Network Infrastructure for Online Testing for K-12 and Primary/Secondary School Districts

Student assessment plays a vital and growing role in primary and secondary education today. The days of laboriously handwriting test answers in little blue books to be interpreted by graders are drawing to a close. Measuring how well students and districts are performing relative to state educational standards is now being accomplished through online testing, both summative and formative. Often all students in an entire school or district will undergo simultaneous testing using online devices. The move to online testing accompanies the growing use of digital content in education as an important means to improve educational outcomes. Two national consortia have developed online tests related to many state curriculum standards: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Both have now completed field testing. Below are the critical technology issues that school districts must address as they implement class and school-wide online assessment. Solving these IT barriers will lead to smooth online testing on the way to achieving successful learning for all students.

Critical Technology Issues for Online Testing

RELIABLY DELIVERING ONLINE TEST CONTENT

The student testing devices must have high-reliability, smooth, uninterrupted, responsive connectivity all the way back to the remote servers where the tests reside. Often an entire class or even an entire school will undergo online testing simultaneously. The Wi-Fi network must be capable of providing smooth, uninterrupted connections to all student devices involved in the testing. This requires high density, high throughput wireless networking. These connections must be highly available or fault tolerant to ensure uninterrupted testing.

ACCESS CONTROL TO NETWORK RESOURCES

While the network must be capable of connecting all devices to all resources, it must also be very selective in doing so. During online testing, student devices are usually set to run only one application and connect to a limited set of Internet or in-school resources. It should be simple and quick to set up a network policy specifically for online testing, which can easily be turned on and off as needed. Web filters are used to prevent access to websites. Network integration with firewalls and web filters means that the network policy can be smoothly implemented across all resources. The network must be capable of both controlling and monitoring all devices and network activity.

ALLOCATING BANDWIDTH AND PERFORMANCE TO TEST-RELATED TRAFFIC

During testing, the district needs to allocate sufficient bandwidth and resources to the student devices that are administering the test. Since Internet bandwidth is usually fixed, this may require reducing bandwidth to sections of the school or district that are not participating in the online testing. QoS will need to be optimized for testing, rather than set uniformly across the entire network.

CONSTANT MONITORING OF NETWORK PERFORMANCE

It is important to have a constant view into network performance throughout the testing period, to be sure each student device has uninterrupted access to the testing servers.

APPLICATION INSIGHT

Network analytics can be used to verify that students are not accessing improper resources during the testing. Application analytics are also vital for insuring that the infrastructure is optimized for online testing.

COMPREHENSIVE SERVICE AND SUPPORT

Access to a global technical access center (GTAC) on a 24×7 basis ensures that all support questions can be answered promptly to keep the network functioning at all times. Prior to installation, it is important to survey and assess the RF characteristics of the site to determine optimal placement of access points and switches. Depending on the network support resources available within the district, network training and managed services may be required.

The solution described below provides the network infrastructure for online testing including ample Wi-Fi bandwidth to student assessment devices, control over which resources are accessible during the testing, and a means to monitor the infrastructure for potential performance bottlenecks, whether they occur within the local network, at the broadband connection, or back at the test servers. These configurations will prepare you for the full range of online testing, whether it be locally-based, state-wide, PARCC or Smarter Balanced.

Extreme is the only company in the industry that takes an architectural approach to bringing products to market from R&D to product release. As a result, all of our network products from wireless to wired are managed by a single Extreme Control Center network management screen for easy management by constrained K-12 IT teams. Our open, standards-based, and comprehensive SDN enables simple integration with third party technology such as web filters and firewalls. Extreme Networks has over 1,400 district customers spanning more than 17,000 schools nationwide, delivering the best educationally-focused networking solutions in the industry.

Required CapabilitiesRecommended SolutionHow We Do It Better
High Density, Pervasive Wi-Fi ConnectivityAP3805 802.11ac Access Points (2x2:2)
• AP Licenses, Radar Licenses
• 2x V2110 Virtualized Controller for High Availability (for up to 1050 APs)
• Highly scalable, seamless and secure mobile Wi-Fi connectivity
Wired Edge and BackhaulExtremeSwitching X460-G2• High performance wired backhaul, cross-platform stacking, embedded application controls
Control and Monitoring of Network Performance and All DevicesExtreme Control Center
Extreme Identity and Access Control
• Consistent device policy based on over 40 attributes centrally implemented, enforced end-to-end
• Simple device onboarding, 100% fidelity of all IP assets
• Internet filter and firewall integration, MDM integration
Device and Application Usage Visibility and InsightExtreme Application Analytics• Visibility into applications and websites being accessed with reported user experience measurements from every part of the network
Services and SupportMaintenance
Training
Professional Services
• Extreme Networks’ Global Technical

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