Teachers incorporating websites like Wikipedia and online videos into their curriculum in an effort to up the ante on student interest and engagement. Digital and PDF files replacing paper books to fuel an electronic learning environment. The pressure of implementing such technical realities had Paul van Loe at the tipping point.
As head of Information and Communications Technology at Stichting Katholiek Onderwijs Leiden (SKOL), a Catholic secondary school in the Netherlands, van Loe knew it was time to reorient the school’s IT to the realities of this new and evolving education paradigm.
“We were getting pressure to enable teachers more effectively and support virtual learning, but we only had 600 computers for students and 200 laptops for teachers, divided across five departments,” says van Loe. “With 2500 students, there was no realistic way that we could get every student behind a computer to use digital books or Internet-based software. And we certainly couldn’t afford to buy a laptop for each student. That’s when I knew that we needed to mobilize and embrace BYOD. It was the only way to give every student access to technology for learning.”
The approach was simple:
- SKOL partnered with Proxsys, which helps education institutions build and manage Cisco wireless networks.
- The school’s software was transitioned to the cloud.
- Students were encouraged to bring their own devices to participate.
Van Loe saw an immediate willingness among students to do just that, citing that up to 95 percent of students own a device capable of supporting virtual learning.
Enabling the Education Enterprise
SKOL’s IT infrastructure has three core pillars:
- A platform for connectivity, security, and control.
- An administration system that enables grade inputting, scheduling, and planning.
- An “It’s Learning” system, where students can submit assignments and receive feedback from teachers.
Together, these pillars extend students’ access to technology and help SKOL adapt to the reality of fewer faculty members. Virtual teachers are a growing phenomenon, and SKOL can now offer recorded lessons in the “It’s Learning” environment.
“It’s become my job to show students and teachers how they can use IT to make their work easier, more flexible, and more adaptive to changes in education,” says van Loe. “IT is now an advisor, consultant, and collaborator. We help students understand how to use mobile devices and leverage virtual resources. And we help faculty continue a high standard of teaching using IT. The environment is more fluid, but our wireless network is highly stable—an always-on utility. With a reliable, yet flexible infrastructure foundation, we can continue to stimulate teachers and students to use IT and realize the benefits of mobile technologies and a virtual learning environment.”