The Benefits of IoT-Enabled Spaces in Education

What is IoT and why has education moved to adopt it?

The learning landscape has been changing slowly for many years, with pencils, paper and chalkboards being supplanted by digital devices, platforms and applications.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this change was not consistently happening across all educational organisations. C19, and the ensuing move to remote learning for many months at a time, caused this digital divide between schools equipped to handle this shift, and those not, became starkly visible.

Schools, colleges and universities were forced to see education in an entirely new light, placing a huge focus on IT foundations, networks and connectivity beyond the classroom. Huge investment of time and budget has gone into schools making this digital shift, ensuring staff can maintain teaching standards and students are not limited by poor connectivity; as this shift continues to happen, the potential of inter-connected devices (IoT) becomes increasingly apparent.

From 1:1 laptops and tablets, interactive white boards, voice-to-text technology, smart cameras, sensors and so many other devices, the impact of edge tech is profound.

How is the mass adoption of IoT in education changing schools?

Promoting collaborative, inclusive classrooms: during the early months of the pandemic, it became evident that many students did not have laptops or tablets to allow them to attend digital classrooms. These students were disadvantaged not only from a learning perspective, but also from a socialising perspective, unable to connect with teachers or fellow students.
A rush on these devices for necessity has lead to a huge rise in 1:1 learning post-pandemic, changing how classrooms see syllabus delivery in the classroom as well as remotely. 1:1 devices became a tool for facilitating digital collaboration, which has continued.

Improved classroom concentration and engagement: kids of all ages are increasingly tech savvy, so schools need to digitise and be adaptive to the best ways to harness curiosity and interest. Outdated teaching methods will progressively prevent students from engaging and result in a faster loss of concentration, decreased attendance, and declining results.

Creating smart spaces focused on the learning experience: school and college campuses are rapidly becoming smart spaces where cloud-based dashboards allow control of every connected IoT device from classroom temperatures and CCTV to 1:1 devices and WiFi access points. The benefits both to the learning experience and school budgets are becoming increasingly hard to ignore, whether saving costs on energy bills by turning off dormant equipment to automating network performance according to usage.

Harness IT technology to improve the student experience: school and college campuses are no longer just buildings; combined with IoT and high-performance networking, they offer educational institutions the ability to keep students safer, happier, and engaging with their school at many more touch points throughout their time on campus. Possibilities are becoming endless, from booking available library desks, checking washing machine availability in universities, mental health apps, even the use of drones to walk students home safely. This all serves to push up student engagement, wellbeing, and satisfaction scores.

Keep students safer with cloud-controlled, edge security: Student safety has become an absolute priority in recent years – whether we’re talking digital or physical security. IoT has the capacity to improve the physical safety of students on campus in increasingly integrated and automated ways. Door lock systems can be fully customised and monitored, smart cameras offer always-on, cloud-managed CCTV with automatic triggers and actions to remove blind spots, emergency management can be fully automated in situations like fires to ensure safe evacuations and services alerts. All without the need for additional storage, servers or software.

Building management that reduces costs, interruptions and time taken to resolve issues: campuses need to evolve into smart spaces that can deliver excellent learning, working and socialising environments, without scaling resources and costs required to operate them. This is where IoT excels, enabling estates managers to monitor equipment and hardware performance, identifying where maintenance is required before issues occur using AI and machine learning that means no additional work for teams.

Saving costs and the environment by through occupancy-based energy usage: IoT sensors can reduce the cost to both budgets and the environment by progressively lowering energy wastage with automated, occupancy-based controls that monitor footfall site-wide and adjust lighting, heating and cooling accordingly. At a time where these costs are sky-rocketing, investing in long-term solutions to lowering energy usage and expense is a step many schools, colleges and universities are taking.

Migrating to personalised education with 1:1 learning: The rise of 1:1 learning is about more than just teaching students via a medium that holds attention; it’s about giving educators the ability to deliver learning in a targeted, personalised way. Each student using a tablet or laptop places a huge demand on networks to support increased devices, but the opportunity to tailor lesson content to each student, without multiplying a teacher’s workload, is a big one. Once 1:1 IoT devices are distributed, software also makes it easy for teachers to see clearly which students are focusing or falling behind, and where in the lesson in relation to other students.

Monitoring the mental wellbeing and focus of students through automated means: Linked to 1:1 devices is the opportunity to use classroom monitoring software, such as Lightspeed. To receive additional support, struggling pupils do not need to ask for it, or express to classmates that they are finding lessons challenging; teachers can help these students before their learning or their confidence is impacted. Triggers can be set to identify concerning behaviour relating to mental health, as well as bullying. In short, classroom technology can help safeguard the mental wellbeing of pupils and improve the student experience in a way that teachers alone never can due to time constraints.

In summary, although the widespread shift to digital education happened in response to the pandemic, its effects are longstanding; in the last year, schools have been considering how the adoption of digital learning and cloud-based technology can continue to transform education well into the future.

The shift to embracing and harnessing IoT in education has not only made learning omnipresent and untethered, it’s continuing to evolve into a medium that can enable teachers to keep a closer eye on students wellbeing and progress without adding to workloads. IoT is enabling schools to reduce energy usage, save on operational costs, and keep campuses safer.

The shift, however, isn’t without challenges. The sudden, mass adoption of edge devices places a huge strain on networks, and schools need to lay the foundations for successful adoption of IoT. Primarily, this means a wireless network for schools that is capable of handling huge amounts of throughput without compromising on speed or capacity, but also encompasses deeper depth of defence to ensure additional edge points do not offer additional breach points to hackers. A network capable of supporting data collation and analysis at the edge will also give schools an advantage when implementing IoT.

With the complexity of school networks increasing, IT teams also need to be conscious of the risk of increased network management time – a huge challenge in the face of shrinking resources. Next-gen networks take advantage of cloud-based management, as well as automation and machine learning, helping IT teams do more with less. Our client the Forest of Dean Trust have decreased network management time by 50% thanks to a new IT solution – read the case study here.

If your school, trust or college is interested in advice on implementing IoT into classrooms and campuses, get in touch with our education team.