NetSupport School 9 review
NetSupport has been providing NetSupport School (NSS) to assist in the provision of networked learning resources for some time now. Based on its successful NetSupport Manager, it offers a host of features to assist teaching staff in designing and delivering content to students in a controlled manner. It also provides for effective interaction between tutor and student using the remote control and remote management facilities from the original product.
Although network-based teaching has many advantages, security and control can be a problem. NSS provides a wide range of control options. Students can be prevented from running specified applications and their access to the internet can be restricted to designated websites. Also, students don’t have to be physically on campus. The Name Server/Gateway software allows them to use laptops over Wi-Fi links to log on to the system and participate in lessons.
This latest release offers the same display and monitoring facilities as before, with thumbnail displays of all active systems giving an overview of class activity. Class lists can be created, and the Test Designer enables the tutor to create examinations using an extensive range of wizards. The interactive facilities allow the tutor to work through demonstrations on their own PC while simultaneously displaying the screen to all the students in the class. It’s possible to record all the actions on a student system and play them back later, either to review the activity or to display it to the class.
Windows Vista is now supported, and a print management module allows the tutor to restrict students’ access to networked printers. Students can be restricted as to how much they can print, and resources may be withheld or allocated. A printer usage report is available, too.
Instant messaging software can be a problem, but NSS can now block access to several clients and networks, and the tutor can monitor students’ activities when using such software. A keyboard-monitoring facility allows the tutor to observe the students’ activity and content, too, both to determine how well they’re coping with the lesson content and to observe online activity. External data sources are another potential problem, and NSS provides control facilities for removable media such as USB devices. These can be blocked or enabled for read-only access, and applications can be prevented from running from these devices. Meanwhile, the student software can now display a toolbar giving details of available resources and time remaining. This also provides a help facility to contact the tutor.
The internet-access monitoring options have been extended, and it’s now possible to allow access to specific pages of a website while preventing access to others. It’s also possible to block FTP access. Internet restrictions can be applied to the tutor’s system, too. A new SafeSearch feature can override the default search engine settings and prevent inappropriate content from being returned.
Although NetSupport School is aimed at schools, it would be worth serious consideration by any organisation involved in training using networked computers. Universities and colleges, as well as specialist training companies and anyone who runs regular in-house training courses could all find a use for it.