The team that leads the enterprise network infrastructure services division at the largest school system in Georgia gets graded on network performance and high availability. With 140 schools in the district to support, earning a passing grade is no easy feat.
Requirements for Online Testing
The school district falls under the Milestones Assessment System for standardized online testing. Known as "Georgia Milestones", the tests measure students' knowledge based on the state's standards for core topics like English, math and science.
The IT team is responsible for delivering Georgia Milestones online, uninterrupted. "We are under a directive that states that every student across 140 schools must be able to access their Internet services at the same time." – School District's IT Manager
If online testing were to fail in any instance, the source could be attributed to the schools' internal networks, Internet services, or the online testing service itself. If this were to happen, the IT manager said the finger-pointing comes directly him.
"IT is guilty until proven innocent" – School District's IT Manager
Add Blended Learning to the Mix
Blended learning is a combination of traditional teaching methods paired with content and instruction through digital media. To support the school district's blended learning programs, the IT team installed SAFARI Montage in their data center to provide a video streaming library and online tools.
According to the IT manager, "The biggest challenge to adoption is proving to teachers that the network can deliver the uninterrupted performance required incorporate blended learning into their curriculum".
The biggest technical concern is managing the exponential growth of traffic over their network. And only part of it is related to blended learning.
The school system's bring your own device (BYOD) policy allows each student to have five devices connected to the network. Every student must be able to access Internet services simultaneously. On any given day this means there can be more than 180,000 devices attached to the schools' networks.
Network Monitoring Keeps School System Online
The IT team has been using Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold for 13 years to monitor network traffic and bandwidth utilization across their LAN, WANs, and Internet services.
WhatsUp Gold monitors their core routers' interfaces across all schools, as well as edge switches and wireless LAN controllers.
When problems arise that affect performance of online testing or blended learning, the IT team can quickly isolate the root causes and resolve problems a lot faster.
Real-time alerts from WhatsUp Gold enable Bryan and his team to respond to network problems before they impact teachers and their students. Finger pointing is kept to a minimum.
Historical reports help them to optimize their networks to support the increasing requirements for a positive online learning experience.
As a result, the IT team can provide documented proof to build teacher confidence to incorporate online educational tools into their curriculum.
For the IT manager and his team, that's a passing grade they are glad to get.
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