Wireless connectivity firm Ruckus will form part of a consortium of companies developing a blueprint for the implementation of WiFi and other information technology services at educational institutions.
Ruckus sub-Saharan Africa director Riaan Graham says this blueprint, which will eventually be sent to the National Department of Education for endorsement, will set out the minimum requirements for the implementation of WiFi infrastructure at educational institutions – a blueprint that focuses on introducing WiFi to the public school environment as effortlessly and as cost effectively as possible.
He notes that, while this process is still in the development phase, the end result should be a blueprint that will ensure that the overall experience is the same, regardless of the size of the institution.
“The functionality would be similar, be it a small public school or a large university campus. Most students gauge their experience on the type of connectivity they have. If the connectivity is seamless and quick, their experience is considered good. However, if the coverage isn’t strong and the ‘on-boarding’, or the process of connecting onto the WiFi platform, is troublesome, then the experience is bad.”
As such, Graham notes that a large portion of the blueprint development process attempts to ensure that it is “as easy, quick and simple as possible to connect onto the infrastructure and have a seamless experience”.
He adds: “The model we are building in conjunction with a number of partners will introduce technology and ensure that there is background support so that the implementation and upkeep of WiFi and other information and communication technology infrastructure can be done without hampering the core function of schools, namely teaching”.
Moreover, he notes that the model has to be standardised in terms of the minimum requirements for the base foundation infrastructure, including hardware and software, and agreed upon by all stakeholders.
Graham stresses that the national implementation of WiFi at educational institutions will not succeed without the support and endorsement of the Department of Education to facilitate the implementation process and ensure that there is uniform uptake.
“What needs to happen is that, once the blueprint is agreed to and endorsed by the department, it has to step in and subsidise government-funded schools . . . Former Model C schools, or schools that are partially or wholly funded by governing bodies, should be responsible for funding or raising funds for the implementation of WiFi.”
Graham says that Ruckus’s role in this potential national process will be multifaceted. The company and Graham are not only directly involved in the work groups developing this blueprint, but Ruckus also acts in an advisory capacity for schools or institutions that have implemented WiFi.
The company has been directly engaged in the deployment of WiFi infrastructure at several schools and tertiary institutions.
Graham explains that blended learning – typically assisting students who use technology – should be incorporated from Grade 1 to the fourth-year level at universities. “With blended learning, in addition to the material students are engaging with through traditional teaching aides, such as textbooks and teachers, they also have access to research, videos and infographics that they would not have had previously.”
He adds that, whether it is a primary school, university or technical and vocational education and training institution, all levels of education can benefit from the implementation of blended learning.
Graham stresses that enabling WiFi access for students makes self-learning or additional learning possible, while increasing the ease and effectiveness of communication among teachers, students and parents or administrators.
“Look at the way that papers are marked elsewhere – a lot of US schools use digitalised tests and marking, which eliminate human error and reduce delays caused by manual marking.”
Globally, industry is looking at ways of becoming more productive and efficient – the education sector has to adjust to this efficiency trend, and one of the simplest means to do so is through the implementation of WiFi, Graham concludes.