Helping schools deliver secure and consistent learning

Cisco Meraki, an industry leader in cloud-managed IT, has been helping educators simplify the most complex aspects of technology through the unified management of mobile devices, Macs, PCs, and the school entire network. In this video, The Educator speaks to Cisco Meraki product specialist Paul Suhr about how the company has been helping schools bridge the digital divide, protect their students online and thrive during times of disruption.

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Brett: [00:00:14] Hello and thank you for joining us today. I'm Brett Henebery, editor at The Educator. And with me today is Paul Suhr, product manager at Cisco Meraki. Cisco Meraki was recently named one of Australia's five star service providers. Today we'll be talking about how the company is helping schools address important issues, including the digital divide, student safety and the security of their virtual networks. Now, Paul, I want to start by asking you about the digital divide. This is definitely an issue that's going to remain the big one for schools in 2022. What's Cisco Meraki doing to help close this resourcing gap?

Paul: [00:00:49] Thanks, Brett. Thanks for having me here. So schools today have actually been forced to to adapt to these new learning models, such as hybrid learning. And they need to do this to to maintain this learning continuity in what's going to be an ever changing environment. And more than ever, technology is being called upon to give them that ability to provide learning. And if anything, the pandemic is really for schools to focus on their digital strategies and really identify new ways to adapt to change. And being able to do this effectively across the network means that it cannot be over complicated. You know, simplicity is all about the necessity for our team managers to focus on more important challenges, to be able to deliver learning wherever the students may be located. Simplifying a network shouldn't mean that we compromise on capability, and Meraki has been designed to offer all of the benefits of traditional networks without the complexity, ensuring that resources are directed to where they're really needed. Now visibility, control and remote management via the Cloud Manage Dashboard for Meraki give unmatched flexibility in delivering these I.T. resources to schools.

Brett: [00:02:09] Thanks very much for that, Paul. Now, studies have shown that social distancing can adversely affect students social and emotional development. Drawing from some of the work you've been doing with schools, how can educators address this issue?

Paul: [00:02:21] Yeah, so it's a great question, really topical that schools like the rest of society, you know, are facing a lot of doubt and fear. You know, it's important for for schools to understand what is happening in their physical spaces, to take away a lot of that down. So they need to be asking questions like, where are people moving? Now how are people grouping and where are they doing this, you know, and how does a school monitor and respond to this information? So Meraki has the ability to arm the schools with the answers to those questions. Now additionally, Meraki has got the ability to automate, alerting and be able to report on the use of, say, mandatory face masks or social distancing. That may be rules that are being applied per school. Things like tracking surfaces for too much contact on a specific surface so that regular cleaning can take place. Now, these abilities give schools the power to make decisions around whether or not to implement social distancing rules for the future.

Brett: [00:03:31] Some great points to that poll. Thanks very much for that. I'd like to move on to the impact that remote learning and the remote learning experiences had on education. What did this disruptive period teach schools about cybersecurity and what do you see as some key opportunities for schools to improve in this important area in 2022?

Paul: [00:03:51] So, Brett, this is this is really critical, the cyber security aspect, right? So the rise of remote learning has meant that the edge of a school's network has grown exponentially. The amount of devices being now attached to a network, the amount of devices in both students and teachers hands have again blown out. And so with this increase in devices, has also increased the ability for cyber security threats to impact a network. So Meraki helps connect students securely to online tools and resources. Variety systems manager lets I.T. administrators keep track of all the devices. Monitoring the status of those devices for security patches and vulnerabilities is absolutely critical to maintain security within a learning environment. The ability to to view and manage and control applications that are running on the network then gives the school the ability to reduce an attack surface area. So the return to on campus learning will mean that schools now need to be able to deliver secure and consistent learning, both on premise and off premise. And this needs to be done simply if a school is going to be able to be able to maintain policy while students are both on premise and on premise, it means that security is going to be at the forefront of everything that the school does.

Brett: [00:05:25] Very true. Thanks, Paul. A lot of schools are moving towards cloud management for better security. Cyber security, rather. What are some considerations for school leaders when it comes to network security, student privacy and ensuring more streamlined workloads for staff in 2022?

Paul: [00:05:41] Yes, that's a great question, Brett. So the Meraki Cloud Native platform makes it easy for schools to accelerate their digital transformation journey and be able to secure, achieve a secure and flexible school of tomorrow. The Meraki platform allows an I.T. team to scale. We are having less with doing more than being able to gain additional visibility, intelligence and control over the entire network. In addition to all of the usual infrastructure benefits, it can also support a safe return to spaces using advanced CCTV analytics. And these things can include things like people counting heat mapping to really understand where people are moving and what they're doing in certain spaces. Now, as we've already mentioned, security is absolutely a crucial consideration for schools worried about data protection and student well-being. At the same time, especially in light of a recent report from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which named Education as the third most likely to be impacted by privacy breaches, which is a real concern. And so so security is embedded in everything that Meraki does. So in all parts of the network, whether it's from a device to the students using to the way in which they connect to the network, right back into the way the IT manager runs the network. The Meraki Cloud managed platform dramatically simplifies the way in which an IT administrator rights manager can deliver a school's infrastructure and really frees up their time to be focusing on the more important tasks that may be impacting them during this time of transition, whether it's to remote learning or on premise learning.

Brett: [00:07:35] Thanks, Paul. Look, Cisco Meraki is definitely helping schools address some of those more complex challenges they've been facing in recent years. So it's great to see that they're keeping up the good work in 2022. Paul, thanks so much for your time today.

Paul: [00:07:50] It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me, Brett.