A Mobile Operation

Why iOS 8 will disrupt classroom learning this fall.

GUEST COLUMN | by G. McGlynn

CREDIT Apple iOS 8By the time the first few weeks of September wind down, students, teachers, and school administration have all eased back into their usual routines and are ready for the exciting year of digital learning that lies ahead. Before everyone heads back to school, IT departments work behind the scenes over the summer break to make sure they’re ready to support all the new devices and applications that come to classrooms and campuses every year. IT departments are pressed to make important changes and improvements in a short window of time, like update the school’s existing infrastructure or adjust acceptable use policies. Often these busy teams do not have the time or resources to manage their school’s network in a proactive way, and because of this, many school IT departments may not be adequately prepared for what will be one of the most difficult technology challenges of the school year: managing iOS 8 updates.

Apple announced on Tuesday the forthcoming launch of their newest mobile operating system, iOS 8, as well as a few new devices like the Apple Watch that will ultimately start showing up on the wrists of some students in the future. However, September 17th is the official release of iOS 8 and thousands of students will be prompted to update their iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches to the latest operating system as soon as it goes live.

Why Schools Should Be Concerned About iOS 8

Students often start the new school year off with new technologies, whether it be new learning applications or new devices to support school 1:1 or BYOD programs, and many school districts are now selecting iPads as their mobile device of choice for supporting digital learning initiatives. Managing a room full of users connected to the network with multiple devices is difficult no matter the situation, so it’s not the iPads themselves that are concerning. It’s the fact that students will want to update their iPads to iOS 8 all at the same time as soon as it is made publicly available.

Mass Downloading in Class 

Last fall’s iOS 7 release came as a huge surprise for many K-12 school districts and universities alike. IT departments did not anticipate how popular the upgrade would be among their student populations, or how the mass downloading would take a toll on the performance of their networks. Shortly after iOS 7 became available, hundreds of college students flocked to Twitter to complain about the slow WiFi on their campuses. Others voiced that because of everyone downloading the software, they could not complete their homework assignments and were at risk of missing deadlines. Flustered IT departments sent out school-wide emails, urging students to wait until they got home to update their devices. While this approach may have worked for the small schools in crisis, large schools with students living on campus had no choice but to continue to allow the software upgrading spree to wreak havoc and render critical applications unusable.

iOS By The Numbers 

Campus Technology reported that some schools last year saw as much as 95% of their bandwidth being consumed by iOS traffic, and if one application is using that much of your resources on campus, nothing else can perform reliably, if it can perform at all.

As K-12 schools in particular struggle with providing adequate bandwidth for their key learning applications on a good day, iOS 8 could be particularly dangerous for schools with classrooms full of iPad users who will be ready to update their devices as soon as their devices prompt them, with a single tap of the screen. Previous Apple software updates have been 700 MB, and it’s safe to assume that iOS 8 will most likely be the same size. Even just a few users downloading a file of this size can quickly overwhelm an education network that must support hundreds or thousands of users and grind learning to a halt.

Preparing For This Year

Knowing that the iOS 8 release is just around the corner is only half the battle. Schools need to proactively prepare for this disruptive event and its effects that will last far longer than just release day. School IT departments should be conscious of their current network usage profile and consider adjusting or creating specific traffic shaping policies that block, control or cache the software upgrade at the application level. Alternatively, IT departments can edit their acceptable use policies to prohibit software updates or segment a portion of their network that can be used exclusively for device upgrades. No matter which method your school chooses, effectively preparing for iOS 8 release week is key to continue delivering the reliable network performance that students need to study, learn, create and collaborate.

G. McGlynn is the Associate Content Marketing Manager at Exinda, a leading global supplier of WAN solutions that enables educators to ensure a predictable user experience for strategic learning and administrative applications through policy-based WAN orchestration.

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