Optimising your school’s ICT networks: a case-study

Optimising your school’s ICT networks: a case-study

Primary and secondary schools across Australia and New Zealand are increasingly expected to integrate digital learning into the curriculum.

The NSW Department of Education and Evidence for Learning recently analysed more than ‘10,000 pieces of research’ to better understand the role of digital tools in the classroom.

The study concluded that “there is strong evidence that learning gains can be made through the use of technology” and this will continue as technology “becomes more ubiquitous.”

Now more than ever, principals and school decision makers need to assess their school’s technology infrastructure to ensure it is meeting the needs of the digital curriculum now and into the future, especially wireless networks.

Martin Good, IT Manager at Pukekohe High School, New Zealand, said a networking upgrade rolled out in November 2017 has delivered some significant benefits across the school.

Embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Pukekohe was financially challenged in being able to provide computers to all its students. In order to facilitate the e-learning curriculum, it was necessary that a BYOD program was implemented.

This was crucial for students to learn digital literacy - a foundational skill that the students of today are expected learn at school and build on during their careers.

Pukekohe needed a considerable investment in networking technology to be able to meet the demands of the BYOD program, as the school is projected to grow 43 percent, from 1,750 students to ultimately 2,500.

Growth of this proportion would place considerable demands on the current network, which is unable to cope with the increased traffic and throughput of extra students connecting to the existing access points.

For example, during 2018 examinations, 3,000 concurrent connections were using a combined 1,000GB of data. Furthermore, the current solution used a single core switch design, which meant there was only one point of failure.

A solution with future growth in mind

Partial funding for the infrastructure upgrade was available from the Ministry of Education in New Zealand. The Principal and IT Manager worked with Ruckus who agreed to upgrade Pukekohe to make the school a reference site.

This allowed Pukekohe to implement an advanced solution, while staying within a tight budget.

Ruckus provided ongoing consultation throughout the implementation to ensure the solution would meet the needs of the teachers and students.

The result was a 10-gigabit connection to allow for multiple simultaneous connections, improved network ‘plumbing’ to alleviate the points of failure and a new console that allows for simple management of the network, even by non-IT staff.

Pitfalls and solutions of managing ICT-related matters

Good shared three key learnings from the experience that helped make it a success.

1.         Align with the team internally – work with the IT committee and the head of curriculum to align on what the end result needs to deliver. For example, is speed the issue or is network capacity the barrier?

2.         Work with the implementation specialists to ensure the process is ideal – it was crucial that the students and teachers experienced as little ‘down time’ as possible. The Ruckus team were able to schedule work after-hours, so no class time was interrupted

3.         Plan well into the future – in New Zealand, The Ministry of Education is pushing schools to be serverless as more applications move into the cloud. This will increase demands on the network, as data needs will drastically increase.