By Pete Hannah, Director of UK and Ireland, NETGEAR
The tech revolution is at an all-time high with many networks reaching a mission-critical state, particularly within the education sector. The educational sector’s IT landscape has drastically changed over the past 10 years. Previously confined to a few desktop PCs found in the reception and library, now, staff and pupils demand instant connectivity throughout the school across a plethora of devices. We are living in the era of the connected classroom. From interactive whiteboards to individual tablets, the traditional classroom has been transformed into a technological paradise.
Educational establishments already appreciate that they must embrace technology in order to enhance learning. Whilst many admit to this, technology often remains low on the priority list, particularly when it comes to budget allocation. For example, a school might be on the verge of enhancing the WiFi network to cope with increasing pressures, but then the mini bus breaks down and has to be replaced. In this case, it is likely that the WiFi infrastructure plans will be put on hold to free up the budget elsewhere.
Filling the knowledge gap
The issue of prioritisation in budget lies in understanding the need and benefit of investing in a technologically enhanced classroom. A prime example of this is how academics have recently argued the important influence artificial intelligence may one day have upon one-to-one tutoring for children. With it not only having the potential capability to improve students’ learning, but also to monitor their well-being.
The issue of prioritisation in budget lies in understanding the need and benefit of investing in a technologically enhanced classroom
Whilst there is still some way to go for the education sector in achieving a full understanding and appreciation of technology in learning, educational establishments need to urgently address the pressure upon its aging legacy networks. This is only set to increase, particularly with the advent of BYOD, meaning the number of students now bringing their own devices onto the premises has increased tenfold. It is, therefore, inevitable that the pressure on the network continues to increase in tandem with the headache of ensuring learning can continue without lag.
Future-proofing school networks
Network infrastructure needs to evolve alongside the technology that is brought into the classroom now, and have the flexibility to sustain the tech that may not be considered, such as CCTV, interactive whiteboards and connected learning tools.
In order for schools to develop in line with the digital revolution and keep teachers one step ahead of tech-savvy students, all education establishments must ensure time and money is invested into developing and understanding the needs to future-proof networks.
For schools to make that first step in addressing the inevitable network issue, whilst embracing and coping with the tech-enabled learning environment, here are some best practise tips:
1. Hire a dedicated IT expert to analyse your network. Checking for pressures on the current infrastructure, whilst considering future requirements and the budget involved.
2. Investing now in agile infrastructure is imperative to preventing unexpected cost or failure in connectivity in the near and distant future. By addressing this immediately, schools are able to avoid the infrastructure reaching mission-critical status.
3. In order to future-proof IT systems within an educational environment, resilient networks and secure back-up systems must be a top priority. With the network often experiencing extreme peaks and troughs in usage, it must be able to cope with high demand and avoid bottle necks. If not, the entire schools network could go down and without a secure back-up system, all documents and data could be lost.
In reality, the idea of a fully connected classroom may be some way off for many schools. However, by investing resource into understanding and addressing the existing pressures on the network, all schools can future-proof their infrastructure and embrace the digital revolution with ease. After all, it’s all about learning for the future.