WiFi In Schools
Students thrive in an environment where technology and digital interactivity are encouraged. This scenario allows schools to adapt digital classrooms for the current and future generations. An increase in the usage of smartphones, tablets and laptops are creating new pathways for students to learn. Definitions, practices and implications of school, teaching and learning are changing with the evolution of connected learning environments. Learning and teaching are no longer confined by boundaries of space, time and source.
Applications that use WiFi in Schools
Take a typical class in a wired school. There will be anything between 20 and 40 students in a class adding up to 100s to 1000s of students in a campus. There may be specific lectures where there are 100+ students in a room. The basic expectation is that they will all get stable, reliable and reasonably fast network connection to enable them to access and complete coursework.
The mix of applications and tasks vary by location, time and context
During class hours, the most common use cases include:
- Downloading Content
- Content sharing
- Online tests
Off class hours things change and include:
- Sharing on Social media
- Torrentz downloads
- Access school’s learning portal
- VoIP calls with family
Challenges in providing high QoE in schools
To ensure stable, secure and fast WiFi across the school campus, key challenges to address are:
Secure Captive Portal Logins
Consider a use case of online test where 10s or 100s of students login to the portal to take an exam. The entire infrastructure from the access point to the security systems should support authentication of the requisite number of students per second so that there is no delay in starting the test. . How will you define a system to validate the rate of logins?.
Good Video streaming experience
Video streaming is the one application which hogs the WiFi bandwidth. Let’s consider that the instructor asked the students in a class to watch a video from their Online Learning Portal to reinforce the content taught in the class. There will be a minimum of 30~40 students in a typical classroom streaming the video simultaneously, which will require high bandwidth. Will the WiFi network provide good quality of experience to everyone in the class?
There are different applications for specific groups of people (students, teachers, administrators, guests/parents) within a school campus. Applications that enable collaboration between students and teachers across single or multiple campuses like remote video lectures, collaboration tools, research information sharing and student data backups demand high bandwidth. Imagine the stress on the network when these applications run simultaneously to support 100’s or 1000s of users within and across campuses. Providing uninterrupted WiFi experience to run all the productivity applications across the school is a basic expectation on the network.
Students are constantly on-the-move from activity to activity and class to class. This causes coverage issues and degrades the user experience. Ubiquitous networks are a reality in modern campuses. Validating the network’s performance when clients move from one Access Point to another is mandatory to assure superior QoE across the campus.
Performance of network with varying device configurations
With the BYOD trend around, students, staff and administrators might be using different devices across the campus network. Everyone might be using more than a device – PC/laptops to tablets and smartphones. These devices tend to operate differently over WiFi. The devices with legacy standards (802.11a/b/g/n) consume more bandwidth and degrades the performance of the network. Let’s say the infrastructure is upgraded to 802.11ac for Gigabit speeds, will the network provide the speeds in a mixed environment?
Solution to Test WiFi User Experience in Schools
Today, uninterrupted and high-quality WiFi is expected by students, faculty and administrators. From an infographic by 7Signal (https://goo.gl/Zzg1iT), 38% of students say that the Quality of Campus WiFi is a deciding factor in choosing a school. In an environment where WiFi is so important, meeting expectations on user experience is crucial for the school administrators. To provide superior user experience, the WiFi network should be validated for its scalability, security, functionality and reliability prior and post deployment.
At Alethea, we strive to enhance the Customer Experience of end users. Our product SWAT WiCheck with its ability to reproduce real world environment, helps to understand the end user experience from application, network performance, user interaction and post-deployment perspective.
WiCheck is a portable Multi-client simulator that can
- Scale from 10s of clients to 1000s
- Integrate with test frameworks
- Run multiple real applications (Browser, Video Streaming, Torrentz, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Youtube and more)
- Run Custom Applications
- Test 100s of simultaneous Captive Portal logins
- Set up Interference and test APs under difficult network conditions
- Test the network’s roaming capabilities
- Validate the rate of authentication handling capability of AP
- Test the network performance both from a pure 11ac perspective and in mixed mode environment
Interested to know how SWAT WiCheck validates the network for stability, reliability and high performance? Please see this link – SWAT WiCheck – to understand the effective way of testing the User Experience of a School WiFi network.
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