Today, the need for higher density, higher throughput and higher capacity are critical to wireless networks. These are the things that everyone wants from their wireless network–especially schools. These are the promises of Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 (known in more technical terms as 802.11ax) is the latest emerging wireless standard, offering several new improvements to make it the highest performing set of wireless protocols to date. Not only will Wi-Fi 6 boost overall performance on paper, but it is specifically designed to perform efficiently in real-world scenarios that Wi-Fi currently struggles in, such as when 25 students all hop on the classroom Wi-Fi at the same time. This allows end users to experience always-on connectivity without bottlenecks or performance degradation.
While every industry can benefit from the promises of Wi-Fi 6, one in particular is ready to benefit from this change: education. While most of us remember those school days spent searching through binders of papers, sharpening pencils in the middle of a test, and carrying heavy books from class to class, classrooms of today are transforming into central hubs of technology innovation and experimentation around the world. This shift has led to the need for secure and persistent Wi-Fi.
So what challenges will Wi-Fi 6 help the schools of tomorrow solve?
With an expected 50% increase in networked devices per person by 2020, equivalent to about 3.6 connected devices per person, schools are in for more of a bandwidth challenge than most. Additionally, more schools are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to increase school safety, improve operations and save costs. Together, this changes the requirements for many school networks. Traditionally, schools would add more access points to high density areas to try and combat reliability issues, but this has been found to cause congestion with overlapping signals. Plus, just having connections in classrooms is no longer enough; high density access points will be required everywhere on school grounds in order to accommodate students roaming with several mobile devices and wireless IoT devices.
Who are the first people to generally test out new technologies? Students. As a result, school networks are the first to handle hundreds of new devices at the same time. Not only are Wi-Fi 6-supported mobile devices already hitting the network, but the traffic per smartphone is expected to grow 10x by 2022. And if that isn’t enough, bandwidth-intensive video is expected to grow from 3% of all IP traffic in 2017 to 22% in 2022, already challenging networks with high throughput demands. To top it all off, 8K streaming is just on the horizon (and we know students will pick the highest streaming video quality they can!).
In the classroom, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), collaboration applications and other bandwidth-intensive technologies are already starting to provide a more immersive learning experience. With teachers already using video and other wireless technologies for instruction, having higher throughput will ensure learning goes on uninterrupted and teachers have more freedom to bring new capabilities into the classroom.
All this change will come faster than you think. For Jaymon Lefebvre, Director of IT Services at Wild Rose School Division (WRSD), the rapid increase in student and IoT devices poses unique networking obstacles for the district to overcome. As a rural school district in Alberta, Canada, WRSD has many students who don’t have Wi-Fi access at home. Therefore, WRSD is not only accommodating devices for learning, but also students’ personal devices, which they use to download content and homework while at school so they can continue using their devices at home.
Additionally, learning no longer just takes place in the classroom. At any given time, students are learning wherever they go, using high-bandwidth applications in the hallways and outside. Teachers are starting to use tiny, single-board computers more regularly, like Raspberry Pis and VR headsets for instruction. With up to 30 students per classroom, each with several devices, Lefebvre’s team wants to make sure there are no limitations to new and creative learning techniques.
The IT team has started deploying Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs to continue supporting the current technologies used by students and staff, while still getting classrooms ready to support new technologies. The Wi-Fi 6 APs not only provide higher density and throughput to support students and staff, but also enable the team to support over 15,000 wireless devices and focus on providing better experiences for the school division.
In the face of a new digital era, reliable connections allow students at WRSD to have the same learning experience as kids anywhere in the world, opening up new opportunities that were not possible before. To learn more about WRSD and how they are using Wi-Fi 6, watch the on demand webinar.
With over 16,000 students and 31 schools, Nash-Rocky Mount Schools (NRMS) in North Carolina is continuously growing its technology stack in order to provide the best experiences for students. The IT team started this journey with a 1:1 program, but with an aging network that provided limited visibility and control, the team needed a new, more reliable wired and wireless network. They chose Cisco Meraki, not only because they knew a cloud-managed solution could support the increased technology demands, but because Meraki was also easier to manage and maintain.
