Networking & Wireless | News

Maryland District Supports Student-Supplied Mobile Devices

Recognizing the need to provide wireless service to the increasing number of student-supplied mobile devices in the classroom, a school district in Maryland has chosen to overhaul its wireless infrastructure to support greater bandwidth and security.

According to information released by Allegany County Public Schools in Cumberland, MD, the new wireless network is designed to support Apple iPads and other wireless devices the students use at home and also bring to school. The district previously had an 802.11a/b/g network in place but has recently moved to an 802.11n WLAN using a controller-free architecture.

When selecting a platform, the school district's leadership also sought the ability for several devices to connect to the wireless network simultaneously without compromising the user experience and an increase in security to accommodate new wireless traffic. The vendor providing the system is Aerohive Networks, a company that provides wireless networking technology for schools.

"One of the big initiatives we are pushing is cutting-edge: We are providing the ability for students and staff to bring their own, personal WiFi devices--whether it's a laptop, iPad, or smartphone--into the classroom," said Jeff Blank, supervisor of networking at Allegany County Public Schools, in a case study of the upgrade. "The superintendant wanted students to be using the same devices in learning as they do in everyday life, and he wanted that experience to be seamless. If they have iPads and smartphones at home, they should be able to bring those devices into school for learning."

The district's decision to choose Aerohive came from a cost-savings perspective: security requirements for the network are achieved for no additional funds. Despite the variety of devices on the WLAN, network security is maintained through a three-tier system of decreasing access: one for school-owned property; one for student-owned equipment; and one for guest devices.

The district also installed the HiveManager VMware virtual appliance from Aerohive to support network deployment and monitoring from a cloud-based perspective.

Allegany County Public Schools currently has 4,000 computers on its network and 2,000 laptops that circulate among schools and classrooms. Student-owned equipment places additional demands on the network; the total number of iPads and mobile, wireless devices on the network are unknown, but this is not concerning to Blank, who can closely monitor network activity and conditions through HiveManager.

About the Author

Kerry A. Sullivan is a freelance writer in based in Virginia. She can be reached at kerry.anne.sullivan@gmail.com.

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