The User Experience: How to Support the Demand for Wi-Fi in Schools
Nothing is worse than a slow connection. Some of us remember the days when a wired internet connection delivered a sluggish loading page or when researching online was more painful than a dentist visit. Today, however, there is no reason to not have an efficient and reliable wireless connection, both in and out of the classroom.
Free wireless connectivity on campus is today's norm. No longer do students hope to have wireless internet access, today they expect efficient, 24/7 access to their school's wi-fi for their academic needs and beyond (we know you're streaming Netflix too!)
Unfortunately, the ongoing trend for BYOD amongst other trends is dragging down network performance. The multiple device world of constantly streaming videos, online gaming, web browsing, and socializing can seriously slow down your network's speed.
You do not want your campus being known for terrible wi-fi, that is almost as bad as being known for awful sports or worse academics. Campus wireless networks can either increase bandwidth or follow these 4 simple tips to improve the school’s Wi-Fi network (you could do both, of course!)
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1.) Know Your Users
A great wireless experience is built around your user’s needs and specifications. For this to work, you should first understand your use; how they want to use technology, and what will best support their needs.
You need to analyze how your students use campus wifi to achieve everyday tasks. Does Sarah stream Spotify, browse Facebook, and work on Moodle all at the same time?
Does Mike check his emails every 30 minutes? Does Bob depend on Internet navigation to go places, like finding the coffee shop on campus? Do you have a stadium packed with fans for your football game all trying to access your network?
To effectively answer these questions you need to go beyond just knowing the needs, wants, and desires of your students and visitors.
You also need real-time visibility into exactly how they are accessing your network and what they are doing on the network, these insights will allow you to design your network for the optimal wireless coverage and capacity, resulting far less wireless headaches in the future.
2.) Know What You are Made of
To build the most efficient wireless network, you should also understand your environment. This means knowing what your buildings are made of, as well as the load you have to balance.
The structure of your buildings will play a key part in how you design your network. Does your campus have old buildings that were built with concrete or brick?
It might seem like common sense but it gets overlooked all the time, people weren't considering wireless when building that library back in the 1920s and now we have to deal with it to make our wireless world work.
Dense building materials such as brick or rock walls can significantly dampen the strength of your wireless signal, hence, you might need more or advanced access points to maintain a fast, reliable connection. Materials that hold water,such as materials in bathrooms, will also limit the range of wireless signals and effect your school wireless network.
What are the busiest places on your campus? The dorms, cafeterias and food courts, libraries, and sports facilities are usually packed with students that are carrying at least one device. Do you find that students crowd areas that have the best wi-fi coverage and complain about those that do not?
Using proper analytics and wifi management to understand the load on your wireless infrastructure ensures you have seamless wireless coverage by placing additional wireless access points in your busiest locations.
3.) Balance Security with Efficiency
Securing your network becomes a major concern with the increasing number of devices coming onto your environment. So how do you provide network resources to your students without compromising data security?
One answer is Network Access Control (NAC). NAC does this by placing data restrictions on what each user can access based on policies or rules created by you.
In addition, NAC regulates and restricts the activities each user is allowed to do once they are connected. This will ensure that students will have the access they need without compromising data that the school needs to keep safe.
You do not want your students streaming Netflix and downloading music or other content during class hours taking away valuable bandwidth from those who really need it do you?
4.) Utilize New Technology
The potential of real-time location services or more popularly, “beacons,” has skyrocketed parallel to the surge in mobile adoption. Schools have an opportunity to take advantage of these new technologies.
Schools can deploy customized school apps to work with strategically placed beacons around the campus. This has tons of different applications such as using beacons to automate attendance and reporting; specific locations and things around the campus could be “senor-enabled” to provide an interactive, location-based experience.
Suddenly finding the health care center, nearest Starbucks, your next class, or even finding a student in an emergency is now possible in real-time.
The possibilities are endless, beacons create a new environment to aid both the students, visitors, and faculty to optimize wifi for the best user experience.
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The modernization of our schools requires the right strategy and wireless infrastructure to take advantage of the new wireless or mobile technologies available.
Wireless and secure mobility are playing an ever increasing role in providing your students, guests and faculty with the "user experience" they need and in many cases expect. Making wireless a critical priority will not only affect the success of your students and staff but it will also affect your bottom line and in some cases your job.
Writing continues to be the focal point of Pamela’s professional life and molds her personality. She dips her toes into content marketing for many different industries, making her a jack-of-all-trades. Pamela joined SecurEdge with the goal of creating content that delivers maximum value, while still being entertaining. In her life outside of writing, she enjoys a lot of family time, catching up with a boatload of TV shows, and expressing herself through nail art! If you need some color to your day, drop her a line or two!