The Building Blocks of Successful eLearning – Behind the Scenes Technology

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The technology enabling good eLearning

Earlier this year I was asked to speak at the Interface Magazine Expo 2013 and share some of the eLearning journey of St Andrew’s College.  As I prepared my presentation I reflected on some of the essential building blocks that have been put in place over the last few years, from which we can launch into our 1:1 Computing Programme in 2014.

The Government has been very public in their aim to install Ultrafast Broadband in Schools, and is currently rolling this out as part of their Schools Network Upgrade Project (SNUP). However, as an Independent School, St Andrew’s has had to largely implement this ourselves, partnering with Snap Internet who deliver the internet via fibre optics from Enable Networks.

Not only does this allow our students to ‘surf the net’ at very high speed, accessing rich media content such as Educational TV and video-conferencing with other classrooms, we are also using this fibre backbone to perform off site backups in partnership with another school.

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Noticeable are the peaks and troughs associated with the end of each lesson and lunch breaks.

The College has also laid a significant amount of fibre throughout the grounds, linking buildings with speeds up to 10Gb/s, with some of this being achieved during earthquake renovations and repairs. As a result of this upgrade and consolidation of services, Hewlett-Packard (HP) carried out a case study on our network and converged services, blogging about it here (the full case study is available here).

2012 saw the introduction of our Learning Management System, Moodle, which I’ve blogged about here and here.

This year a College wide replacement of the wireless network has been implemented, with over 100 HP MSM460 deployed across the campus, and over 60 HP MSM317 installed in the new Boarding Houses which you can explore here:

This upgrade has allowed for significantly more bandwidth to become available to students, and in areas of the College where previously wireless access was not accessible. Consequently, laptops and other devices are being used to support the learning in more classrooms, evidenced by this map of Level 4 in the Arts Block showing users connected via wireless:

Arts Block Level 4

Arts Block Level 4

Sitting in front of this network, protecting the network and students from external threats, as well as monitoring traffic at an individual user level is a Next Generation Firewall from Fortinet -the Fortigate 600c.

Fortigate 600c

Fortigate 600c

This hardware and associated services, represent hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into creating an Enterprise level network to support the teaching and learning happening at St Andrew’s. This platform, laid over a number of years, will enable the successful launch of the 1:1 Computing Programme in 2014 for our Yr9 students.

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