How many connected devices does the average K-12 school have to support today? 50, 100, 500, 1000, more? It all depends on the size of your school and the type of technology plan you have in place, which could incorporate one or more of the following:
- 1:1 programs
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
- Designated devices per classroom (I.e. shared-use tablets)
- Guest networks
- IoT devices
Each different initiative will affect how many total devices potentially need access to your school's wireless network and depending on your RF design will determine the quality of that experience.
According to a recent study by Pearson, "62% of elementary, middle-school, and high-school students would like to use mobile devices more often in class".
The fact of the matter is that today's students are digital natives, that's why the statistic above and many others are not surprising. Technology is what they're used to and it's what's driving many innovations in almost every industry today.
The challenge is understanding how to create the right WLAN design that will be able to adapt and grow with the technology.
Here are four RF design elements you need to consider to support a reliable, safe and easy to manage digital learning experience.
Start Here: Predictive Site Surveys
The Wi-Fi engineering process is a complex one to say the least. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to navigate successfully. With that said the first place to start if you're implementing any new devices (tablets, Chromebooks etc.) or any new technology initiative like BYOD or a 1:1 program is with a predictive site survey.
This type of Wi-Fi assessment will create the foundation for every other step in the engineering process. Using typically expensive software, network engineers (not physically on-site) will use various data points (blue prints, building materials, number of users, number of devices, types of devices, applications) to create a predictive layout required to support your environment.
We've put together a whiteboard video that details exactly what to expect from a predictive RF design.
Not all predictive site surveys are equal
Above we mentioned that typically predictive site surveys are done using expensive third party software platforms by experienced engineers. However this is not always the case and when its not the results can be pretty bad.
In many cases the outcome is an over-engineered or under-engineered RF design. Both are not good, over-engineered means you have too many access points installed and/or the wrong type, and under-engineered means you don't have enough.
In either case your end users are going to have a bad experience, where they can't login, their devices get dropped or they have sluggish performance.
Having Visibility and Control
Using mobile devices and allowing things like BYOD come with some inherent security risks. It's hard to secure what you can't see and don't own, however it can be done.
Suggested Reading: "How to Support BYOD: The IT Manager's Must-Have Guide"
Role-based access control is one such way that your school's wifi network can automatically identify, assign and enforce pre-determined security rules or policies.
RBAC, as we call it at SecurEdge, allows you to properly address the who, what, where, when and how your users, devices and applications are accessing your network and then create and enforce policies based on that information to easily manage access to your network.
Again, we've created a short video on what RBAC (role-based access control) is and why it will benefit your school. You can watch it here.
Plan Twice, Deploy Once
Using technology in the classroom can be extremely valuable, when it actually works the way it should. Before you deploy any new devices or allow something like BYOD you need to ask yourself, is my network ready to support it?
At SecurEdge Networks, it’s our mission to help you create an affordable, robust, secure, and easy to support wireless network platform. If you have any questions about RF design for K-12 schools or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here today.