Going Back to School with Immersive Learning and Hyper Connected Campuses

July 21, 2022

By Matthew Vulpis, Content Contributor

The Future of Education is Intelligence and Edge Performance AI

In an increasingly digital environment, the education system has continually harnessed an array of innovative devices and solutions, integrating them into the learning process to great effect. The introduction of key technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have fundamentally altered how faculty teaches and how students learn in the higher education realm.

As the education sector becomes progressively dependent on the Internet, providing reliable and ubiquitous Internet services has never been more crucial. This requires a move past traditional cumbersome WAN networks towards automated, simple, and easily implemented and intelligently managed SD-WANs, capable of providing managers with proficient performance despite their limited knowledge of networking.

Today’s college students have grown up with powerful mobile devices, access to high-speed networks at home and in public places, streaming services, live interactive gaming, apps of all kinds, and especially over the last few years, e-learning and distance learning options. Their expectations for “immediate gratification” are growing, and as they choose which college or university to attend, the “digital offerings” including connectivity on campus and access to secure virtual courses can make the difference in their decision.

With declining enrollment at many schools, and with major shifts following on three years of challenges caused by the global pandemic and financial pressures IT teams at universities are facing, innovation up and down the entire tech stack is bringing new and better options for quality connectivity.

“Campus Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury for high-traffic spots like libraries and student unions, in addition to classrooms and dorm rooms,” said Steve Boalt, higher ed expert at ConnX, a Managed Service Provider and platform developer based in the U.S. “Instead, a higher-ed institution without consistent wireless access is like a library with no books. Fast, reliable, secure, predictable, and ubiquitous connectivity supporting immersive learning is now table stakes.”

ConnX works closely with Juniper Networks on “full stack” solutions that combine SD-WAN with WiFi (News - Alert), enhanced with AI, and orchestrated using ConnX’s Maestro platform.

“Technology empowers, engages, and inspires students, and is increasingly becoming the foundation for delivering the highest quality and most modern education,” Boalt explained. “An AI-Enabled campus automates configuration and operations, and intelligently manages workloads across hybrid, multi-cloud environments, meeting student, faculty, staff and visitor expectations for great Wi-Fi everywhere on campus. What we bring to colleges and universities working with Juniper’s unmatched software and hardware includes zero touch provisioning and layers of security designed to keep attackers out, without slowing down performance, and which brings consistent, high-quality experiences to every end-user at the edge of the network, whether they are at a football game, in their dorm room, at the student union, or in the classroom. Powerful networking also makes for more effective “smart campus” technology that dramatically improves safety and supports location-based services including wayfinding, contact tracing, and asset tracking.”

Juniper’s SD-WAN and Wi-FI offerings create an agile fabric across public and private cloud resources. AI-driven networks protect applications and dynamic workloads, use automation to simplify data center operations, supports main campus and branch locations on the same network with consistent tools, optimizes the user experience for cloud and traditional applications, seamlessly supports wired and wireless access, and enforces security policies automatically.

“Bandwidth (News - Alert) and related problems like congestion can inflict serious problems upon a higher-ed institution, its employees, and its students and visitors,” Boalt explained. “Instead of forcing administrators to throw more bandwidth at the problem or rebuild parts of the congested network, AI SD-WANs with intelligent Wi-Fi at the edge helps them make better use of the resources they currently have, saving money and reducing risk. With our Maestro platform, IT teams at universities have a single pane of glass and end-to-end visibility into every part of the network, across large physical domains including off-campus locations, and down to the device level when it comes to the Wi-Fi edge. AI and ML make it possible for much of the network to groom itself, while making the network admin’s job far easier including notifications and alerts should any problems occur. Orchestration has evolved dramatically over the last few years, also making it possible to bring together internal IT teams with their managed service providers as a unified team.”

Driven by the power of Juniper’s Mist AI, the AI Assure platform provides ConnX Service Assurance with AI SD-WAN, alleviating the increased confusion caused by convoluted networks requiring excessive investment and monitoring. The solution empowers users to understand and resolve critical issues as they arise through a variety of advantageous features including:

  • Real-Time Call Quality - AI Assure extracts the most valuable information from conversations in real-time, examining the quality of each call and providing detailed insight into how individual user conversations are treated across the network. Managers can survey the provided information, for example, taking note of student wellbeing and teacher-parent or teacher-teacher conversations.
  • Robust Reporting - Enhanced visualization of developing trends provides users simplified tracking, management, and decision making which can result in a greatly enhanced user experience as possible operational issues are anticipated and prevented, diminishing the downtime for any technology operating in schools.
  • SDN API Integration - Full integration of Microsoft (News - Alert) and other UC networks via a single monitoring solution. AI Assure accelerates the adoption of ConnX MS Teams, and ConnX AI SD-WAN deployments to save valuable time, resources, and money for education services.

College IT administrators need to stay ahead of the coming wave of additional connected devices, most especially IoT sensors.

A 2018 Center for Digital Education (CDE) survey showed that more than three-quarters of college campuses at the time were either “smart” campuses or on their way to becoming so. Internet of Things (IoT) applications on campus can include everything from emergency notification systems to building HVAC control, to smart ID badges for students and faculty.

Boalt said innovation is continuing, and that it is important for university IT teams to understand the benefits of the latest generation of SD-WAN and Wi-Fi including WiFi6 which will support a growing number of new devices and applications.

“AI and ML as part of the modern managed network mix is not just nice to have – it is a ‘must have’ to be able to efficiently manage connectivity across the campus and surrounding community,” Boalt said. “For example, Wi-Fi 6 networks enable schools to accommodate new devices and applications, including IoT sensor-driven systems, to make student life safer, make learning more immersive, and to prepare students for a hyper-digital future. Wi-Fi 6 provides the capacity, efficiency, and performance needed to deliver seamless ultra-high-speed Internet connectivity across the campus while accommodating thousands of personal and entertainment devices. Supporting university operations for IT teams and their MSP partners requires life-long learning!”

ConnX and Juniper will be hosting a webinar on the future of End-to-End observability on August 3. For more information visit the registration page.

Edited by Erik Linask

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