NRMS has paved the way for schools across the nation by pioneering a cloud-managed networking solution to support new digital learning technology. But don’t just take it from us — hear directly from Tremaine McQueen, Chief Technology Officer, and James Williams, Senior Network Engineer at NRMS about how they transformed digital learning with the help of Cisco Meraki. You’ll learn:
Why NRMS chose a cloud-managed solution over a traditional, controller-based network
How their revamped network is able to support a district-wide 1:1 device program, giving teachers the confidence to bring new technology into the classroom to improve student learning
How NRMS used E-rate funding to upgrade their Meraki network several years after their initial deployment to continue supporting new digital learning initiatives
Summer is coming to a close faster then we would all like to believe. Families are slowly returning from weeks at sandy beaches and crystal clear lakes, postponing their back to school shopping trips for as long as possible. But soon enough, students will need new backpacks, stylish clothes, and the latest gadgets for their first day of school.
While parents are busy checking items off of their back to school shopping list, IT teams at K-12 school districts nationwide have a technology list of their own to attend to. With blended and personalized learning, 1:1 device programs, and BYOD continuing to have a growing impact, IT teams need to make sure their networks are ready to handle the increase in traffic for the 2018/2019 school year.
Luckily, with a new school year comes a new round of E-rate funding, with around $3B available for K-12 schools to use for networking infrastructure. As the last year in the five year funding cycle, now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity and invest in powerful new solutions.
Here are three E-rate eligible products that you should add to your back to school list this year:
Meraki MR access points: Deliver superior performance in high-density wireless environments with Meraki access points. Easily throttle bandwidth hogs, filter content, block unwanted traffic, and prioritize educational apps for 1:1 or BYOD programs, with no network slowdowns.Let teachers spend more time teaching and students spend more time learning with seamless access to digital learning resources and no shortage of bandwidth.
Meraki MS switches: Provide a seamless network experience for students and staff with access and aggregation switches that can be managed and configured from anywhere. With zero-touch provisioning, enhanced network visibility, and the ability to troubleshoot network issues remotely, Meraki switches are the perfect backbone for K-12 school districts.
Meraki MX security appliances: Secure school networks with group policies, automatic firmware updates, and intrusion prevention. Stop malicious threats and files before they enter the network, while analyzing files retrospectively to spot compromising behaviors in the future. By building a strong security system, schools can stop cyber criminals from gaining access to private student data.
It’s time to figure out your school year priorities, what new technologies to invest in, and how to fund your plans. Attend one of the webinars in our E-rate webinar series to learn more about how you can better support students and staff with improved networking infrastructure with E-rate funding. We will have technical deep dives into Meraki access points, switches, and security appliances for K-12. Register today!
In a rural public school district in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, Scott Miller, Director of Technology, had a vision: to set up a 1:1 iPad initiative for his students, flip his district’s classrooms, and ensure that every child had the same access to technology no matter their economic background. With a 1:1 initiative, the Wayne Highlands School District IT team knew they could improve student engagement, understanding, and enthusiasm with personalized learning, peer interactions, and new communication methods. But with more than 20,000 students supported by a 10-year-old network, how could Scott make that vision a reality?
With chalkboards and hand-written essays, cramping hands and tired eyes were all too common in schools of yesteryear. But classrooms today are tasked with providing a different learning experience — one that incorporates technology in all aspects to enable more impactful lessons, easier peer review, and new ways of understanding traditional topics. Hector Reyna, CTO at Socorro Independent School District knew this was a priority, but when his district started to explore implementing a 21st-century learning model, complete with digital literacy, collaboration, and problem solving tools, they discovered that their access points and underlying network were not going to make the cut. How was Hector going to provide the foundation for the education his students needed to thrive in today’s digital world?
From four schools in 2013 to 13 by the end of 2018, Ascend Public Charter Schools has rapidly expanded over the last five years to accommodate more teachers, more students, and more opportunities for learning. But the growing pains from exponential expansion quickly became a reality — each school had its own network, with different vendors, separate controllers, and slow VPN connections. The mythical wireless coverage was practically useless, making it hopeless for teachers to conduct digital lessons and preventing students from participating in digital curriculum. Managing Director of Technology, Emeka Ibekweh, knew he needed to consolidate all of the schools’ networks into one and provide adequate coverage, but with what budget?
IT leaders at K-12 schools across the United States face a similar challenge: to provide the best learning experiences for students, even with aging infrastructure and limited technology budget. Although this challenge is unlikely to fade in the short-term, IT leaders can address it today. All three of these schools were able to make their networking dreams become a reality with E-rate funding. With funds received through the E-rate program, Wayne Highlands deployed a reliable network to support a 1:1 device program, Socorro implemented district-wide wireless to provide equal access for all of his students; and Ascend rolled out a full network refresh to simplify network management.