Ascham School – New South Wales

Ascham School deploys Aruba 802.11ac wireless access points and ClearPass to empower tech savvy students

Ascham School is one of Australia’s most progressive schools and wanted to ensure the technology savvy and mobile driven students were empowered and prepared for tertiary studies and the workforce.

“With Aruba now in place, we have regained trust in how technology can deliver on the promise of enhancing the learning process, improving collaboration and most importantly, delivering on our promise to be among the best schools,” says Jennifer Sharman.

Helping Students Take Ownership of Their Learning

The teaching and learning approach at Ascham School lends itself perfectly to the Aruba technology – it’s about personalised learning and content.Jennifer Sharman, Director of IT, Ascham

At the heart of Ascham’s learning and teaching methods is The Dalton Plan, a unique academic approach which allows students, in close cooperation with their teachers, to take responsibility and ownership of their own learning to prepare them for the world beyond school.

Implemented to encourage students to develop a keen interest in their studies, technology plays an integral role and is incorporated into learning and teaching activities within the school.

Director of IT at Ascham, Jennifer Sharman, explains, “The Dalton Plan is all about independent learning. In many ways, the teaching and learning approach at Ascham lends itself perfectly to technology, because it is about personalised learning and content.”

Anywhere, Anytime Student Access

The 129-year-old school identified the need for a secure mobility solution to allow students access to information anywhere and at any time and to assist with the implementation of its strategic technology plan and vision.

With its existing legacy Wi-Fi system failing to meet the needs and requirements of the school, some trust had been lost in how technology could support teaching and learning.

Ascham also recognised the rapidly emerging shift in the wider community towards using personal computing and mobile devices for teaching and learning, and set out to enable a new “Personal Device Program” from Year 5 to Year 12.

Give students a personalised experience

The program offers students flexible access to technology-rich content to facilitate and support academic achievement and encourages students to personalise their use of technology. The strategy was embraced by parents and students who have the opportunity to bring their personal device into the School’s teaching and learning environment.

There were two additional motivators driving the strategic technology plan at Ascham. Firstly, Ascham wanted to ensure the technology savvy and mobile driven students were empowered and prepared for tertiary studies and the workforce.

Secondly, the School wanted to change the perception of technology among its teachers and staff, by providing them with a stable solution that could support their professional and teaching initiatives.

Due Diligence Leading to a Pilot

As part of the School’s due diligence, Ascham conducted extensive research in conjunction with its telecommunications and technical services partner, Accucom, analysing various wireless network providers. Accucom used heat maps to depict wireless coverage throughout the school and guided the IT team with expert industry information and knowledge.

After visiting a number of schools and universities to gain insight into best practice, Ascham piloted an Aruba solution in early 2014. With the implementation of its Personal Device Program, a key requirement was the ability to onboard a variety of devices quickly, easily and securely.

Implementing Wi-Fi that’s available everywhere

“We were incredibly impressed with the immediate outcomes from that pilot,” said Sharman. “One of our biggest challenges we had with our legacy system was onboarding devices.”

“It had always been a manual, costly and laborious procedure and the Aruba ClearPass solution fixed this in an instant with its secure user identification and automation features.”

After selecting Aruba, Ascham School implemented Aruba’s mobility network solution in just two weeks, installing 130 access points throughout the School, its boarding houses and residences.

Every learning and recreation space was equipped with an access point, to ensure Wi-Fi access was available to students in every corner of the school, including, the theatre, boarding houses, halls, library, as well as staff and meeting rooms.

Partnering With Aruba to Enhance the way Students Learn

As an intelligent mobility solution, the school-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure is constantly assessing the network usage by students and teachers as well as their movements, ensuring devices are connected at all times to the most efficient Access Point, allowing for independent, mobile and engaged learning.

With a range of devices connecting to Aruba’s Wi-Fi solution as part of Ascham’s Personal Device Program, girls are encouraged to bring the device of their choice into the learning environment.

Throughout the school, Smart Boards are also used, as well as LED panels that have smart software installed to support teaching initiatives. The wireless infrastructure that supports these various devices allows Ascham students to learn and work in diverse ways; in groups, independently and in partnership with teachers.

Regaining trust in delivering an enhanced learning process

The Hub, the School’s Intranet and its learning management platform Canvas, engage student learning through continuous online access to innovative digital pedagogy, rich in technology to facilitate and support academic achievement. In addition, students have access to personalised academic content, enabling improved learning, organisation and communication.

According to Sharman, “With Aruba now in place, we have regained trust in how technology can deliver on the promise of enhancing the learning process, accessing information and improving collaboration opportunities.”

“The success of the Personal Device Program hinged on a wireless network that could provide strong and stable Wi-Fi to our students and teachers, school-wide, and Aruba have delivered this,” said Sharman.

Confidence Amongst Staff With Technology Platforms

Following the implementation of Aruba’s Mobility-Defined Solution, staff are now more confident about using technology in the classroom, as they have a Wi-Fi system they can trust. For the IT team, the solution has increased efficiency and collaboration with hugely reduced technical support requests from staff and students.

“Making the decision to deploy Aruba had a big flow-on effect for us as an IT team, because it wasn’t just the personal devices that had to be connected to the Wi-Fi system, we also had school-owned iPads and laptops.

In classrooms, we have trolleys of 25 iPads, and previously issues with wireless connectivity had a significant impact on the teacher and students,” Sharman adds.

Help desk tickets dramatically decrease

“Since implementing Aruba, we haven’t experienced any connectivity issues with the iPads. The transition has been quite extraordinary.

I would estimate that approximately 40 per cent of our help desk tickets prior to implementing Aruba were to do with wireless, with students and teachers regularly dropping off the network”, said Sharman.

“We can now on-board a class of 24 girls in under 10 minutes. Guest access is equally as important to us, as we regularly have visitors including the School’s board, parents, presenters and relief teachers.

We can now onboard their devices to the wireless network seamlessly, which is a testament to the Aruba ClearPass system. It was always a big struggle prior to Aruba,” continued Sharman.

Continuing to Collaborate

A new Science and Community Centre and updated boarding facilities are currently in development, so Aruba’s scalable solution will continue to grow with the School. According to Sharman, “When the new facilities come online we will be installing Aruba.”

“What Aruba has allowed us to do, is not think about the wireless network anymore. That’s really what good technology should do. A mobility defined solution should be reliable, scalable and flexible and that is exactly what Aruba provides us with.

Most importantly, Aruba helps us deliver our promise to be among the best schools globally: an exceptionally inspiring place of learning where the pulse of the Progressive Education movement beats strong,” concluded Sharman.

 
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