International School of Stavanager Strengthens its Wireless Connectivity

By CIOReview | Friday, June 6, 2014

FREMONT, CA: Xirrus, a wireless network service provider, has announced that the International School of Stavanger has deployed a Xirrus wireless network to deliver school-wide Wi-Fi connectivity for its staff, pupils and visitors.

The school, based in Hafrsfjord, Norway, first introduced Xirrus Wireless Arrays in 2010 to replace an outdated wireless network. It has recently upgraded the network, adding 37 Xirrus Wireless Arrays to support the growing use of mobile devices across all age groups. The Xirrus network compromises 186 radios in total, which would be equivalent to 93 traditional Access Points from other vendors.

Stavanger has 280 Apple MacBooks throughout the school. In addition, it provides 450 students and 100 teachers with personal iPads in order to reduce the number of desktop computers. This fleet of devices required a robust wireless network in place in order to future-proof investment.

The school has an additional 200 iPads and iPod touches being used in primary school classrooms, bringing the total of school-owned devices to 1,100. The Xirrus wireless network also supports approximately 500 personal devices belonging to staff and students, which connect to the school’s guest network daily.

“Today’s generation expect anytime, anywhere access to learning resources and applications, so it’s essential to have a wireless network that goes above and beyond what they’ve grown accustomed to at home,” comments Andrew Rhodes, Director of Technology at International School of Stavanger. “We wanted to equip our staff with technologies that would enable them to deliver the most flexible learning experience possible. Having a high-performance Wi-Fi network in place means systems load instantly, rather than having to waste valuable lesson time while things boot up.”

Stavanger’s previous network didn’t provide complete coverage of the school grounds and didn’t allow staff enough visibility over what content pupils were accessing at school. “We use Xirrus Application Control to ensure pupils are using the technology responsibly, so apps like Skype and SnapChat are given lower priority than critical learning tools. It gives us the ability to identify and enforce policy against 1,200 applications, as well as optimising and securing the network by blocking unwanted applications. With parents also expecting a high-quality of wireless coverage when they visit, we’ve separated the network for three different user groups: pupils, parents and visitors to ensure seamless connectivity,” adds Rhodes.

In addition to its fleet of Apple devices, Stavanger also promotes a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scheme, meaning pupils can use their own laptops when working on homework or coursework. The mixture of school and pupil-owned devices removes the rigidity of the traditional IT suite as pupils are able to work anywhere they please, for example geography lessons can be conducted outside.

The school prides itself on its innovative use of technology, encouraging pupils to get involved in app development and coding classes after school, as well as weaving apps and cloud-based learning systems into everyday teaching. One of the apps used is Showbie, which allows teachers to create classes for children to enroll in. This gives pupils 24/7 anywhere access to their work, meaning they can submit documents for marking, as well as gain access to previous pieces of work and additional learning resources. With many teachers across the school relying on apps to streamline traditional classroom workflows, whether it be marking work directly or sharing feedback with students using tablets, having a fast and reliable school-wide network is as important as water or electricity.”

“Deploying a high-performance wireless network was business critical,” says Rhodes. “Tablet devices will come and go but having a reliable Wi-Fi network is now classed as a utility. It has to be reliable so we can continue to add innovative technologies for use by teachers and our pupils. Xirrus and partner e92plus offered us a great deal of consultancy, advising us on how to design the network and how much bandwidth to allow per mobile device user. Xirrus continues to provide us with valuable support when we need it, as well as keep us in loop on available technologies, which isn’t something you see from other vendors,” adds Rhodes.

“Delivering an immersive and flexible learning experience is crucial for today’s educators and Stavanger is a great example of how schools are achieving this through the use of wireless and mobile technologies. Having a high-performance wireless network is key to ensuring the next generation is equipped with the digital skills they require,” says Sean Larner, VP International, Xirrus.