9 things you should know about Wi-Fi in Schools

Everybody knows Wi-Fi. We use it at home, on holidays or in shopping centres and cafes.

But if you are responsible for Wi-Fi in your school, here are some interesting facts that you should know and consider when (or should) Wi-Fi raises its head at your next IT budget meeting at your school.

Have you:

  1. Created a five-year plan for the network.
  2. Identified the wireless coverage requirements.
  3. Considered the Fastest Wi-Fi that is available today
  4. Identified what applications the network will support.
  5. Planned for guest access and Bring your own devices (BYOD)
  6. Chosen a Wi-Fi Local Area Network or WLAN architecture that fits your needs.
  7. Insisted on strong WLAN security.
  8. Insisted on simple, centralized management.
  9. Right sized your IT network.

Embrace Digital Learning with Confidence

Before we develop each of these headings, let’s look at the future learning experience for children in schools. Computer-based learning is far more engaging to today’s tech-savvy students than outdated textbooks. According to various international reports, by the year 2018, over 65 percent of all jobs will require a college degree or above. By that time also, schools will be using digital textbooks!!!!

And preparing our children to compete in a rapidly changing economy is no small task. Today’s students are digital natives, and readily immerse themselves in the immediacy and collaboration of digital learning. By applying these best practices, you can be confident that the WLAN for your digital learning initiatives will need to be fast, reliable and affordable so that educators can focus on their jobs – teaching our children using the worlds most innovative technologies and celebrate their impact on student learning


1.  Create a five-year plan for the network.

Wireless is the preferred method of connecting most devices today and it’s the only way to connect most tablets. Start with your school’s strategic plan for digital learning, and understand how that will impact the requirements for connectivity in the school. Consider not only your school’s commitment to technology in education, but also your government’s commitment to digital learning. How extensively teachers and students will use digital curricula impacts the number of tablets, laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices that will be needed. And that decision will impact the size and scope of the wireless and wired network to provide reliable, enterprise-quality connectivity. Consider your requirements over the next five years.

2.  Identify wireless coverage requirements.

Robust connectivity is required to support schools filled with students and teachers using tablets and laptops during class. Whilst Wireless architectural models are scalable by design, many schools are putting an access point (AP) in every classroom to ensure sufficient Wi-Fi capacity. If you expect to have 30 or more concurrently operating mobile devices in a classroom, you may want to consider this strategy.

In addition, many schools deploy wireless in common areas, such as libraries, auditoriums, dining rooms and sport’s area. Consider a vendor that provides a WLAN solution for both indoor and outdoor use. Having a consistent architecture for both indoor and outdoor coverage should deliver a better user experience and simplify management.

3.  Go with the fastest Wi-Fi available today.

Tablets are ideal for viewing video and multimedia, which voraciously consume bandwidth. In addition to connecting growing legions of tablets and laptops, schools may want to connect interactive whiteboards, projectors, student response systems, and video surveillance cameras to the WLAN. You should consider the fastest Wi-Fi radio linked technology which will deliver increased bandwidth for classrooms with high concentrations of mobile devices and multimedia applications.

The latest technology is more reliable because it uses multiple antennas to transmit and receive signals, while the older systems use only one antenna to transmit and one antenna to receive. And that results in greater capacity and a better user experience.

4.   Know what applications the network will support.

Teachers depend on the reliable operation of multimedia applications for instruction, and the learning experience can’t be disrupted by an unreliable network or video delays. At the same time, bandwidth-hungry, delay-sensitive video should not cause the performance of other applications to suffer.

A few years ago, the WLAN primarily supported laptops for occasional use. Today, the WLAN supports smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, printers, and music players, some of which are used all day and night. The problem is that different devices tend to operate differently over Wi-Fi, which becomes a significant challenge when a small number of devices consume more than their fair share of capacity. The problem is exacerbated in dense environments like classrooms and can result in a poor user experience unless it is specked correctly

The WLAN should provide priority traffic handling, channel load-balancing, band steering, airtime fairness and other Quality of Service controls to ensure that Wi-Fi bandwidth is fairly distributed to all mobile devices. That means voice and video get the priority they need, without impacting other vital administrative and productivity applications.

