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Smart education: What you need to know

2017-09-25 By Edwin Diender, VP of Government & Public Utility Sector, Huawei

Education has evolved into a lifelong process that extends far beyond classrooms and whiteboards. Learners can easily connect to digital libraries, take online classes, and submit homework and assignments electronically from virtually any kind of mobile device. That’s why many education institutes provide mobile services that allow students to attend class whenever and wherever they like.

For the service provider ─ the educator ─ this means incremental revenue. For the network provider, it means incremental traffic, but the network may not be prepared. And that means risk. How do we manage it? And how can we be smart while doing it?

Smart service delivery

The answer is probably a convergence of wireless tech like Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Offloading traffic from the mobile network to wireless before filtering, aggregating, and prioritizing it has a clear advantage: It enables mobile networks to handle traffic in batches, easing congestion and optimizing data flow.

In most places of learning, wireless access points are just there to extend the limited reach of the fixed network and provide some wireless coverage. To be smart, they need high-density networks that understand who sits where, what terminal is being used, and how to optimize each connection and experience based on user and device characteristics. 

For instance, imagine a student is streaming video via Wi-Fi on a laptop – Wi-Fi is typically low bandwidth and laptops tend to have low-res screens. It’s therefore sensible to reduce the bitrate, so streaming is smooth. If the student is using a 4G LTE smartphone with a higher-res screen, the full resolution can be used to ensure a superior experience that suits the smaller screen and keeps the student engaged.

Smart networks

Intelligent network O&M and management services are required to ensure reliable management and control of the entire school campus and campus networks. A smart campus network would also have a unified, all-in-one management system for various network devices from multiple vendors.

This enables full lifecycle management through a single point, which would significantly lower O&M costs. Network providers also have to provide guarantees in terms of network planning, design, service provisioning, and fault diagnostics.

Best practice 

From our experience with customers around the world, we’ve identified a four-step best practice process for meeting these challenges and enabling smooth migration to wireless and mobile network convergence: Graphical planning tools; batch delivery of configs; monitoring network access and quality of experience with a 360-degree view; and lifecycle management, fault location, and troubleshooting to assist resource planning.

For institutions, this means mobile apps for IT-administrators and network managers. With 360-degree fault diagnosis, the entire network can be fully controlled. With open interfaces, third-party system connections will also be possible, so that each institute is able to customize exclusive apps on demand.

Solutions in action

Southern Cross University, Australia: solved IP address instability and poor wireless service across four main campuses, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Lismore, as well as the university’s branch campuses. The Huawei solution detects user roles, access scenarios, and access location to tailor services for individuals. Unified management can configure policies on the GUI and deliver them with a single-click.

50+ primary and middle schools, Jingyang District, China: Huawei implemented a MAN campus solution to deliver teaching management applications such as Office Automation (OA), school roll management, interactive classes, online Video on Demand (VoD), online communication, online examinations and assessments, and electronic school bags.

Saudi KFUPM University, Saudi TVTC College, Angola MOE e-Education, Costa Rica MOE: Huawei deployed a mix of multifunctional distance seminar, classroom, and live eClassroom solutions.

With the right networking solutions in place, educators can provide students with a seamless learning environment unhampered by a patchy experience that affects learning outcomes and, crucially, student engagement. Education is evolving in form to include BYOD, blended learning, flipped classrooms, virtual environments, and other digital methodologies – things that would have been impossible a decade ago. Successful digital transformation in this way is dependent on strong networks and cloud solutions.

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