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Technology (Innovations for Education)

There's Something in the Air

Mobile Campus 

PHOTO COURTESY OF COD NEWSROOM

The number of students, faculty, staff and visitors using multiple mobile devices on college campuses has exploded over the past few years, but with this evolution of mobility comes new challenges. For one thing, campuses have to be secure, offer technology that provides new ways to learn, and have flexible yet scalable networks to meet growing demands.

Safety and Security

Security is a critical factor that comes into play. Companies such as Aruba Networks offer access management systems, which grant specific access privileges to the correct devices and users based upon what tasks those devices are being used for. For example, a professor streaming information for his 300-level Physics lecture would have a lower security setting than the freshman who is streaming Game of Thrones from Hulu. Also, access management systems give visitors the credentials that they need to access the campus network. “Even though a visitor might not have a campus logon, [an access management system] provides the Web access he or she needs without compromising the security of the entire university’s network,” says Christian Gilby, Aruba Networks’ director of Product Marketing.

But security doesn’t just mean that data needs to be kept safe. Physical security of the individuals on campus is paramount to university personnel. Yet, cellular networks can be heavily taxed by the overload of smartphone users calling and texting during a critical event like approaching bad weather or a threat on campus. What happens if the cellular network fails in a moment of crisis? To ease the burden that can befall even the best networks, two-way radios are utilized to communicate. Two-way radios allow for instant group communications, but also are beneficial to campuses because administrators can decide exactly how much coverage is needed and which personnel are given access, yet still have the advantage of being mobile and compact.

“Typically, a campus cellular network won’t be able to handle the peak loading that will occur during a critical security event. With two-way radios, there is a dedicated system in place for communication, which is critical,” says Randy Helm, director, Product Management at Motorola Solutions. However, since radios aren’t always the most feasible option for everyone, Motorola and other companies offer an app, available for both iOS and Android devices, to provide radio-like features over an IP network. With this app, some of the benefits of two-way radios can now be possible on a smartphone.

Mobile Campus 

PHOTO PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT SCHILDER COURTESY OF COD NEWSROOM

New Ways to Learn

Although the Apple TV was designed for use in private homes, Yale University’s faculty saw that there was validity for using it as a wireless projection technology in the classroom. Combined with Apple AirPlay, Apple TV, a digital media player, allows streamed content from an iPad or iPhone to be projected onto a screen for the class to see. “We are using AirGroup, a technology that Aruba Networks has created to enable Apple TVs to work on the enterprise network, which they have devised through a combination of building capabilities into their wireless network and products,” says David Galassi, director, ITS Network Services for Yale University.

The WiFi network has become the primary network on Yale’s campus. At peak times during the day, Yale’s WiFi network is supporting 23,000 unique devices. In the course of a 24-hour period, it supports upwards of 60,000 devices. Galassi says, “The network has opened up new opportunities for campus learning. A prime example of this is a biology professor using an advanced and very expensive microscope that is connected to Yale’s WiFi network. With a companion application, students using iPads are able to view everything that the professor is doing without actually having to touch that expensive piece of equipment. The flexibility of the WiFi network provides a higher level of classroom education. But it’s also important to note that this flexible approach is how students want to work and learn.”

Berry College, a private liberal arts institution in Mt. Berry, GA, consists of 47 primary campus buildings and has approximately 2,100 undergraduate students. A flexible learning environment is important for everyone, but even more so for those students who participate in athletics and must leave campus for sanctioned sporting events, missing lecture time in the classroom. Dr. Gary W. Breton, an organic chemistry professor at Berry College, realized how critical it is for students to hear his lectures rather than simply review someone else’s notes. Several years ago, he began making MP3 recordings for students to listen to whether they missed a class or were simply unclear on a particular concept and needed to hear it again.

Today, he creates skeletal notes for each lecture containing key concepts and complicated chemical structures ahead of time and posts them to the Web for students to download prior to each class. During class, students take their own notes while reviewing the material that is projected using a document camera in the room. Breton now records both audio and video components of his lectures using the document camera and, after class is finished, he uploads the videos to YouTube where they can be viewed at the student’s convenience.

“Students have told me how valuable it is for them to see the video lectures. Missing the class doesn’t mean that they’ve missed an entire lecture because they can easily watch the lesson at any time. And even if a student is out sick with the flu for a week, he or she can easily keep up with my class,” Breton says.

Mobile Campus 

PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN MSIS

Strong Networks

The high number of devices around campus on WiFi and class lectures being uploaded to YouTube require a reliable, high-capacity network. Available are multiple fiber-based Ethernet services that deliver fast connections for institutions with multiple locations to ensure reliability between sites and the availability of educational resources. These services can provide the Internet access bandwidth that campuses need for various capabilities, including Web browsing, email access, video streaming and other applications. “Colleges and universities need a network that supports both mobile and wired devices and pervasive WiFi capabilities, and we have found that Ethernet offers great connectivity for that,” says Karen Schmidt, vice president, Business Marketing for Comcast Business.

It’s also important to have flexibility with the network. With students showing up on campus every August with an average of seven tech devices in hand, not to mention countless gaming, music, entertainment and social networking apps, a campus network must be robust enough and scalable to support that overwhelming growth in traffic. Schmidt says, “Ethernet technology offers a way for schools to future-proof the network. They can decide how much bandwidth they need initially while allowing them to easily add more bandwidth when it is needed.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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