A class act: how the education industry can balance flexibility with security

In the last 5-10 years the modern classroom has undergone significant transformation. Schools are seeing the benefits that technology can bring to the learning experience and the ways in which it can change the dynamics of the classroom to keep students engaged.

Technological development has created new educational opportunities for students and teachers alike. This means schools’ IT decisions and network-management strategies are critical to ever-more central to academic success. The increased usage of Wi-Fi by multiple users, on multiple devices, has created a ‘network of the unknown’ in many schools.

According to recent research from Aerohive which surveyed IT teams in UK schools, most encourage students to use their own devices. But just 42% have controls in place to manage this influx. And the situation doesn’t look set to improve much in the next three years. By 2018, just 47% are expecting to have the necessary controls in place.

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It’s no wonder one of the biggest frustrations with current Wi-Fi systems is the need to balance flexibility with security. Almost two-thirds of IT managers experience pain in this area. Schools want to provide students with flexible learning through Wi-Fi and mobile technology, but in reality this creates complex security issues.

The lack of control and intelligence around devices using school connectivity has created a poor network visibility epidemic. If it’s unclear who is using the network for what – and with which devices – it follows that the network will inevitably fail to meet user expectations.

The highest levels of security that should be implemented are often neglected in favour of user flexibility. With newer authentication methods such as PPSK (Private Pre-Shared Key) offering secure user and device connectivity without the need for certificates, it is now becoming easier to offer a simple yet secure environment for school and personal devices.

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If doors are open to student, staff, and guest personal devices, it may not always be clear who is on the network, which devices they are connecting with, what applications are being accessed, and where they are located. The appropriate management platform will provide comprehensive visibility and control, which should result in optimised network performance and better learning outcomes.

Teachers should be focused on teaching, not troubleshooting Wi-Fi connectivity problems. Cloud-based Wi-Fi solutions are offering exciting opportunities to not only simplify the management experience for the IT department, but also to unlock new engagement possibilities in the classroom that are driven by mobility.

For instance, when students bring their device into a classroom, the teacher should be able to register those devices and enrol them within the assigned lesson plan, including screen sharing, pushing resources, monitoring student activity and more.

With the right Wi-Fi solution in place, schools will be free to maximise the potential of their students. It’s an exciting time for pupils and those who take pride in delivering the best possible education to the next generation.

Sourced from Paul Hennin, Senior Director, International Marketing, Aerohive Networks

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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