Education’s Digital Transformation From Chalk To Chip

NETSCOUT helps ensure student safety and improves remote learning application performance.

Kids walking into school building

The future of education is being etched in silicon. The global EdTech market is projected to reach $696.04 billion by 2028, driven by technology, digitalization, and hybrid learning models. Even ChatGPT has entered the classroom. Digital transformations in K-12 schools and districts are focused on improving web-based services and user experiences for educators and students. Not only is this prompting significant changes in how educational IT organizations structure their environments, but it also extends to how they monitor and improve performance for the service technologies pulsing within their networks.

Evolving School Districts Through Digital Transformation

The success or failure of most digital transformation (DX) initiatives hinges on how effectively they enhance user experiences via technology. Collaborative research, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning” policy report and “National Educational Technology Plan,” seeks to share knowledge and refine user experiences with thoughtfully researched insights into the use of technology in education. Nevertheless, the high-stakes journey of digital transformation can present challenges for certain educational institutions as they navigate the complexities of integrating modern web-based applications into legacy systems and hybrid environments. This complexity is further heightened while adapting to the evolving needs of users (i.e., students), which change on an annual and/or generational basis, and government regulations.

Digital infrastructure should be adequate and future-proof. Connections, speeds, and devices should be designed to meet the needs of modern education with plans for financial sustainability. This infrastructure should also be scalable to meet future needs.

— “K-12 Digital Infrastructure Brief: Adequate and Future Proof,” U.S. Department of Education

To overcome these challenges, it’s essential to identify and address opportunities for reshaping IT environments, both at specific points and on a broader scale. This is crucial for unlocking the full potential of digital transformation in educational institutions. Some areas to evaluate include predominantly server-based applications, suboptimal bandwidth, limited virtualization, and cloud integration, constrained peering exchanges, conventional WAN connectivity such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), outdated custom applications, and reliance on ineffective point tools for monitoring.

A critical aspect of education’s digital transformation is ensuring you always have complete control. Robust network and application visibility solutions can provide a deeper understanding of network behavior, often at the packet level. This insight enables educational institutions to monitor, analyze, and comprehend the behavior of both network infrastructure and the applications running on it.

The Cloud Revolution and Unified Communications

The cloud has ushered in a notable shift in recent years with the increased adoption of cloud-based solutions within K-12 school districts.

With its scalability and flexibility, the cloud can serve as a cost-effective and efficient solution for some school districts, freeing them from some of the constraints of physical servers or storage devices. This enables educational IT organizations to store and access data and applications via the internet effortlessly and add or remove users, applications, or storage space as needed, without additional hardware or infrastructure. As a result, schools and districts can reallocate resources to more strategic initiatives while achieving savings in hardware and maintenance expenses. Additionally, cloud providers invest in data security to mitigate data breaches, ensuring the encryption and safeguarding of sensitive information with methods such as multifactor authentication.

One of the most significant developments in education in recent years is the adoption of remote learning and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) systems. These web-based initiatives allow users to easily access educational resources and engage in virtual classrooms from anywhere, erasing geographical boundaries while maintaining real-time interactions. The integration of collaboration tools such as video conferencing, document sharing, chat, breakout sessions, and virtual whiteboards fosters dynamic and interactive online learning experiences for students and educators. These systems have proven especially valuable in recent times, allowing for continued education during extraordinary circumstances, such as health crises, where in-person learning becomes challenging.

The adoption of vendor-agnostic cloud monitoring solutions as part of these initiatives becomes instrumental in preserving network performance, supporting real-time applications, and mitigating visibility gaps, ultimately contributing to high-quality and secure user experiences.

Facial Recognition in Public School Security

Educational institutions are increasingly prioritizing the safety of their students, faculty, staff, and facilities, channeling their efforts into leveraging technology to build more secure learning environments. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 80 percent of elementary schools have cameras as part of their security system. This number rises to about 94 percent for high schools. Beyond conventional security measures, educational institutions are embracing advanced technology, such as AI-based surveillance systems, to further bolster safety precautions.

Biometric technology, particularly facial recognition technology, is emerging as an offshoot of digital transformation initiatives for public schools and increasingly finding use in educational institutions. For example, by implementing facial recognition-networked video systems at entrances and strategic locations, public schools can efficiently monitor who enters and exits their premises and alert authorities to any suspicious activities.

In public schools, certain areas necessitate restricted access, such as computer labs, data centers, or storage rooms containing confidential records. Facial recognition offers a highly secure means of controlling entry, guaranteeing that only authorized personnel gain access to these sensitive areas. The integration of such technical efficiencies is crucial for maintaining a proactive and robust security posture in educational settings.

Network and application monitoring solutions play a critical role in the success of security initiatives. These solutions can ensure the continuous and reliable functioning of facial recognition systems, networked video feeds, and data processing and help maintain high-quality service and low-latency performance.

Operational Efficiency With NETSCOUT Visibility

As educational institutions embark on their digital transformation journeys, continuous monitoring of network traffic and application performance is critical for safeguarding service availability and mitigating visibility gaps unintentionally caused by transforming IT environments. NETSCOUT’s nGenius Enterprise Performance Management solutions provide comprehensive visibility spanning from physical and virtual endpoints to software as a service (SaaS) and remote learning applications. This includes both internal and external networks, such as internet service providers (ISPs) and public cloud providers, ensuring high-quality user experiences.

Digital transformation has arrived in the education space. And it’s here to stay. Embracing that change will benefit educators, staff, and students long into the future.

Read this case study to see how NETSCOUT optimizes the performance of hybrid learning apps, networked video, and facial recognition security technologies for a school district of more than 10,000 students and 1,000 teachers.