Enabling education the wireless way

By Santanu Ghose, Director, Networking, HPE Aruba
snip20161111_3 Santanu Ghose

The current student population in India is said to be 315 million as per the 2011 Census of India. With more than 35,000 colleges and affiliated institutions, the number of college students in India is expected to be over 20 million. As learning processes and the methods of imparting education undergo constant transformation, only one thing can be said for sure – digital learning tools are going to play a large role in the way education is imparted and consumed.

In the last few years, textbook lessons have been replaced by presentations and concepts have been brought to life in videos. Students and professors across the world, have embraced video chats as a medium of communication over voice calls. Not only has this made education a more interactive process, but it has also increased the importance of anytime, anywhere connectivity. The growth in the number of devices accessing the Internet has been behemoth and by 2020, 34 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, with IoT devices accounting for 24 billion. This new generation, #GenMobile, prefers to be continuously connected, and 9 out of 10 students say that reliable, high quality WI-FI is important to their success as a student.  With the lack of a uniform network around the campus, students are prompted to set up their own infrastructure with multiple SSID’s, leading to security concerns. Setting up a uniform wireless network around the campus is now, more vital than ever. The need for anywhere access is considered as important as the bandwidth, and a network capable of scaling to meet the needs of #GenMobile efficiently and economically, has often been a challenge.

The youth of today are also particular about having immediate connectivity, which is as mobile as them. They prefer to move around campus, and they look for connectivity options that can travel with them. Students and teachers also have favourite spaces in the campus, where they frequently assemble to work and collaborate. If there is one thing that they look for, it is access to networks continuously. Educational institutions must employ a mobile-first mind set and approach, to establish and enable wireless connectivity. They will have to invest in sufficient access-points (APs), and run intelligent engines in the back end so that the user is not stuck to one AP as s/he moves – known as the ‘stickiness’ problem – but instead connects to the closest AP, giving them the best experience possible. Campuses are also known to witness a large influx of devices after events like festivals, and they must be ready to scale the network to meet the connectivity needs of these devices – all while ensuring that each device entering the system is accounted for, and proper security measures are in place. The solution to this, lies in adopting Software Defined Networks (SDN) that can take care of all networking needs. Using SDNs, Enterprise IT can automate various parts of the needs for providing secure and continuous connectivity. By configuring a comprehensive set of rules, Enterprise IT can ensure that all devices are functioning normally and users have requisite access to the tools they need. SDNs are not only a more economic approach, but the networks can also be extended beyond the perimeters of the campus, and help establish new revenue models for the campus.

In a world where over 38 percent students consider the quality of campus Wi-Fi as a deciding factor in college selection,3 ensuring that a robust system is in place is indispensable. Giving students the liberty to navigate around campus while being connected, makes learning a more indulging and fulfilling experience, and ensures that the leaders of tomorrow, are equipped today. As colleges and schools, prepare to meet the students’ needs and welcome the many devices that they carry into their networks, they must look at deploying solutions that are relevant not only in the present, but also capable of meeting the needs of the immediate future. With the digital transformation changing the way we interact, the ability to network after all, is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

 

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