and different operating systems connecting to the WiFi system, allowing it to track usage and improve the network’s bandwidth management capability.
“We are able to determine which mobile devices/platforms are preferred by students,” said Tan.
“The controller also allows us to allocate bandwidth based on various user groups. In instances when one user group would require greater bandwidth, we could configure instantly,” he added.
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