The invisible tech behind classrooms of the future

Dahwood Ahmed, senior country manager at Extreme Networks, explains why education providers must adopt a robust and reliable network to support the technologies of tomorrow

With universities now spending £140m a year on technology, the connected classroom stands to transform the future of education. 

To understand exactly what benefits digitisation can offer the classroom, we should look to how businesses have already benefited from this transition. Digital solutions and practices like remote-working and paperless workspaces have restructured how the modern business operates. This shouldn’t be any different for education organisations. 

Offering a more engaged learning experience, reduced workloads for teachers, and lower costs for institutions – the connected classroom has clear appeal for education decision-makers.

Supporting the future of learning

Standardised learning is becoming increasingly outmoded as modern students expect a more technologically enabled learning experience. With the student experience ever more paramount, pen-and-paper and textbook learning methods are becoming obsolete. Instead, digital natives are using technology to personalise their experience, while teachers are using new integrated tools and technologies to facilitate better engagement, interactivity and attainment.

More than simply modernising the learning experience, schools and universities must be forward-looking and set themselves up for the future. Having the right network infrastructure in place enables organisations to unlock and capitalise on new technologies as they emerge. As drones, voicebots, AI and 3D printers are more commonly used to engage students, there will be additional strain on existing network infrastructure to support them.

More than simply modernising the learning experience, schools and universities must be forward-looking and set themselves up for the future

Network considerations 

Recent research from the Department for Education indicates that 46% of people aged 5–15 have a mobile phone and 49% have a tablet. For the legacy network infrastructure common to many schools, the bandwidth requirements to host this number of devices can throttle performance or lead to unreliable service. When we consider the additional requirements to support future learning tools such as smartboards, 3D printers, voicebots and smart assistants, it’s clear that existing wired or wireless networks aren’t up to the task.

Another consideration is ensuring that the network can both provide students with a safe network environment, and that corporate technologies and information are appropriately siloed. With a cohesive network environment encompassing campuses, it’s crucial that critical information is secured apart from student systems. The key here is efficient and effective network segmentation.

Thankfully, various solutions are already helping organisations address the many challenges of providing a powerful and robust network that fuels the digital learning experience. 

One is AI or, more specifically, a self-driving network. By leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a self-driving network, the burden for IT teams is reduced, allowing them to devote their time to value-on initiatives that improve IT services for students. Likewise, self-driving networks are capable of independently monitoring the network environment to automatically optimise performance, increase economies of scale and decrease operating costs. Self-driving networks also have a hand to play in improving security. 

By automatically identifying anomalous behaviour, threats can be detected quickly, even at scale, and trigger alerts for the security team to take action. 

The emerging reality is that the learning experience is evolving as education decision-makers look to integrate the paradigm shifts seen in other sectors. Laying down robust, secure and scalable network infrastructure is an essential foundation for schools and colleges as they embrace digital transformation. Integrated software and devices that can enable organisations to move away from archaic teaching methods to innovative learning spaces are set to improve engagement, enable active learning and overall knowledge attainment. With these benefits in mind, it is important that education organisations put the network in place today to support the connected classroom of tomorrow.  

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