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3 Strategies for Managing the IT Impact of Classroom Technology

Level 13

Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering

Here’s an interesting article by my colleague Mav Turner with ideas for improving the management of school networks by analyzing performance and leveraging alerts and capacity planning.

Forty-eight percent of students currently use a computer in school, while 42% use a smartphone, according to a recent report by Cambridge International. These technologies provide students with the ability to interact and engage with content both inside and outside the classroom, and teachers with a means to provide personalized instruction.

Yet technology poses significant challenges for school IT administrators, particularly with regard to managing network performance, bandwidth, and cybersecurity requirements. Many educational applications are bandwidth-intensive and can lead to network slowdowns, potentially affecting students’ abilities to learn. And when myriad devices are tapping into a school’s network, it can pose security challenges and open the doors to potential hackers.

School IT administrators must ensure their networks are optimized and can accommodate increasing user demands driven by more connected devices. Simultaneously, they must take steps to lock down network security without compromising the use of technology for education. And they must do it all as efficiently as possible.

Here are a few strategies they can adopt to make their networks both speedy and safe.

Analyze Network Performance

Finding the root cause of performance issues can be difficult. Is it the application or the network?

Answering this question correctly requires the ability to visualize all the applications, networks, devices, and other factors affecting network performance. Administrators should be able to view all the critical network paths connecting these items, so they can pinpoint and immediately target potential issues whenever they arise.

Unfortunately, cloud applications like Google Classroom or Office 365 Education can make identifying errors challenging because they aren’t on the school’s network. Administrators should be able to monitor the performance of hosted applications as they would on-premises apps. They can then have the confidence to contact their cloud provider and work with them to resolve the issue.

Rely on Alerts

Automated network performance monitoring can save huge amounts of time. Alerts can quickly and accurately notify administrators of points of failure, so they don’t have to spend time hunting; the system can direct them to the issue. Alerts can be configured so only truly critical items are flagged.

Alerts serve other functions beyond network performance monitoring. For example, administrators can receive an alert when a suspicious device connects to the network or when a device poses a potential security threat.

Plan for Capacity

A recent report by The Consortium for School Networking indicates within the next few years, 38% of students will use, on average, two devices. Those devices, combined with the tools teachers are using, can heavily tax network bandwidth, which is already in demand thanks to broadband growth in K-12 classrooms.

It’s important for administrators to monitor application usage to determine which apps are consuming the most bandwidth and address problem areas accordingly. This can be done in real-time, so issues can be rectified before they have an adverse impact on everyone using the network.

They should also prepare for and optimize their networks to accommodate spikes in usage. These could occur during planned testing periods, for example, but they also may happen at random. Administrators should build in bandwidth to accommodate all users—and then add a small percentage to account for any unexpected peaks.

Tracking bandwidth usage over time can help administrators accurately plan their bandwidth needs. Past data can help indicate when to expect bandwidth spikes.

Indeed, time itself is a common thread among these strategies. Automating the performance and optimization of a school network can save administrators from having to do all the maintenance themselves, thereby freeing them up to focus on more value-added tasks. It can also save schools from having to hire additional technical staff, which may not fit in their budgets. Instead, they can put their money toward facilities, supplies, salaries, and other line items with a direct and positive impact on students’ education.

Find the full article on Today’s Modern Educator.

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Level 14

Thanks for the article!  The "relying on alerts" bit is a toughy....I don't think we'll ever get there. 


Thanks for the article.


our local schools issue ipads for the kids so they can maintain patching and ensure what is on the network.

The ipads are locked down to specific apps and are brought in from time to time to be "refreshed" or patched to remove things that may have found their way onto those devices.

Level 16

Thanks for the write up.

Level 13

Education networks are indeed a challenge.  One of the biggest bandwidth hogs we run into a lot is compromised devices.  They are rife within the student community.

Level 12

I used to work in an Educational Service District, helping local school districts with IT issues. One thing that wasn't mentioned is monitoring and restricting network traffic the students are generating.


Standard practices, but I'm betting that the plan for capacity is one of the biggest challenges as technology is rapidly growing in the education space. Especially with the growing emphasis of getting people involved at much younger ages. As they embrace technology at earlier ages the growth in it's use and the data over the years is bound to be exponential.


I am learning from your article, and from some poor examples .. yeah .. plan for Capacity ... it is extreme ... we go from day to day .. then sky for the President or the Pope .. it is hard with those high hitting variables .. I like your information orafik - stimulating !!! Thanks for the share!

Level 13

Thanks for the article

Level 12

thanks for the post