Network and Service Performance in a High School Equipped in the Scope of the Pilot Project e-Schools
Given the speed of digitalization, the growth of the amount of digital content and the increasing involvement of young people in the digital world and new technologies, there is an increasing development gap in the equipment and the digital maturity of schools from urban and rural areas. For this very reason, but also for bringing primary and secondary education in the Republic of Croatia closer to the level of more developed European countries, the Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNet, launched the project “e-Schools: Establishing a System for Developing Digitally Mature Schools (pilot project)” . One of the main activities of this project is the establishment of an adequate network infrastructure offering sufficient capacity and access to digital services in educational institutions. The aim of this paper is to help establish a proper methodology of the network infrastructure performance analysis to evaluate the realization of this activity based on both subjective and objective measurements of network performance and services in high schools equipped within the e-Schools pilot project.
A. E-Schools program The e-Schools program, under the name “e-Schools: A comprehensive informatization of school operation processes and teaching processes aimed at the creation of digitally mature schools for the 21st century”, consists of two phases : A pilot project, which runs from March 1st 2015 to August 31st 2018; The second phase of the project, which will be carried out from 2019 to 2022, based on the results of the evaluation of the activities of the pilot project. International School Kumbakonam The implementation of the entire program is operationally separated into two programs funded from different funds: Project A – Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014 – 2020 (OPCC), funded by the European Regional Development Fund; https://karthividhyalayaicse.com/ Project B – Operational Programme Efficient Human Resources 2014 – 2020, funded by the European Social Fund.
B. E-Schools pilot project The purpose of the pilot project is to “…pilot the organizational, technological and educational concepts of introducing ICT into educational and business processes in selected schools for the period of two years and, based on that experience, develop a strategy for the implementation of digitally mature schools throughout the system of primary and secondary education in the Republic of Croatia in the period from 2019 to 2022” . The pilot phase of the e-Schools project has included 101 primary and 50 secondary schools (10% of all schools in Croatia). When selecting the schools to take part in the pilot project, the main factors were the motivation and willingness of the schools to participate, but also the uniform allocation of schools across the country
implementation of an adequate ICT infrastructure in one of the selected schools. This key activity comprises of the following : Designing and building wireless networks in schools, providing necessary equipment to classrooms and educating teaching and non-teaching staff, establishing fully equipped regional educational centers, upgrading CARNet data centers, and upgrading the CARNet network. Participating schools are additionally equipped with an interactive classroom, including tablets. Additionally, teachers are provided with tablets, hybrid computers and/or laptops. As a part of the project, five regional educational centers were established and equipped with the state-of-the-art technology. To use the equipment effectively and successfully, but also to consume the digital content without any disturbances, a stable and a high-quality network infrastructure is required. In the small-scale experiment conducted within the scope of this paper, subjective and objective performance analysis of the network was conducted so as to help develop an insightful methodology in the future performance analysis of the network infrastructure deployed in schools participating in the pilot project.
C. Technical requirements and analysis of initial interviews Since most participating schools lacked an acceptable network cabling system and the characteristics of the passive network infrastructure did not meet the requirements from the project documentation, a completely new cabling installation and implementation of a passive network infrastructure were needed. Schools that already met the required quality standards continued to use the existing infrastructure . Requirements which an existing or newly constructed infrastructure must meet are: Stability and quality of a passive network infrastructure, undisturbed connectivity of the user to the network, simple administration, maintenance and upgrade, sufficient LAN connection capacity, and wireless network speed with an average of 30 Mbps While 151 schools participated in the scope of the eSchools pilot project, there is a lack of a systematic methodology for evaluating both network and service performance following completion of the pilot. We therefore plan to use lessons learned in the scope of this paper to introduce such a methodology, which will be then used to evaluate the network and service performance in high schools taking part in the pilot project. Findings in this paper were based on a case study involving one of the schools participating in the pilot project, Prva gimnazija Varaždin. As a first step, initial interviews were conducted with the school principal, the computer science professor, and one of the students. Conducted interviews showed that all three correspondents were generally satisfied with the deployed wireless network, but sometimes experience some issues, which may require further attention. The school principal claims that “…the school has over 270 laptops, 40 tablets, 11 smartboards and 20 PCs. All of them are connected to the Internet during the work day, either over wired or a wireless connection. It is very important to mention that all teachers and students also connect to the wireless network with their own phones, laptops and tablets.”. She is generally satisfied with the wireless network, but there are some situations where the connection breaks and then quickly resets again. However, she considers this as normal, as over 500 different devices are connected to the wireless network at the same time. The computer science professor uses a lot of network services during his lectures, including WWW, e-mail, social media, cloud computing, Moodle, Office 365, Kahoot, and Plickers. He has noticed that “…some areas of the school have very weak signal. Additionally, connection often breaks. However, such events don’t occur often, only a few times per month.”. Network services that the interviewed student is using most often include Kahoot, chemistry and biology simulations, video streaming and searching the Web for articles. He has noticed that he sometimes has trouble with connecting to the eduroam network. Additionally, he claims that a slow response can sometimes be experienced when using the network. Generally, he is satisfied with the network.