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Wireless networking in education. Not just any Wi-Fi will do

The Corbel Blog

The modern day classrooms and lecture theatres promise an amazing learning experience. Networked connected televisions and interactive whiteboards streaming online content, along with laptops, chrome books and tablets all providing a more engaging experience for todays students.

All this technology while amazing and improving the depth of education, can create new challenges for schools, IT departments and IT infrastructure. As well as lesson plans depending upon skilled tutors, lessons are becoming increasingly reliant on technology and connectivity to school networks to improve access to educational resources. The typical classroom may still be using a wired network connection at fixed points to allow network access but it is becoming increasingly important to facilitate site-wide access to educational resources so tutors, students and other staff can work in relative freedom.

Wireless in educationWireless (Wi-Fi) networks provide access to class materials, video services and social applications anywhere on the campus for both students and staff. This means that the interactive learning experience can be expanded from the classroom to the canteens, halls of residence and areas where fixed stations aren’t so practical – such as engineering, drama and sports facilities. The modern student sees Wi-Fi as a staple facility, along the same lines as electricity and fresh running water. Most students are connected to some form of internet connection outside of their school life so they work well when faced with connectivity during their academic lives. These wireless networks need to be able to give the freedom to allow students to receive a quality education but they also need to be secure and protect the students from online threats, meeting guidelines such as Keeping Children Safe In Education (KCSIE) for example.

Ruckus wireless systems are proven in the field and provide a consistent, reliable connection that no other Wi-Fi system can offer. These systems offer increased coverage using fewer devices, lowering running costs and reducing the budget required for the initial investment. Another reason that Ruckus is especially well received in education as well as in the private sector is due to the comprehensive range of security options, allowing varying privileges for students, teachers, staff and other groups for example.

Wireless in education. Ruckus Wireless devices.The ZoneFlex access points from Ruckus feature BeamFlex which monitors the environment and dynamically adjusts the wireless signal to the best path, negotiating obstacles and areas of interference. This high-gain, smart antenna array guarantees the best signal strength, highest throughput and lowest interference so the classroom experience is more about learning than lag and load times.

ZoneFlex units can be configured reasonably easily due to an on-screen wizard, making deployment simple and painless. Site surveys are simpler due to the incredible coverage offered by Ruckus devices and devices can be placed in locations more convenient without the usual signal restrictions. The IT department can also manage the units easily, adding SSIDs to support different traffic types or user groups, creating a single Wi-Fi network that useful and secure for everyone.

Ruckus also utilise a technology that allows wireless networks to run without every access point needing a network cable. Smart Mesh is a wireless meshing technology that makes it possible to extend coverage to temporary and difficult to cable areas, such as fields, quads and sports courts. Again, management of this access points is simple as they’re part of a single system controlled from a single console.

Wireless networks are also perfectly scalable and can grow as your needs and your site expand. To illustrate this, here’s two examples of Wi-Fi networks that we’ve implemented using Ruckus devices:

 

Example 1: St. Mary’s Catholic School, Ipswich

St. Mary’s approached Corbel to design and implement the first initial wireless network on the school site as they were going to be using Chromebooks with their students and required Wi-Fi connectivity for them.

After an initial site survey, we designed and installed a Ruckus Unleashed solution involving five access points. This cost-effective solution is easy to manage and will support their current needs and those into the future, while still being scalable with additional access points as and when required.

 

Example 2: St Joseph’s College, Ipswich

St. Joseph’s were running an expensive wireless network that featured thirty access points. This network solution was proving expensive to maintain and upgrade so when the College decided to re-purpose their IT suites and move over to Chromebooks, Corbel were tasked with designing a more manageable and cost-effective Wi-Fi solution.

The Ruckus solution implemented has reduced costs and improved the overall coverage of Wi-Fi across the College grounds. The solution originally involved thirty-nine indoor access points and a management unit (also known as a Zone Director unit) for easy maintenance of the entire network.

This solution has provided the College with a much wider coverage and more secure wireless network that also allows the boarding students to use their own laptops and devices in residence. A SonicWALL firewall monitors the internet activity at the residence and the boarding students use a different network SSID from other students, another advantage of using Ruckus devices, allowing the students to have different privileges to other students and staff when in their own residence.

The network has since been upgraded to a forty-three unit access point solution, including the addition of some outside network points. A recently completed Sixth Form block has full wireless coverage for students and also features a work area with Apple iPads allowing students to browse and do work using cloud-based applications when not using their laptops. The network expansion has also allowed the College to provide free Wi-Fi access to parents and students during the National Schools Rugby Festival which is hosted at St Joseph’s College each year. The Festival also streams all its games live on the Internet so combined with the free Wi-Fi access means that visitors to the Rugby Festival can watch games wherever they are in the College grounds – they never have to miss a second of the action.

To find out more information regarding Ruckus wireless systems, please visit our Ruckus partner page. Alternatively, use our contact form or speak to a member of our wireless team on 01473 241515.