Kent College turns ‘ANYTIME, ANYWHERE LEARNING’ into reality

Sunday 24th June, 2012

Kent College turns ‘Anytime, Anywhere Learning’ vision into reality with secure wireless infrastructure from Khipu Networks

New network to enhance student experience and provide 500 students and teachers with mobile access to interactive virtual learning portal. Networking and security integrator Khipu Networks today announced that Kent College, a leading independent day and boarding school based in Canterbury, has deployed secure wireless technology to enhance the student experience by extending the classroom environment via its interactive virtual learning portal. The interactive portal gives students better access to teachers and course materials and allows them to discuss class topics and assignments, submit coursework and receive feedback and grades on their laptops and mobile devices.

Fulfilling the school’s vision to enable ‘anytime, anywhere learning’, students can now connect to the wireless network via a range of devices such as laptops, iPods, iPhones, mobile phones and smartphones to access the College network, the public internet and the virtual learning portal. The wireless network, based on Alcatel-Lucent wireless technology, also allows Mac and Linux users to connect for the first time. Khipu has rolled the wireless LAN (WLAN) out to students and staff across the College’s main campus, supporting up to 500 users. One of the main challenges the College faced when looking to upgrade its infrastructure was ensuring all users were safely accessing the new network.

Khipu worked closely with Kent College to find a solution that would meet its exact security requirements. Using Bradford Networks’ Campus Manager, the new network now allows automatic access to the WLAN after authentication has been granted. This is permitted after Campus Manager conducts an immediate device scan and authorises users appropriately based on whether or not each device is compliant. If a device fails, Campus Manager quarantines it, while providing the student with the relevant links to the required software upgrade or operating system patches needed before access can be granted. This can be completed by students themselves as soon as they arrive at the College, and significantly speeds up the process of getting connected, while freeing up IT staff to focus on more complex IT issues. “As technology has become a central part of young people’s lives, we wanted to move beyond using it solely for IT lessons to integrating it into all courses – from English to Geography – to keep students engaged,” said Chris Joy, director of IT at Kent College. “Secure wireless connectivity has made access to academic resources and interactive learning tools easier and more convenient for both our students and staff, who have been impressed with the ease and sophistication of the solution.” Understanding that the speed and reliability of the network were also a key concern for Kent College, Khipu used innovative meshing technology to ensure the new WLAN reached various parts of the College grounds including the boarding houses, classrooms and sports fields.

In addition, Kent College wanted to speed up the process of getting students connected to the internet at the start of term, when more than 200 users would attempt to register on the first day. This requirement was a priority due to the large proportion of international boarding students who need to be connected as soon as possible to keep in touch with their families. Previously at the start of term, it would take IT staff up to a week to manually configure all boarding students’ PCs and laptops to ensure they complied with the College’s IT security policies. This was often complicated as many of the devices were from other countries. “Khipu’s ability to meet our requirements and provide a ‘fit and forget’ solution which requires very little management has helped us boost the reliability of our system by significantly reducing downtime, while enabling us to utilise technology to raise academic standards,” continued Chris Joy. Kent College is also using the new system, to organise and quantify every device, switch router and printer on its network so that the College has a detailed and comprehensive view of what is connected.

In addition, this has allowed Kent College to implement open source monitoring solutions like Multi Router Traffic Grapher (MRTG) for graphical views of the operations of the equipment. The College plans to extend and enhance the system over the next few years. Khipu was selected due to its experience in the education sector and its product offering. Kent College was particularly impressed by Khipu’s responsiveness and support, and continues to liaise with Khipu regarding its education specific tools and initiatives. “Wireless connectivity brings a large number of benefits to the education sector however, with the wide range of mobile devices available to students today, the need to safeguard the school’s network has traditionally discouraged schools from adopting these solutions,” said Jade Edwards, of Khipu Networks. “Our solution not only provides schools with secure connectivity, but gives them the insight into and control over student access they require.”