All too often, we see wireless networks in schools having a negative impact in education. 9ine know for a fact that this does not have to be the case as an up-to-date wireless solution can add great benefit to the teaching and learning in your school.
Wireless has now become one of those things that has always been there, and it may have been the way it is for so long that staff and students alike have just accepted it, assuming slow speeds and unreliable connections come with the territory. Perhaps there has been the mindset that buying new laptops or tablets will improve the situation? In reality, this will only make the situation worse as your new devices will perform just as poorly as the old.
One thing’s for sure, it certainly does not have to be this way! This article gives you some hints and tips to inform whether you need to invest in a new school wireless network.
Hints and Tips:
- How long have you had your existing wireless network? Best practice recommends a refresh should be undertaken every five years.
- What standard is your wireless network? The latest, fastest standard is 802.11ac. If you have this, or the previous 802.11n standard, you’re in a good position (unless your 802.11n system is getting on in years, in which case, see above). If your system is 802.11g, this is unsuitable for modern devices and should be refreshed.
- Does your wireless device lose connection as you travel around the building? If so, this means one of the following: you do not have seamless roaming, poorly configured or managed wireless network, or insufficient number of access points resulting in ‘black spots’ of coverage. With a desire to have anywhere, anytime learning, all of these issues are unacceptable and could be resolved with the implementation of a new system.
- Do you have class sets of laptops or tablets? Do they struggle to all connect to the network when students try them simultaneously? If so, your existing system suffers from density issues. 802.11g systems in particular suffer from this issue, whereas the latest solutions solve this with functionality such as load-balancing. This will manage the capacity load across access points local to the one being used, rather than trying to handle it all alone therefore providing many devices in a single area reliable data transfer.
- Was your existing wireless solution built with your future projects in mind? For example, you may be planning on introducing a Bring Your Own Device scheme or trolleys of tablet’s. If you’re already suffering from any of the issues listed above, these additional devices will only exacerbate the situation. Newer systems are designed to cope with these kinds of schemes and have built in features to accommodate them.
- Would you like to implement multiple wireless networks, such as one for staff, one for students, one for admin? Perhaps you’d like to offer guest access to parents, governors and visitors. Older systems can struggle to implement this sort of configuration, particularly guest access, whereas new systems are designed with this functionality in mind, allowing you to provide greater flexibility to your end users.
If your answers to any of the above have raised concern then it may be time to give considerable thought to replacing your wireless network. However, it’s also important to understand that performance issues with your wireless may also be down to other factors such as your network infrastructure, internet connection or filtering.
To understand how your systems are performing, where issues could be and to inform any investment needs, an ICT Health Check is advisable. Not only will this type of review consider the immediate decisions, such as wireless, but will also help you plan your strategy for years ahead, align costs with planned upgrades and inform the support and training needed for teachers. An example ICT Health Check and Plan is available at the bottom of this page.
Using the example report, action plan and timeline plan enables schools to make informed decisions; taking into consideration all teaching and learning, technical, operational, and strategic considerations.