Located in Coomera on the northern end of the Gold Coast, (the fastest growing area in South East Queensland), Saint Stephen’s College is a co-educational, Preparatory to Year 12 Christian day school. Affiliated with the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia, the College began operation on 1 February 1996, growing from its original 166 students enrolled in Prep to Year 7 to a current student body of over 1300.
As part of their push to provide students with the best possible education resources, Saint Stephen’s College had implemented a campus wide, wireless network with high-speed cable Internet access. All teachers at the school have their own laptop, which form an integral part of the College’s daily education and management processes, while students had accessed the school’s network and resources via a large number of school supplied desktop and laptop computers.
Seeking increased flexibility for students without requiring parents to pay additional fees, the College evaluated a range of ‘take home’ laptop programmes but could not find a plan that suited all needs. Even the option of providing students with ‘free’ laptops would have required parents to pay significant additional fees to cover software, insurance, technical support and so on. Additionally, a survey of students indicated that over 50% of students already had their own laptop. There seemed little point in parents funding another computer.
With this in mind, the College decided to allow some students to choose to ‘bring their own laptop/iPad’ and connect it to the College wireless network with no charge to parents. This approach raised a number of administrative and logistical issues for the school’s IT staff. In seeking a solution, the school turned to Blue Reef.
Working with Blue Reef, it was determined that the solution needed to be as simple as possible to implement while allowing the College to retain control of access
Students needed to be able to connect to the College wireless network in a ‘hassle free’ and transparent fashion. There also needed to be a way for IT staff to ensure that only authorised devices had access to the wireless network. Thus, the MAC address of each authorised device is recorded and this is in turn used to authenticate the device. This prevents the wireless network becoming overloaded by students connecting multiple (unauthorised) devices to the network.
The school also needed to ensure that an appropriate level of Internet filtering was in place for students. The Blue Reef solution fulfilled all of these criteria.
The Blue Reef solution involved the implementation of a separate wireless network (SSID) for students. It needed to rely on user credentials by means of a radius server rather than a network key (password) which could be passed on to other users.
Internet filtering rules also needed to flow through transparently, depending upon the user rights on the network.
A transparent proxy server was also set up to reduce the amount of configuration required for each student computer in the initial setup process.
By working closely with the support staff at Blue Reef, all aspects of the rollout were completed within a matter of days. Their continuing support has allowed fine-tuning of the system and staff at Saint Stephen’s have greatly valued the experience and expertise Blue Reef brought to the project.
Students in the trial have been extremely happy with the results while IT staff have experienced minimal increase to their workload (initial set up of each student computer to access the wireless network is a five minute task). The College’s education is more flexible to suit the needs of students and, because they are now able to use their own devices, parents do not have to purchase an additional laptop or pay any extra fees. Students and parents do not have to be involved in the programme, but if they choose to they can select the type and cost of the laptop they purchase.
A recent survey of student satisfaction with the programme produced the following results.
Q. How would you rate the programme overall? (1 = Excellent; 5 = Poor)
Average response: 1.7
Percentage who chose 1: 56%
Percentage who chose 4 or 5: 0%
Q: Do you think it has made learning easier for you? (1 = Yes, a lot easier; 5 = No. I get more distracted now.)
Average response: 1.5
Percentage who chose 1: 61%
Percentage who chose 4 or 5: 0%
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The information contained in the case study represent the interpretations of the author but do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Australian Media Group.
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