Pennsylvania School District Delivers Powerful Education Resources with 3Com Network

When school bells rang this fall, Tredyffrin/Easttown School District in suburban Philadelphia became one of a small number of school districts providing its students with the powerful educational benefits of a high performance asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network.

The new network, supplied by 3Com Corp. (LOCATION), gives the district's 4,500 students very fast access (155 or 622 Mbps) to online educational resources, interactive video and multimedia, while allowing the exchange of ideas and information with teachers and other students throughout the world. "With the ATM network, we can open the classroom doors and bring in a wealth of educational resources that students enjoy using," says Emil Capetola, the school district's business manager.

Meeting Academic and Technical Challenges

When the school district began investigating ways to offer students easy access to online education resources and the World Wide Web, it also looked for a network that would enhance communications among teachers as well as administrative and operational personnel to facilitate record-keeping and business processes. Meeting those varied needs required an advanced network that could transparently link users in 11 buildings distributed over several towns. The network had to enable students and faculty members to access online resources from anywhere in the district and had to be free from performance bottlenecks, regardless of traffic volumes. The network further had to be scaleable, manageable, reliable and easy to use - even for elementary school students.

The school district chose the 3Com ATM solution because it offered the most advanced performance and features at a competitive cost. The 3Com CoreBuilder 7000 and SuperStack II switches, for example, enable the district to implement enterprise-wide virtual local area networks for more efficient segmentation of users and greater security.

New Possibilities with Network

"Tredyffrin skipped the widely used Ethernet generation and invested in a technology that will take the students and teachers into the future of learning," says David Katz, 3Com global education manager. "Their network seamlessly integrates voice and video traffic, allowing sophisticated communications and learning tools to be delivered directly to the classroom."

To take advantage of the possibilities inherent in the ATM network, the district has plans to implement a wide variety of educational and reference applications to enhance classroom learning. Interactive video applications, for example, will enable students to participate in distributed demonstrations and experiments, as well as live events such as virtual field trips. And CD-ROM servers will permit students at all grade levels to quickly access a wealth of reference and source materials.

Students and teachers alike will be able to easily perform fast research on the Web, and access mentors and scholars located in universities around the country. As a result, students can engage in distributed, collaborative learning projects in a variety of academic disciplines with peers worldwide. In addition, parents using home computers will be able to access student records on school Web sites and confer online with teachers, becoming more involved in their children's education.

Managing Future Growth and Network Congestion

By investing in a 3Com ATM system, the school district has a high-performance infrastructure that will meet its needs well into the future. According to experts, speeds on ATM networks are expected to reach 10 Gbps. This kind of performance provides the bandwidth necessary to offer all students rich, multimedia learning opportunities.

In addition to student benefits, administrators can expedite business processes and improve the sharing of resources among schools. For standard business and administrative applications, users at the school rely on Adobe PageMaker, ClariFileMaker Pro for Macintosh, Microsoft Office 97 and Microsoft Access. The district has also invested in proprietary applications for student registration, grade reporting, financial, payroll and personnel functions. Desktops use the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows NT operating systems.

Soon, the district plans to implement an intranet to standardize and simplify enterprise-wide communications. To that end, they selected 3Com's Transcend Enterprise Manager networking software since it enables every device in the network to be easily configured, monitored and managed from a single management console. They also chose 3Com EtherLink III network interface cards (NICs) because of their capability to maximize network responsiveness when additional bandwidth is necessary. The NICs also feature advanced Dynamic Access software for optimizing overall network performance.

"When we decided to build our network, we looked for a partner experienced in the education market who could deliver total end-to-end solutions," says Capetola. "3Com has come through for us."

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This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.