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Return to campus: 5 digital challenges for education

2020 has been a tumultuous year for Australia’s education sector. The sudden shift to remote learning has placed schools, universities, TAFEs and colleges under enormous pressure to provide safe, secure and reliable access to technology.

For some schools, it’s been smooth sailing. For others, it’s been chaotic and fraught with uncertainty. And of course, against it all, there’s the backdrop of ever-increasing cyberattacks. According to School News Australia, in March phishing attacks alone went up by an astonishing 667%1.

As the final term of 2020 is almost upon us, what challenges remain for Australian schools? When it comes to technology, what things should schools be focusing on?

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Contact tracing

Now that most educational institutions have recommenced face-to-face learning for all students, contact tracing has become a new logistical and administrative challenge – especially in universities, TAFEs and colleges where there are frequent visitors to the campus.

If there’s a confirmed case of COVID-19 at any Australian educational institution, steps must be taken very rapidly to determine who has come into contact with this person, where, and when.

To contain a potential outbreak, the institution needs to carefully track and monitor people who visit the campus on an ad-hoc basis, such as cleaners, maintenance staff, gardeners, construction workers, or those providing specialist education services such as hosting incursions or facilitating sessions for students.

Fortunately, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has just launched an extremely smart Contact Tracing Solution that automates much of the effort, and considerably improves tracing accuracy. As people move around the school, Aruba’s smart access points detect users, Wi-Fi devices and Bluetooth tags.

This data is then analysed and displayed in a cloud-based dashboard. If the educational institution is notified that someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19, contact tracing is easily sorted and simplified. Heat maps can also be used to determine ‘hot spots’ where people are mixing around the campus, which can help with cleaning requirements and where to enforce social distancing.

For school admin teams who would likely otherwise be tasked with the contact tracing responsibility, Aruba’s technology will come as a very welcome relief.

2. Student safety and security

Protecting students has always been a critical priority for educational institutions. Yet, according to the Federal Government’s Educator’s 2020 Education Report, it’s also the biggest challenge that institutions are currently facing, with 68% saying they found ensuring students’ safety and security ‘very challenging’2.

And right now, with so many students working on so many different devices, and from different locations, security and safety risks abound.

According to Microsoft data, education continues to be the most heavily affected sector when it comes to reported malware encounters – by a fairly significant margin.

Security Threats by Industry

Source: Microsoft Australia3

For institutions with a BYOD policy, security can be particularly hard to manage, especially when students are working from home or using devices remotely. If the institution has traditional perimeter network security in place, devices can be somewhat protected when the student is on the campus and on the secured campus network. However, there’s no control over the device when away from the network, which is extremely risky.

Similarly, institutions also need to ensure that anyone connecting to their network from the ‘outside’ (e.g. guest presenters, coordinators or trainers), can connect securely, and without compromising the wider network.

This is where Aruba comes into play. Aruba’s ESP technology provides a full set of capabilities that give IT teams full visibility, control and enforcement – so they can more effectively secure their decentralised network infrastructure. Aruba’s Adaptive Trust Security also ensures that the same controls applied to the campus extend to the home, or situations where a student is using a device remotely.

3. Network performance

Even before the pandemic, the use of technology in educational institutions was increasing, and the need for a fast, reliable connection was paramount. Now, technology usage is set to increase even further. In a recent survey, 87% of educators said that in the wake of the pandemic, they expect to use technology more than before4.

Many educational institutions also have an increasing number of IoT devices at the edge of their wireless networks – things like security cameras, smartboards or traffic monitoring devices. These demands are placing networks under even greater pressure.

To ensure that educators, staff and students continue to get the connectivity they need, providers need to think seriously about investing in a modern, powerful wireless network, such as one enabled by Aruba’s VPN services.

The Southport School is a prime example of this powerful network in action. An independent Anglican day and boarding school for boys, they were operating with a wireless network that was struggling to cope with the demands of a growing student population and increasing use of BYOD devices.

The school partnered with Data#3 to design, configure and deploy a next-generation wireless network solution using Aruba ClearPass and the Palo Alto Networks security platform. Students, teachers, staff and guests can now enjoy wireless experience across the school, with significantly improved access, performance, coverage and user experience. Read the full case study here.

4. Increase in device density

The pandemic has placed educational institutions under huge pressure to facilitate safe, secure and reliable remote learning.

However, now that most institutions have returned to face-to-face learning, there’s the added challenge of managing an increasing number of digital devices – all of which need network connectivity. Now, many IT teams are faced with the need to onboard, secure and control a whole raft of devices.

With Aruba technology, there’s a lot that can be done to reduce this burden. IT teams can quickly, easily and securely onboard new devices to the Wi-Fi network with Aruba ClearPass. Plus, they can eliminate blind spots and ensure far greater network visibility.

Additionally, IT Teams can also get all the AI insights, security and unified infrastructure management they need, via a single pane of glass, with Aruba Central.

5. Digital access

When the pandemic hit, thousands of Australian students suddenly needed to learn from their own home, and to connect with teachers, lecturers, other students or tutors via digital collaboration tools. While many schools had devices in place to enable this, ensuring reliable off-campus connectivity was a challenge.

In fact, in a recent US study, when asked what they needed most to enable remote learning in the future, the vast majority of respondents (87%) cited off-campus connectivity5.

Aruba can help in this regard, by ensuring that all students have access to the connectivity they need, regardless of where they are. Aruba’s VIA app, for instance, is an ideal solution for students connecting from public or private Wi-Fi – offering a soft VPN client for Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Linux devices.

Aruba also offers Remote Access Points, which an educational institution can provide to staff, to ensure reliable and robust wireless connection to the campus network – from any location.

Future proof your network

To learn more about how Data#3 and Aruba can help you future-proof your school or university network, or to request an assessment, get in touch.

How did you school pivot in response to COVID-19?


1. School News Australia. 2020. Keeping schools and learning safe online during Covid-19 [Online] Available at https://www.school-news.com.au/news/keeping-schools-and-learning-safe-online-during-covid-19/
2. The Educator Online. 2020. Education Report 2020 to reveal key challenges for principals
3. Microsoft security data [Online] Available at https://www.theeducatoronline.com/k12/news/education-report-2020-to-reveal-key-challenges-for-principals/269943
4. Microsoft. 2020. Three months later: What educators have learned from remote learning prepares them for the new school year.[Online] Available at https://educationblog.microsoft.com/en-us/2020/06/three-months-later-what-educators-have-learned-from-remote-learning-prepares-them-for-the-new-school-year/
5. Juniper Networks. 2020. Covid-19 Back to School Survey Report 2020

 

Tags: Network Security, Education, Networking, Aruba, HPE Aruba, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Aruba ClearPass, Information Security, remote VPN, Aruba Virtual Internet Access, connectivity, COVID-19

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