Rethinking education: creating the connected classrooms of the future

The classroom of tomorrow requires a reliable, robust and high-performing network

Despite many education organisations having found ways to operate virtual classrooms this year – especially during lockdowns – the role technology has played in face-to-face education remains limited. But if the global pandemic has shown us one thing, it’s that the walls of a classroom are no longer a barrier to education. The introduction of technology is able to create new ways of communication, learning and working collaboratively.

Schools, universities and other education organisations should invest heavily in them to make the connected classroom of the future a reality. As a digital generation, today’s students are familiar and very competent in using digital learning tools, providing teachers with a willing and capable audience to experiment with new technologies in the classroom. Alongside the tech native students, educators from all academic levels are beginning to realise how these technologies help improve student engagement and enhance teaching methods. 

Today, students are more connected with technology than any other generation before. In fact, 97% of 15 to 24-year-olds in the UK have basic digital skills. Given the familiarity students have in using technology, educational institutions should maximise on this by investing in a technology-driven learning experience for its students. This will create more personalised and dynamic learning, such as immersive digital textbooks, group projects done via video collaboration tools and the introduction of tables into the classroom. The educational benefits of the numerous digital learning assets available are tremendous. But how can these technologies be implemented?

Deploying new technologies successfully 

A key – and often-overlooked – enabler of the connected learning experience of the future is a robust, resilient and reliable network infrastructure. Behind the scenes, these networks power all devices across a campus, ensuring optimal connectivity for every student and teacher. But the rise of connected devices can create an additional strain on an existing network, potentially throttling its performance. This is a very real problem for many education organisations. In fact, only 44% of IT leaders in the UK think their Wi-Fi network is good enough to support their current and future digital learning aims.

Education organisations must ensure they invest in both the new technologies that help transform the modern classroom experience, as well as the networks that help them deliver on this promise. This was the challenge Harrogate Grammar School, a non-selective school of 2,000 pupils, overcame to create a progressive 1:1 learning approach by providing each pupil with an iPad to use as their core learning tool, both in and outside of the classroom, to facilitate connected classrooms.

To enable the school to offer its 2,000 students this 1:1 learning environment a network infrastructure capable of hosting thousands of simultaneously connected devices was required. Harrogate updated its network infrastructure by implementing ExtremeCloudIQ to provide seamless and reliable connectivity for all connected devices – not only transforming the daily experience of students and staff but also how the IT team at the school now operates.

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Since deployment, users, staff, students and guests can use more than 2,500 devices throughout the school at any given time. With a reliable and scalable network, the school can accommodate any future growth in the number of devices as well.

Reimagining teaching 

In addition to supporting student learning, cloud-driven network technology provides teachers with the necessary tools to elevate their teaching methods. By investing in digital innovations, teachers can not only help enhance the student experience through improved delivery of lessons but also fast-track their processes and support remote learning.

For example, within the classroom, interactive digital media such as smart whiteboards can offer game-based learning to invite participation and aid content retention. This is critical to keeping students engaged in the learning process. By maintaining their attention and focus, teachers can better motivate their pupils to think critically and promote meaningful learning experiences that not only prepare their students for upcoming exams but also offer them life skills that are used beyond the classroom.

Cloud-driven networks allow students and staff to access any given resource without delay anywhere on the campus – or even remotely – and at any time. Through the use of smart audio-visual equipment and digital video recorders, educators can capture lessons so they can be shared with students. The importance of accessible learning materials is in ensuring that students of varying abilities and financial backgrounds are provided with the same learning opportunities. With the appropriate technological tools in place, teachers can provide materials in a variety of different formats – such as audio and video – vital for supporting classroom learning for students with disabilities.

Simplifying security 

With wireless and wired network access to be offered across a school to support student learning, IT teams have the crucial task of safeguarding information within that network. A cloud-driven network provides the IT team with a secure and centralised network management solution to ensure that staff, students and guests can seamlessly operate.

For example, within Harrogate Grammar School, ExtremeCloud IQ allowed for more than 2,500 devices to connect at any time, throughout the campus – including BYOD, guest onboarding, and internal mobile devices. Despite the scale of devices on the network, through an end-to-end network management system, IT teams can use network segmentation to maintain control over the network environment at all times. This ensures students aren’t accessing private or otherwise restricted content.

Furthermore, self-driving networks can relieve the burden felt by IT teams as the system can monitor the network, automatically optimising performance, reducing operating costs and quickly identifying anomalous behaviour from ‘bad actors’ so the IT team can take action promptly to the issue at hand.

By establishing a reliable, robust and high-performing network, educational institutions can create the connected classrooms of the future, helping enhance learning experiences, improving educational outcomes and reducing costs. Technology holds tremendous potential for creating smarter, more connected schools, enabling educational institutions to introduce new and improved methods of learning for students. This will change how teachers can deliver lessons, simplify operations for the school’s IT team and provide a safe and secure technology-enhanced learning environment for students and teachers alike.

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