Expanding network access campus-wide and enabling BYOD.
GUEST COLUMN | by Tim Stuart
The largest private comprehensive university in northwest Ohio, the University of Findlay (UF) recently expanded its network infrastructure to a unified wired and wireless access network with the assistance of valued partnerships with Aruba Networks and CBTS. The new infrastructure delivers secure, campus-wide wireless access and allows us to accommodate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for students, faculty, staff and guests.
The network is also enabling 100 percent of our faculty to integrate technology into their classrooms and incorporate real-time, multimedia instructional materials into their lessons, improving the students’ educational experiences. There were many added drivers for this project including the exponential increase in connected devices, increase in use of cloud and Web-based systems, the need for increased capacity, replacement of older equipment, streamlining the user experience and improved system security.
At UF, we are experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of personal mobile and wireless devices our students and staff are bringing to campus and their subsequent desire to leverage them as part of their University experience. Our faculty are also seeking new and innovative methods to leverage technology in our classrooms. UF has had inquires ranging from, “Can I wirelessly connect my iPad to the classroom projector?” to “Can I use students’ phones as clickers?” and “I would like to record my lecture and stream it.”
According to Scott Wolke, network engineer, wireless usage has doubled in the last two years, and the University is seeing device ratios of three, four and five per person. It is common for a student bring a laptop, tablet, phone and an entertainment system with them to campus.
The University of Findlay is also seeing a noticeable increase in requests for Internet access from external guests who use the various campus facilities. Aruba’s ClearPass Access Management System allows us the flexibility to support all types of devices and provide appropriate security to campus resources. Prior to this, guest access was very limited and visitors were not allowed to connect directly to the campus network.
The timing was right for UF to implement these improvements based on the age of the previous network infrastructure. The upgrade also delivered vast improvements to the registration and security processes on campus. Prior to ClearPass, all mobile devices were manually registered before a connection was allowed. Now, students, faculty and staff can self-register directly from their devices. Out of all of the changes made through this upgrade, this improvement received the most positive feedback from students.
Many of the University’s systems are also moving to cloud-based services, which blurs lines between home, work and school. The prevailing perception is that, “I want my Internet to work the same at school as it does for me at home.” Aruba’s access products provide us with the flexibility to accommodate this desire while maintaining a presence of security and protection for campus systems and constituents.
University personnel centrally manage all network connections on campus and deploy varying levels of access based on who the person is, the location of the connection, what type of device they are using, etc. The new system allows staff members to be very agile in responding to new needs from faculty and staff, whether it is a new piece of science equipment or an athletics media device.
Looking ahead, UF is evaluating Aruba’s 801.11ac technology as a way to keep pace with the expected growth of the network, and Aruba’s AirGroup capability as a way to support the constantly increasing number of Apple devices on campus. For the future, technology improvements will continue to be driven by the desire to effectively respond to pedagogical needs, student expectations and the impetus to maintain a secure, responsive technology environment at The University of Findlay.
Tim Stuart is Manager of Network Operations for The University of Findlay. UF is located in Findlay, Ohio, about 45 miles south of Toledo. With an enrollment of nearly 3,700 full-time and part-time students, UF is noted for its innovative, career-oriented programs in nearly 60 undergraduate degrees and 11 graduate programs. Flexible and forward-looking, Findlay constantly seeks ways to better serve students. The institution was founded 1882 by the Churches of God, General Conference and the city of Findlay. The Mission of The University of Findlay is to equip its students for meaningful lives and productive careers. For more information, visit their website.
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