Goucher College Information Technology:
Earlier this month, we asked you for your help, insights, and opinion about technology at Goucher. Why? We want to be sure that we continue to adapt campus technology and support to meet the needs of student inside and outside the classroom. We also want you to know that your opinion matters. Why? Because Goucher students provide great suggestions.
This summer, Information Technology will be looking into expanding many of our printing services. We hope to be able to allow Web Print to work from the Goucher Visitor network, and to enable Swipe-to-Print to work on printers in other academic buildings beyond the Athenaeum.
In the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year, the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology (CTLT) discounted the lending policy that allowed students to borrow equipment. This policy was changed primarily because of problems getting equipment returned on time if at all. For equipment that was returned we often found there were missing cables or chargers that made the devices useless to future students. The collection was also aging and required a good deal of repair. Currently, the CTLT circulates a large collection of iPad minis to professors who use them for various classroom assignments. The iPads are highly versatile and allow us to make the biggest impact for our investment.
At Goucher, we heard from students that the wireless network wasn’t meeting their needs in certain areas of the campus. We wanted to let you know the history of our Wi-Fi network, problems the network has faced, and what we are doing to fix any issues.
Goucher has full intentions of providing a solid wireless network experience for everyone on campus. Internet communication is a top priority. Users can research topics from around the world just by opening a web browser. Students and faculty are having more of a need to be connected to the web wherever they are on our campus.
Wireless Internet on campus is set up with “wireless access points”, also known as “hotspots”. These access points convert a wired Internet network to a wireless signal that Wi-Fi equipped laptops, tablets and smartphones can receive.
Many of the available access points you are used to at home are able to carry a signal for 300-400 feet, in a circular motion from its antenna. In a college environment the high powered industrial wireless access points can only carry the signal for 400-500 feet due to cement walls, which hinder the signal. Due to this, multiple access points are needed per building, even per hall.
In previous years, Wi-Fi was only required in academic buildings and common rooms of the residential buildings. We expanded the infrastructure and have grown the network to over 200 access points, covering a majority of the campus.
As students are coming to campus with more devices than ever, it taxes the Wi-Fi system. Many computer manufacturers have dropped built-in support for a hard wired Ethernet cable, in favor of a slim, sleek laptop design. Students are more mobile, carrying multiple wireless devices and utilizing bandwidth intensive application such as iTunesU and other online learning applications, video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, Xbox/PlayStation game consoles, and podcasts. Due to this trend of Wi-Fi-only devices, we are in the process of upgrading old access points. Our oldest access points only supported a connection from about 15 devices each, while the new ones support a constant connection to over 50 devices on each single access point.
In the last several months we have upgraded 75 access points. These upgrades include all access points in Julia Rogers, Hoffberger Science, Alumni House, Sondheim and currently upgrading Dulaney/Robinson. We also increased our access point inventory by 64%. The new access points also have better ranges; using frequencies that can penetrate brick walls and other obstacles. We are making strong progress and are continuing the move forward to a Wi-Fi-covered campus.
As always, cost is an issue with why Wi-Fi is not available everywhere on our 287-acre campus. We are also currently working to upgrade the complete network backbone, which includes the fiber cables that feed access points around campus. Once this transition is complete, users will see a huge improvement in Internet speed from their wireless devices.