In the field of IT work, nothing is static – except for the constant requirement that a network perform quickly and efficiently. For IT teams in the education industry, student learning and school performance can depend on optimized networks. Now more than ever schools are migrating to online testing, rather than traditional pencil and paper. Some schools require students to achieve certain test scores in order to reach the next grade, or even graduate. Other schools depend on standardized testing for federal grants. Tension can run high for both students and teachers – and that’s if the tests run smoothly. If network issues interrupt the process, schools may be forced to cancel testing. Some schools have had to request waivers for retention rules when students were forced to spend three or more days retaking tests, and were still unable to finish due to network interruptions. The primary question for IT is – Is your network infrastructure going to perform optimally when the time comes, to support state-wide testing requirements, or is it going to be “testing the IT department” as well, while students take the academic test?
That is not an easy question to answer. Something that can stress IT folks is that every school is unique in their learning environment and something that works in one environment may not necessarily work in another environment. Networks must be designed to effectively accommodate all data requests. Determining capacity means taking into account several different variables, such as the number of users on the network, the number and type of clients on the network and whether there are additional WiFi interfering clients, whether connections are wired or wireless, the amount of data that must be supported, the format of media, and the time needed for student testing. For the most accurate assessment, all factors must be included, and this will take time.
Start with a few key pieces:
1. Determine the number and type of devices on the network,
2. Where those devices are used,
3. How often those devices are used normally, and
4. How that information changes during times of peak loads – such as testing weeks.
With that information, determine how many access points are needed throughout the school. For many school networks, Internet is not only required in classrooms, but in lunchrooms, media centers, external classrooms, offices, and perhaps even for smart boards and security cameras. Also, use the information to decide how much bandwidth each student needs. Do students require 1 Mbps each or upwards of 5 Mbps? Keep in mind that while students might be the only ones with testing requirements, there will likely be concurrent users on the network, whether teachers, administrators or other staff.
If you determine your school needs to upgrade, create an estimate that includes both your bandwidth needs for the next three years, as well as options for increasing bandwidth during that time, if the necessity arises. This would be a good time to look at how network usage changed over the last three years, if such data is readily available. Remember, taking the time now means no interference later when students take tests that can determine grade-level and school funding.
If the amount of data involved seems overwhelming, or difficult to access and analyze, consider working with a WiFi analytics company. These companies are designed to identify problems with wireless networks. For schools wanting more than problem identification, look at Wyebot. Wyebot is the first in the industry to offer easy-to-understand, actionable resolutions as well as problem identification. Wyebot’s Artificial Intelligence-based engine works automatically and proactively. With its platform, schools have instant access to automatically analyzed data detailing current network usage and any potential areas of network deterioration. Wyebot’s platform retains historical data as well, supporting capacity planning with detailed business analytics.
With Wyebot, it is easy to see what load a network can currently handle and how to update it for more significant usage – without wasting time or money. IT won’t have to wonder if the network is prepared to handle school testing – the knowledge will be front and center, along with the actions needed to ensure the network continues working optimally.