The EdTech space is evolving at a rapid pace. In addition to a drastic increase in remote learning, a wide range of new technologies and platforms are making their way into physical and virtual classrooms across the globe. However, discussions about trends in educational technology tend to overlook how they affect (and are affected by) the network. We’re here to do something about that.

Let’s run through some of the biggest tech trends on the horizon for education in 2022, hone in on their network challenges, and provide some tips for addressing them along the way.

Security and remote learning is everywhere

Before we jump into any specific trends in educational technology, let’s address two overarching themes: security and remote learning.

1. Security is paramount

Tight security is a prerequisite for any technology to even be considered within the education sector. Aside from the strict layers of privacy and safety regulations that govern student data handling, no school IT team wants to be the next to make the news for a ransomware breach.

It’s vital to encrypt data in transit and at rest, protect ingress and egress traffic, and only adopt solutions that meet or exceed security requirements. Additionally, IT should also assess their security posture using a set of best practices, like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, before adopting new tech.

As we go through each of the current trends in educational technology below, remember that security is a must across the board.

2. Remote first is often the norm

In 2021, we projected that businesses would shift to an “operate from anywhere” digital by default model. Nowhere else throughout 2021 was that more applicable than in the world of education.

Many learning environments are now remote first, and IT has had to adapt quickly. In many cases, IT now needs to securely enable remote learning (and working) from home, despite not having control over the devices students and teachers use to connect. Enabling remote learning and remote work has always had unique challenges, and COVID-19 internet habits have added new wrinkles.

Because of this shift, “remote first” is another pervasive theme that influences multiple trends in EdTech. If you’re in need of some free tools to help you support “remote first” environments, check out our list of resources for remote workers.

In a Computer Science Class Boy Wearing Virtual Reality Headset Works on a Programming Project.

Trend: Immersive learning and digital textbooks

Immersive learning is an approach that leverages augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and 3D simulations to create highly interactive, virtual learning environments. In recent years, VR solutions from vendors like ClassVR, Oculus, and RobotLAB have become more common in classrooms for lessons in everything from STEM to history. And the market growth isn’t expected to stop anytime soon. A Fortune Business Insights report projects that VR in the education market will grow to over $13 billion by 2026 (up from less than $700 million in 2018).

While less futuristic than AR/VR/MR, digital textbooks are also playing a similar role in changing how education is delivered. Physical textbooks are expensive, hard to distribute and collect from remote students, impossible to update, and, as we saw in 2021, subject to supply chain challenges. Digital textbooks address these challenges, can integrate with e-learning platforms, and help create an interactive learning experience.

And because it’s 2022… a National Literary Trust survey has shown (unsurprisingly) that most students prefer ebooks.

Even though digital textbooks are already popular, there is still plenty of growth in the space, with multiple reports projecting a double-digit compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for digital textbooks over the next few years.

The network challenge

From a network administrator’s perspective, enabling immersive learning and digital textbooks comes with several challenges, including:

  • Network capacity. Downloading content, updating devices, streaming video content that may complement digital textbooks, and interacting in dynamic virtual environments can significantly increase the amount of network bandwidth a classroom uses. With wired connections often being a non-starter, Wi-Fi access points can quickly become a bottleneck.
  • Latency. When it comes to AR/VR/MR, latency can make or break the experience. In some cases, too much latency when using VR headsets has been known to cause nausea.
  • Asset management and device monitoring. Each e-reader, headset, tablet, or laptop schools provide to students needs to be sourced, tracked, and managed.

Trend: Game-based learning

Game-based learning is one of the most popular emerging trends in educational technology. With game-based learning, students play (digital or non-digital) games that teach or reinforce specific concepts and skills. This active learning technique helps promote critical thinking, and can be a great way to keep students engaged. Because of the benefits, game-based learning platforms like EdApp, Kahoot!, and Hoopla are gaining popularity. ResearchandMarkets projects the game-based learning market will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just over 20% from 2019-2026.

