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Access to wireless internet is a significant component of everyday life, and consumers have come to expect high-speed, reliable connections whether they’re at home or on the go. When connection speeds do not meet their expectations, it can be extremely frustrating.
The situation is the same when it comes to educational institutions. As more instructional materials move online, there is an increased usage of wireless technology in schools. Whether students and teachers are using tablets, Chromebooks, personal smartphones or wearables, they need access to reliable and fast wireless networks in order to find and receive the information they need.
The shift to online testing to comply with federal requirements makes the in-school network even more essential. However, just 53.6 percent of U.S. principals report having enough bandwidth to support online testing, according to a 2015 report from MCH Strategic Data.
Barriers to Solid Wi-Fi Access
There are other problems affecting schools and their ability to serve students digitally. According to a 2015 report from Insight, an IT services company, 75 percent of schools don’t have sufficient bandwidth for one-to-one computing initiatives. When schools implement one-to-one computing, teachers and students expect to be able to use online videos to illustrate concepts in class and to share presentations. They need to know that the networks will support always-on access so that they don’t waste instructional time waiting for these resources to load.
Many schools simply haven’t been able to upgrade their networks to provide sufficient power and access points because of budget cuts. In fact, a 2015 survey from the Consortium on School Networking found that budget constraints posed the biggest challenge for school IT professionals. In addition, other schools were constructed before wireless Internet access was readily available and lack the physical infrastructure to support it.
Even newer buildings, though, have found it hard to keep up with demand for wireless technology in schools. The International Leadership of Texas (ILTexas) charter school system found themselves in this situation.
How One School District Is Providing a Blazing-Fast Network
ILTexas serves students in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area. Founded in 2013, the school system has quickly grown to include five campuses and instruct 5,400 students — with an additional 6,000 students on a waiting list.
The curriculum is college preparatory with instruction in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. This system relies heavily on technology for assignments, assessments and collaboration with sister schools in China. Because of this high level of dependence on the internet, the school needed to sustain its growth with a new technology provider. After a competitive application process, ILTexas chose Samsung to provide the network hardware, mobile computing tools, security monitoring tools and telephone service.
The backbone of the system is the wireless network, which is configured to provide 20GB access speeds across multiple campuses. The network includes 500 wireless access points and integrates 100 security cameras to monitor student safety and ensure building security.
How Students and Faculty Use Their Technology Tools
Every student at ILTexas has a mobile computing device — either a tablet or a Chromebook. They all come loaded with the ILTexas curriculum materials and anti-virus and firewall software. Using the devices, students can access the network from anywhere on campus to collaborate with other students and teachers in their location, at nearby campuses, or with their partners at sister schools around the world.
Teachers use the classroom management tools to ensure students are on task and to ensure that they aren’t accessing unapproved materials online. Additionally, the IT staff is confident the system can be expanded to serve more students and more campuses, which is especially important considering the rapid growth the school system has seen, to meet the number of students who want to join the ILTexas system.
Looking to overhaul your district’s Wi-Fi infrastructure? Read the case study below to see how ILTexas created a seamless, connected campus environment.