Dahwood Ahmed, Regional Manager UK&I, Extreme Networks

Coronavirus has brought with it a new set of challenges for the education sector. As a result of the UK government's decision to close schools, colleges and nurseries across the country in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, numerous questions have been raised about how children’s education will be affected.

The top priority for these institutions has been to ensure that their academic progress doesn’t stall while they prioritise their health and wellbeing. In addressing this situation, many educational organisations are finding new ways to facilitate distance learning and pursue positive outcomes for their students through the integration of an array of digital technologies. 

Fortunately, the UK was leading the way in facilitating distance learning long before coronavirus made it necessary, with 58% of Brits aged 16 to 24 using online learning materials, and 29% enrolled in online courses in 2019.

As such, many organisations and students are adjusting well to the transition from traditional teaching methods to remote learning. Much as remote working and paperless workspaces have been a boon to efficiency in the workplace, digital innovation in education has become more widely adopted as its advantages become more apparent to education decision makers. 

A Digital Generation

Today’s students are at an advantage when it comes to using digital learning tools. Unlike previous generations, they have grown up with extensive exposure to computers, smartphones, tablets and other smart devices. This means that they are both more readily able to use these tools without extensive adjustment periods and, more notably, they respond better to them. These students are adept with using digital tools independently and also have experience with information rich media such as videos and interactive tutorials. While this may have made more traditional learning methods such as pen and paper fall to the wayside, it provides educators with a great opportunity to integrate the latest technologies into the classroom and thereby engage their students, increase their content retention, and improve their outcomes. 

Another advantage for educators teaching this tech native generation is that today's students are pioneering new ways of interacting with each other using technology. For instance, while traditional sports clubs have been put on hold due to social distancing, technology-driven clubs like esports are still thriving. We have seen esports develop from a relatively niche hobby to a well-respected extracurricular activity. In fact, 1 in 5 schools around the world currently already have an esports program while 71% are considering or might consider adding an esports program in the future. Continuing human interactions is an important practice while we maintain social distancing and esports is helping many students stay in touch during this time. The persistence of esports during the pandemic has demonstrated the strength of digital solutions in ensuring human connection, even at the most challenging of times. 

That being said, as educational institutions embrace digital solutions, they may find that it creates challenges for their existing IT infrastructure. Given that classrooms in the near future could be hosting numerous personal devices, laptops, drones, chatbots, 3D printers or even esports competitions, it is important that the underlying network and back of house technologies are sufficiently robust. Anticipating this, 81% of schools, colleges and universities in the UK have invested in improving their wireless networks to ensure that all these solutions are deployed with reliable performance. After all, these solutions will best engage students when they are not hampered by slow network speeds, unreliable performance or poor connections. For those not already investing in supporting infrastructure for their digital initiatives, now is a better time than any to build a strong backbone to host the classroom of tomorrow. 

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Classroom

Given the rapid pace of technological adoption, especially among today’s students, the legacy network infrastructure used by some organisations is becoming obsolete. Most students have multiple smart devices each but even supporting just one device per student is enough to strain most older wireless networks. If classrooms are to host a greater number of digital learning tools in the future, smartboards, 3D printers, chatbots and digital assistants, then these networks need to be updated. Institutions should be looking to the latest wireless networking solutions, such as Wi-Fi 6, but also consider extending the wired and wireless network footprint beyond the traditional campus to a more widespread secure local and remote offering if they are to keep pace with the evolving needs of their classroom.

While performance and reliability are important considerations when upgrading wireless networks, they should not come before security. The privacy of students is paramount and due attention should be given to insulating students from accessing distracting or malicious content. Seeing as these networks will also stretch across campus, they should also be appropriately siloed to prevent students accessing applications and data exclusively intended for staff. Network segmentation is key here as it allows the network to be subdivided into segments appropriate for different functions and also prevents lateral movement in the event of a breach.

With a more expansive network also comes greater responsibility for the IT team. To ensure smooth operation and constant availability of digital assets, these staff will need to spend more time managing the myriad of technologies incorporated into the curriculum and the network that hosts them all. Fortunately for these teams, this burden is being reduced through the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and self-driving networks. With these solutions reducing the overhead costs needed to ensure a robust, reliable and resilient end-to-end network, the IT team has more time free to devote to value-add initiatives that sustain the network over the long term and improve IT services for students. Self-driving networks additionally offer independent monitoring of the network environment and optimisation of performance. This further improves reliability and bolsters security as the network automatically identifies anomalous behaviour and triggers alerts for the security team.

Given the role that distance learning technologies are playing in continuing education during the coronavirus pandemic, it is likely that they will be more widely adopted in education even once it is over. A more digitally driven curriculum will improve student outcomes, but it is important to remember that these innovations are reliant on a solid network that can provide a robust framework for these technologies to work within. Investing in their networks today will open up countless possibilities for educators in both bringing us closer to the potential of distance learning and modernising the classroom.

Dahwood Ahmed, Regional Manager UK&I, Extreme Networks

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page