Why investment in network infrastructure pays good digital learning dividends

Scalable, secure and reliable networks ease digital learning transitions

Sponsored As of early 2021, 10% of total enrolled learners around the world are still affected by temporary school closures as governments try to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics data. Many countries have been striving to build resilient systems so learning can continue to occur anywhere and at any time through classroom, online or hybrid learning.

For school boards, principals and administrators, priorities have to shift toward network upgrades or updates to drive effective digital learning. More importantly, they can evaluate and choose network infrastructure solutions that help to reap good digital learning dividends through imparting 21st century skills, or the 4Cs of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration, in addition to the 3Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic.

The role of network infrastructure is particularly crucial in supporting digital learning transition at all levels. Where education used to be concentrated in school buildings, it can now be accessed wherever students and teachers have connectivity and access to the internet.

Blended learning, flipped classrooms, gamification and other modern pedagogy depend on fast and reliable connectivity to the school. Wi-Fi and wired networks enable students equipped with mobile devices to access the learning tools that they need.

CommScope has identified challenges in the ‘Five Phases of Digital Learning Transition’ as digital tools enable educators to evolve from Lab-centric, to Teacher-centric, to Student-centric, to Community-centric, to Global-centric.

“Each phase has its own infrastructure requirements to lay a proper foundation – such as multi-gigabit networks, Wi-Fi 6, Cat 6A cabling, cloud-managed networks and ultimately Internet of Things (IoT) and LTE to drive efficiency and improve equity,” says Rich Nedwich, Global Director of Education at CommScope.

Smoother transitions

To facilitate these phases of digital learning transition, CommScope’s RUCKUS wired and wireless network infrastructure portfolio covers every connected user and system with a single, unified framework built for scalability, security and reliability.

Further, with RUCKUS IoT Suite, campus LED lighting, surveillance cameras, alarms, smart ID cards and more work together to facilitate instant cross-campus emergency notifications of a fire or security situation. The RUCKUS ICX switches bring IT and OT under a single umbrella to drive Wi-Fi access points, CCTV, security cameras and other connected devices.

These products address three key concerns of IT administrators planning on upgrading the network infrastructure to smoothen digital learning transitions:

Scaling broadband and network capacity to support more devices and bandwidth-intensive applications.

CommScope SYSTIMAX structured cabling lays the foundation of a converged network that supports speeds up to 100 Gbps with headroom to meet future needs. This is complemented by CommScope’s RUCKUS WLAN solutions that provide high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity indoors and outdoors and RUCKUS ICX long-distance stackable switching between floors or buildings up to 10 km apart.

For example, Rugby School Thailand needed a scalable wired and wireless infrastructure that can grow with its student and faculty populations. It deployed CommScope RUCKUS indoor and outdoor access points (APs) and ICX switches across its 80-acre campus. The network was designed to support more concurrent connections and frequent use of digital learning and online video as part of the daily curriculum.

Protecting student data from misuse or breach.

In higher education, more colleges and universities are embracing the adoption of IoT smart home technologies as part of a modern Smart Campus to attract prospective students. Clearly, as these IoT initiatives advance, more devices connected to the school’s network will contribute to privacy and security challenges.

An important Smart Campus experience is providing each student with a personal, private network that looks and acts like home Wi-Fi. For example, students connected to CommScope’s Smart Campus Personal Student Network can access their devices within the campus, sending a job to their personal printer or streaming video from their personal media server to a smartphone and more.

With each student assigned a private VLAN using RUCKUS Cloudpath software, the college not only reduces the network attack surface but also ensures that malware cannot spread beyond a student’s personal network. The IT team can easily troubleshoot each student’s small private domain or lock out a student using the network for unauthorised or malicious activity.

Seeking advanced network security, Northern India’s Jaypee University of Information Technology (JUIT), which is located in a sprawling campus encompassing over 7,000 square meters of rugged terrain, deployed SmartZone controllers to facilitate unified policy enforcement across wired and wireless networks.

Granular policy rule creation allows network segmentation to be based on the education institution’s security and policy needs. SmartZone also features rogue AP detection, interference detection and mitigation, and hotspot and guest networking services.

As a pivotal solution to secure digital learning, the Cloudpath Enrollment System expedites secure onboarding of devices requesting access to the network for the first time.

The Cloudpath RADIUS policy engine allows dynamic authorisation and network access policy controls in response to changing conditions after a user has connected. For example, students in primary education may be allowed to access streaming video sites only at certain times of the day, or in a certain area of campus.

At Dalian Neusoft University of Information in China, the RUCKUS Cloudpath Enrollment System freed users and IT staff from tedious authentication processes for both wired and wireless devices. The software also eliminates unauthorised access to the internet as well as to internal networks.

Establishing reliable connectivity and inventory while minimising network downtime for blended and distance learning.

In every phase of the digital learning transition, reliable wired, wireless and mobile connectivity is needed to allow IT infrastructure and disparate digital learning systems to interact.

Solutions like RUCKUS Analytics and imVision automated infrastructure management from CommScope provide deep, real-time insights into network health and security to reduce downtime and avoid degraded service.

Education institutions have used RUCKUS Analytics’ network service validation feature to test network readiness based on synthetic test traffic from Wi-Fi APs. It is powerful to know, for instance, that the network in a classroom is ready for an upcoming reopening or test. RUCKUS Analytics’s standardised reports provide visibility into network performance, traffic patterns, application usage and more.

Meanwhile, a K-12 school in the US used the imVision circuit trace feature to troubleshoot and restore power and connectivity to its IP PoE cameras, and the IT department of a university in the Middle East-Africa region used imVision’s alert-when-moved feature to receive notifications of a moved or missing printer to quickly locate and restore it to its original location.

Digital dividends

During this period of pandemic-accelerated education transformation, CommScope solutions are easing digital transitions and establishing scalable, secure and reliable connectivity for effective online or hybrid learning.

Sponsored by CommScope®

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