British firm Nord Anglia Education, which runs 14 private schools throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East, has deployed Xirrus Wireless Arrays across its European facilities to satisfy demand for wireless connectivity and support a new BYOD programme.
Many of Nord Anglia's 10,000 students and 3,000 staff use their own laptops, tablets and smartphones whilst at school to access online educational tools. It is also becoming common practice for teachers to stream or download content in the classroom.
Historically, all of the schools have implemented their own wireless solutions with varying degrees of success. In most cases the biggest problem is capacity, where large numbers of students are trying to access the network simultaneously.
This results in the network becoming clogged, and some students have resorted to using 3G cards to circumvent the school wireless network altogether.
The Xirrus solution provides four times the coverage and up to eight times the bandwidth and capacity of traditional access points, making it ideal for the high user density found in an educational environment, according to Nord Anglia's regional IT director for Europe, Bartek Cezak.
“It's a massive change to have a proper working WiFi network. Within the schools people are changing the way they think about connectivity,” Cezak told Techworld.
“People always used to think that an IT system was something located within the classroom. Now they have it everywhere, they have it on their mobile phones, they have it on their iPads. It's very easily accessible.”
Nord Anglia Education is also using Xirrus Application Control to prioritise critical applications, restrict usage of bandwidth-heavy applications and block restricted applications.
“Within the school environment we are very strong on content filtering in order to deliver appropriate content to our students,” said Cezak. “The schools now have the ability to do application control, which is quite important in our case.”
The Xirrus deployment has allowed Nord Anglia to launch mobile applications such as Moodle, which enables teachers to post interactive video and picture content online, as well as providing a central repository where homework can be uploaded.
It is also launching a wireless Student Management System application in 2013, which automatically provides teachers and staff with student information, attendance records, medical history and contact information for each student on their mobile device.
The investment is future-proof, because Xirrus arrays are designed to support the new 802.11ac standard, which will be certified next year, meaning that Nord Anglia can add 802.11ac modules into the existing chassis.
“We did our analysis with other vendors, and Xirrus was in our opinion the right balance between the quality they were providing at the affordable cost,” said Cezak.
Nord Anglia Education has currently installed Xirrus arrays across all its European schools, and intends to do the same in Asia during 2013.
“This deployment is a great example of how schools are innovating to accommodate the BYOD trend and provide better learning experiences for students,” said Sean Larner, VP of international sales at Xirrus.
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