The Collaborative Classroom
Over the past few years, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions have seen a remarkable increase in use and popularity across the educational spectrum. In a 2020 survey of 200 education IT professionals, 94% of them were hosting at least one solution in the cloud.1 It makes sense: Instead of worrying about on-prem installations, SaaS promises to provide teachers, administrators and students with access to data and applications anytime, anywhere and on any device.
The pandemic certainly puts that promise to the test. Almost overnight, in classrooms everywhere, from kindergartens to universities, students were sent home to learn. Teachers had to use their home networks and, in many cases, home devices to connect to students. As a result, school IT leaders needed to find a new way to help their educators and students continue to connect — and quickly.
While many schools had online collaboration platforms already in place, education was still largely a physical-based process before the pandemic. Students were expected to gather in the same classroom, while online learning students would join remotely. Once everyone became an online learner, school leaders quickly discovered that while SaaS-based meeting and collaboration solutions would allow education to continue, they are not without their challenges, such as user experience, security, and identity validation. In addition, IT often found it difficult to integrate its many SaaS collaboration and conferencing solutions with each other and with other platforms.
Preparing for a Hybrid Classroom
Now that students and instructors are returning to the classroom, it’s a good time for IT to reassess the solutions put in place during the pandemic to ensure that they are still appropriate. One big reason is bandwidth.
Before the pandemic, school IT infrastructure was built with the assumption that most classes happen in person. If someone joined remotely, that often happened as a single video stream accessed by the online collaboration platform.
Post-pandemic, we will see more hybrid classroom situations where each teacher and student — whether in the classroom or at home — may need to log into an online collaboration platform to participate. This has the potential to put demands on bandwidth that affect the users’ experience.
Achieve SaaS Benefits with a Hybrid Approach
Technologies like the Intel Unite® solution can help you achieve the full promise and benefits of SaaS collaboration platforms without clogging your network or hindering your user experience. It uses both your cloud-based applications and your on-premises network to create a hybrid cloud to transmit data in the most effective way possible.
For example, imagine you are hosting a speaker on campus and more than 1,000 students and faculty on campus are joining the video conference. With a cloud-only infrastructure, you would send that stream out to the cloud, only to download it 1,000 times on the way back to reach students on campus in their dorms. The Intel Unite solution is instead smart enough to download that stream once to a hub computer with Windows 10 and an Intel® Core™ i5 or higher processor, which serves as the session host. The hub then sends the stream wirelessly across your internal network, significantly reducing bandwidth. It also helps to ensure that data stays securely behind the school’s firewall.
This hybrid approach enables an intelligent architecture that offers both the best of SaaS and on-prem in the most efficient way possible. It provides all the benefits of LAN speed by communicating directly when appropriate, while also freeing IT from having to manage extra infrastructure that can be better delivered through the cloud.
Now is the time to look at your in-person learning and collaboration spaces and tools to see if they meet the needs of students and instructors who have become accustomed to meeting remotely. By using technology like the Intel Unite solution to not only deliver content with a hybrid infrastructure but to simplify the classroom collaboration experience, you can ensure your instructors and students can continue to meet and learn without interruption.