The network challenge

Digital learning games can create several network challenges. In addition to the complexities of monitoring, endpoint and license management, and potentially increased bandwidth requirements, IT needs to ensure that teachers have the access and visibility required to assess learner performance.

Trend: Blended learning and “the flipped classroom”

Blended learning, a hybrid online and in-person approach to education, has become commonplace in modern schools. In addition to enabling learning when being physically present in class isn’t possible, blended learning can help optimize how courses are delivered towards a more learner-centered model.

Flipped classrooms are a popular type of blended learning that “flip” the traditional approach to lectures and activities (e.g. homework). In a flipped classroom, students may watch lectures, research class-related topics, and discuss lessons in an online forum from home. Then, when they’re in a physical class, they’ll actively engage in activities focused on problem-solving and getting “hands-on”. This “flipped” approach aims to maximize the benefits of in-person collaboration between students and guidance from instructors.

The network challenge

In addition to provisioning Learning Management System (LMS) platforms like Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle, IT is responsible for ensuring the network can meet the demands of blended learning. Network capacity must be able to accommodate the demands of students downloading course materials. Similarly, reliable network performance is critical to enable real-time collaboration (e.g. video calls) and content delivery (e.g. streaming a lecture) without compromising the learning experience.

Use a real-time network traffic monitoring platform to proactively monitor network performance.

Network issues can ruin online learning experiences, so IT needs to be able to quickly detect and address minor issues before they become major problems. Solutions like Auvik’s TrafficInsights enable IT to quickly identify bandwidth hogs and drill down into flow data for rapid root cause analysis and issue resolution.

Trend: 1:1 student to device ratios

To enable e-learning, many schools now try to provide each student with a laptop or tablet, creating a 1:1 student to device ratio. A 1:1 approach to e-learning aims to deliver the same learner experience to all students, help ensure device compatibility, simplify monitoring, and makes network security easier and consistent. In 2021, demand for smart devices for schools has been one of the key drivers of Chromebook and tablet growth despite supply chain issues.

The network challenge

While school-supplied smart devices make it easier to standardize, they also significantly increase IT’s asset management and device monitoring responsibilities. In addition to managing licenses, enabling Wi-Fi connectivity, and securing endpoints, IT is often responsible for everything from physical security, to patching, to providing in-class device charging.

Trend: Bring your own device (BYOD)

Instead of adopting a 1:1 device policy, some institutions have chosen to allow a BYOD policy. BYOD tends to be one of the more popular higher education where older teens and adults are responsible for sourcing their own smart devices. This allows learners to use their preferred devices for school and limits IT’s support burden and device budgets.

The network challenge

Fundamentally, BYOD creates a fair network security challenge. How can IT safely allow devices they don’t control significant access to school resources without compromising security? There’s no single magic bullet, but firewalls, network segmentation, and network visibility are key aspects in mitigating the risk.

Additionally, IT must ensure that the network can accommodate a wide range of devices connecting from anywhere on campus. This may require additional Wi-Fi access points, support for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and even wired access in some locations.

The network capacity requirements with both BYOD and 1:1 ratios also create interesting bandwidth consumption patterns. Campus bandwidth demands are high from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then drop to almost zero outside of school hours.

The network can make or break modern learning experiences

While specific requirements will vary from school to school, the network is a key enabler of modern education. In a world of online classes and blended learning, students and teachers pay the price if network resources aren’t available (or can’t meet performance requirements).

To ensure the network is up to par, IT needs to invest in network security, visibility, and proactive performance monitoring. Even when you get capacity management and network design right, bottlenecks and performance issues can occur. The right network monitoring tools can help you drill down and quickly assess and correct minor issues before they have a significant impact on learners.

Of course, you can’t take advantage of any of these new trends without a network that can support them. Ready to see how your network can perform with a network monitoring and management system that’s second to none? Give Auvik a try, risk free for 14-days.

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