Providing adequate internet connectivity to all schools is a key challenge for any education authority’s e-learning plans. Even from day one costs and access speed can be an issue for some, but as connections are put to good use and e-Learning schemes expand they will soon become a concern for everyone. Schools need:
- Cost-effective bandwidth: The cost of supplying enough bandwidth to schools can prove to be extremely high, especially for those in rural areas
- Fast access to content: If the connection feels slow, students quickly become disengaged putting the benefits of e-learning at risk. Speed of access to web content in the classroom can determine the success of implementation.*
Save bandwidth, save money
The cost of supplying sufficient bandwidth to schools can consume an inappropriately high proportion of an Education Authority’s budget. Schools need technologies that will massively reduce the amount of traffic using their connection. In particular very large objects such as video and software updates can cause congestion making the internet unusable in the classroom.
A typical video uses around 0.5Mbps per user – so on a 10Mbps link, 20 users can consume a school’s entire bandwidth, and this assumes that nothing else is using the connection at the time.
Software updates can be many Gigabytes in size, so even a small number of users can quickly congest a school’s link. Modern devices demand far more updates than in the past. The more devices a school has, the bigger the problem.
Speed is key
Speed of access to educational content for teachers and students in the classroom can determine the success of e-Learning implementation.* If page-opening is slow then attention fades and the advantages of e-Learning are lost.
Pupils in remote and rural locations without adequate bandwidth can be particularly disadvantaged. If more time is spent waiting for content, then less time can be spent teaching and learning. Research shows that over the period of a school year this can add up to days of lost teaching time.
EDUGATEBOX’s optimisation features address both concerns.
Caching stores popular content locally so that repeat requests do not use the internet connection. This both saves money by reducing the amount of bandwidth needed, and speeds up content as it does not need to be fetched from the internet.
Traffic Shaping puts a school in control of how bandwidth is used. They can limit internet requests based on the content domain, on which student requested it, or even by time of day. For instance, a school can avoid congestion from software updates by configuring EDUGATEBOX to download only outside school hours, stopping such events from causing a problem whilst lessons are taking place.
Content Filtering enables a school to completely block requests for content that consumes too much bandwidth or are otherwise unnecessary, freeing up bandwidth for the content that matters.
Combining these features together lets education authorities introduce sophisticated content to schools, even where connection capacity is limited or restricted.
Next: EDUGATEBOX: everything a school needs >
*Project RED: national study into the factors that make U.S. K-12 technology implementations successful.