It’s the start of the semester at university campuses across the globe. New experiences around curricula, living quarters and social connections have begun. And as student life restarts, a new level of connectivity is needed to make these experiences positive ones. Student education and social engagement happen in every corner of the campus (libraries, lecture halls, dorms, cafeterias and more) and extend to off campus locations. Is your university ready to fill that connectivity demand?
Today’s students know the benefit, convenience, and flexibility that Wi-Fi brings, and their fingers are crossed that administrators know it too. They expect a secure Wi-Fi network to keep them connected to everyone and everything with no lag time, no matter where they are on campus. And when help is needed, they assume the university will provide excellent and immediate IT support on demand. According to the Institute of Higher Education Policy, just providing campus Wi-Fi is not enough. A reliable network infrastructure is required to enable students to succeed in higher education. Anything less is “an impediment to degree attainment.”
Campus Wi-Fi serves many functions, the most important of which is to give students immediate access to data and information that will support their education and enable collaboration and interactive learning. Without Wi-Fi, it can be impossible to access online content, conduct research, upload/download assignments, share documents, and even attend classes – many of which may only be offered online. Everyone needs an equal opportunity to learn, and not every student can afford the fastest alternatives to stay connected. Students also rely on Wi-Fi to help lower stress levels. When a study break is needed, the internet can be the ideal respite to shop, engage with family and friends, video chat, stream content, play games, and be entertained.
Let’s not forget that students don’t stay on campus 24/7. Many live and work off campus and even study at coffee shops or outside. Imagine the seamless authentication and connection all over the city or town, or even on transportation. This secure access can be shared across locations so students can stop asking for the Wi-Fi credentials or jumping on non-secure networks, which can put the entire university at risk. Passpoint technology, for example, has already proven very effective for hotels, transportation and retail, and this could be a big opportunity for universities, especially ones that are a major hub for the town.
A network like this doesn’t require excessive management or setup for student services to provide, and it’s easy for almost all technology knowledge levels. On day one moving into a dorm or off campus apartment, each student receives a private virtual network/VLAN. New student residents can authenticate once and are then auto connected from then on with secure, encrypted access to their own apartment or student dorm. When friends or study groups get together, instead of sharing passwords, they can give access via a QR code. It’s also simple for students to securely connect all their wireless devices including sound systems, TV casting, printers, lighting, and more.
Additionally, this network infrastructure must enable straightforward provisioning and bandwidth control. Administrators can dynamically allocate bandwidth based on different student group requirements to give each resident the access they expect – and paid for – and what their courses demand. For example, a student in a multimedia or broadcasting course might need more bandwidth allocated for their project than a history student might need.
While a managed network has direct experiential benefits for students, it also turns the campus into a smart housing community. There are so many other IoT devices beyond computers and mobile devices that require wireless connectivity today. Universities can save energy costs, increase security, and even add ancillary revenues – such as package delivery, bike rentals and food and beverage deliveries. It will also help increase property values, lower expenses, lower liability, reduce management burden, and future-proof the university for ongoing network expansion.
The bottom line: universities that want to give their students every opportunity for an exceptional education need a secure Wi-Fi network that is always on and always connected.
—Mike Womack is vice president of partner sales – the Americas at Nomadix, a multi-tenant connectivity provider, enabling more than 5 million daily internet connections in over 150 countries.