From education to employment

Helping FE colleges in England remain online

Tim Kidd is the operations director for Janet, charity Jisc's computer network for education and research

The use of the internet is critical to FE colleges. In FE internet connections enhance teaching and learning including online examinations, allow the submission of course work remotely and support virtual learning environments. As well as of course enabling video conferencing to take place, as discussed by my colleague Esther Barrett last month.

FE colleges use Janet, Jisc’s computer network for education and research, which is very reliable. However sometimes things go wrong, even the best network can’t stop road-work diggers accidently cutting through underground fibre optic cable and interrupting service. But because the network is normally so reliable it’s easy to take it for granted. In the same way that we tend to take electricity for granted at home until something happens and we get cut off.
It’s not just teaching and learning that’s at risk when internet connectivity fails. The pressure on FE budgets and therefore the need to reduce administrative costs means that colleges increasingly access shared and cloud services provided over the internet for everything from payroll to telephony. These services can reduce costs, provide increased functionality and deliver increased resilience of the service itself because the supplier can provide the service from multiple locations on the network. So a sudden break in internet connection can affect every part of a college.

The government understand the importance of a resilient network connection for FE colleges. Skills minister Matthew Hancock MP at the Association of Colleges’ conference in November 2013 announced that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will be working with Jisc to help FE colleges in England access more resilient network connectivity. We are procuring additional connections into our Janet network for colleges on the basis that BIS pays the installation and first year costs and the colleges pay the recurrent costs after the first year. This initiative will provide improved resilience and cost savings and help to stop the problems that might occur if a college’s connection to the internet fails.

Resilient internet connectivity is important for colleges to make savings by accessing cost-effective cloud services and may allow them to reduce the insurance costs associated with business continuity risks. And of course it means that you can help keep your students online, even with problems strike!

Tim Kidd is the operations director for Janet, charity Jisc’s computer network for education and research

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