08 February 2010
Distance Learning Has Never Been Closer
One of the challenges of distance learning is how to replicate the "campus experience" for remote students. Doing so encourages collaboration with other students, and improves study opportunities, by leveraging the same electronic learning applications, library reference materials, and server resources as campus students enjoy.
It also builds school loyalty because if these services remain in place post graduation, it improves the chances of continued participation once students become alumni.
Providing secure access to your school's electronic learning resources is a challenge. Open access or password-controlled access won't protect against network attacks, password-sharing, or excessive bandwidth consumption by mischievous students.
A secure virtual private network (VPN) requires your IT staff to load and manage client software on every device a student might wish to use. This is an on-going burden because incompatibilities may be introduced as students upgrade operating systems or other applications on their computers.
Virtual Branching Networking (VBN) solves distance learning connectivity and security issues. Using a small, very inexpensive device called a Remote Access Point (RAP), VBN enables remote students to connect securely to your data network. RAPs enable students to use any IP-based devices with an Ethernet port or W-Fi - MacBooks, iPhones, iTouches, iPads, PCs, VoIP phones, printers - without loading any software clients.
A built-in firewall strictly enforces access policies set by your IT staff, and can even control how much bandwidth a student uses. All access policies are centrally managed and then pushed over the network to the RAPs. The same is true of software updates: they're pushed automatically to every RAP in the field.
New RAPs are shipped unconfigured. To connect one to your network the student pushes a button on the front of the unit and then enters the IP address of your data center.
A RAP controller in your data center then exchanges security certificates with the student's RAP and voila, the student is on-line. No IT staff involvement is required for this process to occur, meaning that it's possible to economically support a very large distance learning program without adding IT staff.
Since RAPs are shipped unconfigured, they can be sold or rented to students through your bookstore or by a third party with zero-touch involvement by your IT staff. If a student leaves your distance learning program, or fails to pay tuition, a simple change in the access policy will completely disable the RAP.
Alternately, when a student graduates the RAP settings can be changed to disable distance learning and enable Internet access using your alumni site as the home page.
VBN has been field-proven in enterprise teleworker deployments around the world, and is the ideal solution for distance learning applications of any size. To find out more please visit our Web site.