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Tech Talk Live Blog

Building a Network for Online Assessments

Brenda Priddy


Online assessments are likely to become one of the major challenges facing network administrators and IT departments in the future of education technology.  Schools in Minnesota have already laid the groundwork for them with approximately 95% of students’ math tests now being taken online. However, in that very same state, problems with servers hosting these online assessments have caused students to suffer slow loading times or being  kicked off the system entirely.

There are concerns about how implementing online assessments into a school will work, not least of all in a field where IT departments are facing increased strains on their budgets. So how does one build an effective and affordable network for these online assessments?

Wireless Or Wired?

Wireless networks have an enormous advantage over wired networks. As the number of devices connecting to the system will dramatically vary, you need a network that is reliable, manageable, and secure – all the things that WiFi can guarantee.

You should also be considering integrated planning tools that will allow network administrators the ability to design access ports. That is not to mention the need to account for high-density client requirements when these access ports are being used to prioritize the traffic that is connecting to the network. After all, any type of system failure as a result of improper planning in regards to bandwidth density could hinder the online testing.

Capacity

Your current network needs to be capable of supporting both the requirements and the density of online testing. But how do you achieve this?

Guidelines suggest that you should have an internet bandwidth of at least 100 Kbps and around 1 Mbps of internal bandwidth for every student. Some of the better commercial broadband options available come from Sky who have started offering British customers 200 Mbps (although the complaints to Sky customer service suggest this hasn’t been a smooth launch) and Verizon who rolled out a 500 Mbps service last summer.

Administrators should also leave plenty of room for the network to grow as new requirements emerge. A cloud system with intelligence in each access port, for instance, will allow you to add, remove, or simply move access points without having to worry about the maximum capacity.

Management and Troubleshooting

Like every network, there will be problems that arise during use. That is something that simply cannot be avoided. However, what is important is that you are able to manage the network effectively so that troubleshooting can be done quickly and straightforwardly. A unified dashboard would allow you to see information about connected users, their devices, and much more. This would make it simple for the IT team to diagnose potential issues early on.

Teachers can also use this technology to assess the ways that students are connected to a network, allowing them to prioritize and manage various applications and have a degree of control over the online assessments.

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