5.  Plan for guest access and BYOD (Bring your own Devices).

Allowing students and teachers to securely connect to the school network using their personal mobile devices doesn’t have to be a huge pain point for IT. Schools are quickly embracing BYOD (Bring your own Devices) in part because students are among the biggest consumers of the smart devices. Teachers and administrators also use their own devices to access Internet-based educational content and reference materials. Start by defining a BYOD policy that outlines groups of users that need network access, including students, teachers, administrative staff, classified employees, guests, substitute teachers, guest lecturers, and parents. You should also define access policies per device type. For instance, will you allow students and teachers to access educational applications from their personal smartphones and tablets if they have not been registered them?

Ideally your WLAN system will differentiate access to content and applications by user and device. It should also ensure that each student, teacher and parent has the right access privileges based on who they are and what device they have, while also giving you a record of who was on your network for compliance requirements.

6.  Choose a WLAN architecture that fits your needs.

Many schools start with standalone, consumer-grade Access Points for Wi-Fi connectivity, but quickly find that they do not provide the scalability, reliability, manageability and security that’s needed in school environments. Nonetheless, there is no one-size-fits-all WLAN solution – every school will have very unique requirements.

There are various choices:

  • A distributed WLAN architecture can offer the simplest, most efficient and cost-effective WLAN solution
  • A centralized WLAN architecture that uses controllers with more processing power.
  • An enterprise-grade WLAN using Mobility Controllers that unifies wired and wireless access across indoor, outdoor and remote locations

7.  Insist on strong WLAN security.

Security is a major concern for schools, and threats come from insiders, such as students, as well as outside attackers. As a result, your WLAN should support strong authentication and encryption and also enforce role-based access controls and privileges that are tied to a user’s identity.

Traditional wired networks only apply access rights to switch ports or VLANs. But mobile users and devices, by definition, do not connect to the network through a fixed port. Now that users are mobile, the network must identify every user and device that connects. The network must apply policies so that the appropriate access is granted.

This is especially challenging when schools issue laptops, notebooks and tablets to students. The school maintains responsibility for protecting students even when they view Internet content from these devices at home. Your WLAN should provide integrated web filters as well as malware and botnet protection to every connected device to protect students.

8. Simple, centralized management.

Budgets are lean in most schools and deploying pervasive Wi-Fi to support digital learning cannot add to the IT administrative burden. Schools require a WLAN that’s easy to manage and configure.

The tools to manage and automate settings on a wireless network at scale are significantly different from what is currently deployed for today’s wireless. Not only is the demand for wireless greater, but there are also new factors at play that weren’t even a consideration when most existing wireless systems were built. For instance, the air is increasingly noisy, devices are much more likely to move while they are being used, and network threats extend to outdoor areas.

9.  Right Size your network.

The shift to laptops and tablets is an opportunity to replace physical Ethernet ports with affordable and pervasive Wi-Fi coverage. The reduction in wired Ethernet ports can slash upgrade bills, decrease ongoing operational costs, and lower the carbon footprint. Similarly, voice over Wi-Fi allows schools to obsolete wired phones in classroom and administrative offices along with their associated support costs.

With a Wi-Fi Solution, schools can reduce their total cost of ownership by 70% by relying more on wireless and less on wired. The Wi-Fi Solution unifies wired and wireless into one cohesive network access infrastructure. Network, security, and management services are unified and controlled locally from the data center..

GDK provide Wi-Fi Solutions that can be configured at pace by our experienced consultants. Training on-site is provided to ensure that your ICT coordinator is fully in control and indeed that GDK may monitor activity on the network remotely.

For more information or to discuss your requirements, ring GDK on 01-2166 9700
or Click here to send us your comments or requests.