How AI-driven networks are shaping the education sector

Juniper Networks Australia

By Jim Burke, Director of Sales and General Manager Australia at Juniper Networks
Friday, 15 October, 2021

How AI-driven networks are shaping the education sector

The education sector has seen drastic changes over the last few years, with a greater focus on digital learning and an increasing integration of technology into classroom teaching. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this transition and improved students’ perceptions of digital learning, with schools and universities across Australia increasingly embracing the use of computers and digital media. With this, however, comes the need for more reliable networks.

According to research from the University of Melbourne, only 10% of teachers identified stable and reliable internet connection 100% of the time for their classes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A powerful and reliable network can be the difference between a teacher delivering sound and engaging lessons or losing students’ attention entirely.

So, as we continue to work towards a new normal, academic institutions will need to ensure their networks are well-equipped to handle the future of education — something which research from Deloitte tips as being a hybrid system that allows students to learn both in-person and remotely. AI-driven networks may be the best way forward.

Why AI-driven networks?

As the name suggests, AI-driven networks are networking systems that are powered by artificial intelligence. They can self-correct to maximise uptime and provide instructions to fix problems that occur. In the not-so-distant future, AI-driven networks are even expected to be able to predict a user’s internet performance, allowing a system to dynamically adjust bandwidth capacity to optimise performance across the network.

For larger schools and universities, the benefits of such networks can be something as simple as ensuring each device on-campus is always connected to the most optimal wireless access point. As students and staff move across the campus, a network is able to change the access point to which they are connected to ensure their internet speed remains as steady and fast as possible.

AI-driven networks also allow a school’s IT team to more easily locate and diagnose any potential connectivity issues that may be hindering the students’ learning experience. For example, a teacher may be repeatedly experiencing long connection times when using their laptop in class. AI-driven troubleshooting tools can diagnose the issue, such as a low signal level, and make it simple for IT teams to identify the root cause and resolve the problem.

These benefits can be incredibly significant for institutions of all sizes. Networks driven by AI and machine learning can reduce the burden on IT teams by automating key tasks and proactively addressing networking issues before they impact service levels. This is particularly pertinent for smaller schools and universities whose teams often comprise just a few technicians.

A path towards digital transformation

With the education sector undergoing such a strong period of digital transformation, building a modern network can be more empowering than ever as schools across the country adopt new technologies. A school in Toowoomba, for example, has recently implemented a virtual reality (VR) program to teach its students how to drive, while students at a school in Western Australia used the same technology to showcase their research of ancient Rome, developing VR guided tours of reconstructed artefacts. A number of schools in Melbourne, meanwhile, are using cutting-edge biometrics to verify students’ identities when checking in and out of classes and exams. Powerful, reliable and smart networks are needed to support all this innovation, which is why many schools are now making their networks a priority.

Alamanda College, a government school in Melbourne’s fast-growing southwest corridor, offers education to over 3000 students in years K through 9. As with most modern schools, each student at Alamanda College has their own personal laptop, meaning that at full capacity the college supports upwards of 5000 internet-enabled devices spread over an expansive campus. In 2020, the school decided to upgrade to an AI-driven network and move all of its networking infrastructure from on-campus to the cloud. The school was able to simplify its network operations, and quickly identify and resolve issues with misconfigurations in the network and radio frequency interference from a nearby airport. Ultimately, the result was a more seamless and rewarding experience for Alamanda College’s students, and one which allowed them to stay focused on learning.

More than just an educational tool

In today’s environment, AI-driven networks in schools can also be critical to the health and safety of students and staff. For example, they can allow schools to introduce proximity tracing using virtual Bluetooth technology. This highly accurate tool enables schools to understand how many students are present on campus, whether they are respecting social distancing guidelines, and assess whether any changes need to be made to ensure the wellbeing of everyone on campus. As students slowly begin to return to in-person learning, tools such as these can prove critical to their wellbeing, as well as their education.

This, along with the many other benefits previously discussed, are why AI-driven networks are the future of the education sector. As schools across Australia contend with the shift to hybrid learning and continue to invest in groundbreaking technologies, smart and reliable networks driven by artificial intelligence will be pivotal to their success.

Image credit: © KonG

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