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Tri-Creek School Corporation

Tri-Creek School Corporation

Highlights

  • High-performance cloud managed WiFi provides reliable district-wide connectivity
  • 170 APs deployed in just minutes each, from unboxing to final configuration
  • Layer 7 application visibility provide insight into users, devices, and applications

Getting mobile devices into the hands of students and preparing the school for an upcoming 1:1 environment was Tri-Creek School Corporation’s call to action, and it spurred Jay Blackman, Director of Information and Education Technology, to find a better wireless solution. The school’s legacy 802.11b/g network still provided adequate coverage for its old needs. But Blackman knew it didn’t have the coverage and reliability to support a changing learning environment dependent on wireless devices.

The district, located in Lowell, Indiana, wanted to support WiFi at its administrative center, maintenance warehouse, transportation center, athletic facility, and most importantly, its five schools. “Gearing up for a 1:1 mobile device implementation, we needed to have a reliable, robust system in place,” Blackman said. He was looking for a network that would provide increased coverage without sacrificing speed, the ability to easily expand the network if needed, and low-maintenance management.

Tri-Creek heard about Meraki’s cloud-managed solution, inspiring Blackman to research the advantages of cloud-based networking. After hearing many positive reviews about Meraki from other schools, Blackman evaluated Meraki alongside HP, Aerohive, Meru, and Ruckus. He ran each vendor through a barrage of tests, starting with connection strength and reliability. Other vendors started dropping clients with only 25-30 devices connected; Tri-Creek’s Network Administrator John Toma noted, “We went to Meraki and were up to twice as many devices and still had no problems.”

In another round of tests focusing on network speed, Blackman found that other vendors’ WiFi solutions could not stand up to 30 laptops concurrently streaming HD video. Meraki performed without a hitch, even while one of the two APs was unplugged during streaming.

“We literally threw everything we had at the Meraki access points and they just kept going!” exclaimed Blackman. “Meraki gave us a warm feeling that we could have so many students on the network and not experience any problems,” said Toma.

A two-man team quickly deployed 170 Meraki access points, installing each AP in just minutes. “I was impressed by how simple it was to plug in the APs and have them automatically populate in Meraki’s dashboard,” said Blackman.

Now Toma and Blackman provide support for the district’s entire wireless network, changing the way students learn by putting the Internet directly into the hands of their students through the 1:1 program.

“In order to support 21st century learners with an ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning environment, a reliable, high-performance network is key – Meraki has helped us to get there,” Blackman explained. In fact, Tri-Creek is not stopping at a 1:1 program. According to Blackman, Tri-Creek recently opened one of their networks for a BYOD (bring your own device) program. “Students are bringing their own devices and we have had nothing but success in supporting them,” he said.

With Meraki’s scalability, if an area is light on signal coverage, there’s a quick fix. “Instead of telling students to find another place to work, we can simply add another AP at a moment’s notice and instantly create a learning space,” Blackman said.

In order to support 21st century learners with an ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning environment, a reliable, high-performance network is key – Meraki has helped us to get there. Jay Blackman, Director of Information and Education Technology

Blackman delights in the ability to manage the network “on the fly” through Meraki’s web-based dashboard. “I can troubleshoot while in the field and diagnose a problem without ever having to go to an office,” he said. Meanwhile, the dashboard provides additional visibility, allowing Toma and Blackman to see not only the devices connected to the network, but also the individual applications and associated bandwidth usage network-wide. This wealth of data about how the network is actually being used can easily be shared with administrative teams, facilitating conversations about how to best support the variety of devices on the network.

“In the business of education, schools often overlook the value of data on network usage in planning, supporting classrooms, and sharing successes,” Blackman said. “Meraki gives you the means to discover these and more.”

In a technologically evolving district moving to a 1:1 environment, Toma and Blackman chose Meraki. “We knew we needed a change and we needed the best,” Blackman said. “Meraki more than meets what we expect out of a wireless product — it’s very flexible, very easy, and very powerful. It’s a great solution for schools and instructional environments and I can’t say enough how happy we are.”