Optimization and Expanding Connectivity for Your Schools
In 2020, schools across the country have faced significant challenges that have strained technology resources. Network optimization and expanding connectivity have been a challenge that most education leaders weren’t prepared to handle. With remote learning, hybrid learning, and other types of out-of-classroom functionality needed, late summer and early fall meant IT managers were sent scrambling to obtain the right resources to support their teachers, students and parents. Unfortunately, half of districts still lack the technology to support remote learning tools, video conferencing, and equipment to provide properly optimized networks. Now that we are nearing the end of 2020, looking back to analyze how your technology infrastructure fared will be important to your remote learning support over the coming months.
Focusing on What’s Important: Network Optimization Heading into 2021
As we get closer to 2021, and budget seasons and planning become top-of-mind, IT managers and technology directors in schools will need to educate their stakeholders on performance of their internal networks. How did the connectivity work across the set of users, from teachers to parents and students? Where were there gaps in connectivity or failures due to limitations from hardware? These analyses will allow IT teams to further point out why having proper equipment, regulation, maintenance, and budget to support infrastructure in their schools is important. Budgets may be limited and E-rate programs can only go so far within the confines of the schools’ physical locations. There will have to be more focus on connectivity and infrastructure support for outside of your schools’ walls as remote and distance learning continues to be the trend. A great way to get through to the more challenging objections faced, is to leverage real stories from your population where inadequate tools hurt learning. Educate stakeholders on what’s important, why it matters, and the overall impact to learning, regardless of the student location. One Texas district did just that to help secure funding to create its own private wifi network capable of supporting everyone in their area that needed access. Not only did this team increase connectivity, but it also opened up the ability to better secure and optimize the network being used. By controlling everything through their offices, they could assure their leadership that students were safely accessing what was needed to collaborate with teachers, regardless of their locations.
Performing Assessments Based on 1st Semester Usage
What worked for the first semester or quarters, may not work for the coming months. What is your backup plan in case of further shutdowns or outbreaks that cause more students to have to learn remotely? There are ways to perform the best optimization assessments that will allow for proper auditing of the network connectivity services your schools’ are using. A trusted vendor can help you analyze, but then also work with your network providers to close the gaps found in connectivity and security. Bandwidth costs are dropping, as has been the trend over the last 5 years:
“Bandwidth cost schools just $1.85 per megabit in 2020, down from nearly $10 per megabit just five years earlier. And particularly beneficial for schools’ bottom line has been the expansion of fiber-optic networks, which are easily adapted to provide more bandwidth as it becomes needed, without adding substantial costs to schools’ internet bills.”(source)
Something to watch out for, however, is that schools that are meeting the correct bandwidth requirements end up actually paying less for their service:
“According to the new report, those schools already meeting the FCC’s 1 Mbps/student target pay $1.50 less for bandwidth than schools offering slower speeds.”(source)
The better your school does to help its population, with the right equipment and network tools, the lower your overall costs. This means needing to stay vigilant in assessment.
If you’re relying on hotspots for your students and teachers, work with your providers to help increase those bandwidth limits and usage rules. You can also look into diversifying your providers, by switching users between networks if speeds decrease.
As an IT leader in your schools you have the daunting task of balancing the needs of many people, while keeping things running well. Empower your parents and students by providing resources, guides, and checklists in easy-to-read language they can understand so that they can help troubleshoot equipment and connectivity when things aren’t working well. Offer to provide digital literacy reference sources to educate students on how the world of technology works – create great partners out of this audience, who will undoubtedly need these skills throughout their lives.
Network optimization and connectivity can be difficult and might get more challenging before it gets easier. Rely on your MSP and vendors to help you do the best you can for everyone you serve. Need help or advice, or want to discuss a partnership that will serve all your needs? Read more about our education solutions and contact us – HTML Global would be happy to be a trusted resource to you during these challenging, but very exciting times.