Posts Tagged ‘students’

University as Service Provider

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment

According to an informational sheet from, which cites data from the department of education, approximately two-thirds of students who attend college live “off-campus”.  In 2009, the Fiscal & Economic Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater publish a report which highlighted that a majority of students who live off-campus, actually live within one to two blocks from the university.   For years, universities have sought ways to capture the “students living off-campus” market, whether it be via university owned property (rental income), food services (meal plans), and information technology (telephone services and broadband network access).

When many universities were making a killing with long distance resell, some universities were able to capture this off-campus student market through a PBX service known as Direct Inward System Access (DISA).  Other universities explored options of becoming a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier either by establishing their own facilities or leveraging the Unbundled Network Elements provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

When broadband internet access began taking shape, some universities began looking at their Instruction Television Fixed Service Channels (ITFS) as an option to provide wireless network connectivity to students who resided in close proximity to the university.  Recently, as the FCC mandated Television stations to transition to digital service, Television White Spaces (TVWS) has developed as a license-free option for the delivery of wireless internet service.  In fact, there is an initiative by the founders of Gig.U to leverage TVWS to deliver what is being labeled as “Super-WiFi” through the Advanced Internet Regions consortium (AIR.U).  One of the first pilots of AIR.U is being conducted in Morgantown, West Virginia through a partnership with West Virginia University.  This new offering may open the door for universities to offer wireless broadband internet service to their students who live within five miles of the university.

Of course there are always philosophical questions about what business should the university be in.  Is the university in the services business, or is it in the business of educating students?  The question I propose is whether these two businesses are mutually exclusive?  When it comes to students living on-campus, universities typically have no issues with providing auxiliary services and quantifying them as “quality of life” services.  So why can’t we use the same rationale, and extend these services to students who don’t reside within the university’s acreage?


Universities know BYOD

September 8, 2013 Leave a comment

In July 2013, Acronis released the results of a study which highlighted that 60% of companies “had no personal device policy in place” and 80% of organizations “haven’t educated employees on BYOD privacy risks”.  BYOD or Bring Your Own Device, is a phenomenon, where employees want to use their own personal devices (such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops) for business purposes and to access business data resources.

Later this month, I have the opportunity to speak to attendees of the IT Roadmap Conference & Expo when it makes a stop in Dallas/Fort Worth.  I will be speaking on the topic of Mobility & BYOD, and as I told the folks who were vetting me for this speaking engagement, BYOD is old hat for higher education IT departments.  I made this statement, because universities have been dealing with students bring their own devices to campus , since universities began providing network connectivity in residence halls.  In a August 2013, CITE World (Consumerizaiton of IT in the Enteprise) article titled “Want BYOD advice? Talk to a university IT department,” my position was affirmed by Mike Corn, chief privacy and security officer at the University of Illinois (UI) at Urbana-Champaign.

However, Mr Corn concedes that higher education institutions and corporations aren’t necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison.  While I’ll agree that universities don’t have the same regulatory requirements as some corporations, I believe we all are wrestling with ways to intentionally leverage personal owned mobile computing devices for business purposes.  For universities, the business purpose is educating students, and many institutions struggle to understand how mobile devices can be used in meaningful ways to enhance the academic success of their students.  In my opinion, BYOD isn’t about the devices accessing networks.  The center of the conversation is about business processes and how these devices can be intentionally engaged to enable business professionals or students to be effective and productive.  This concern is an apples-to-apples comparison, and many universities have made significant strides to engage personally owned devices into teaching and learning.  For this reason, I am a believer that higher education has some expertise related to the BYOD strategies.


February 3, 2012 Leave a comment


Yesterday I ran across the following article that unpacks the results of a TripAdvisor survey revealing that WiFi or Wireless Broadband connectivity is the top amenity that travelers are looking for when booking a hotel.  In fact, WiFi outranked amenities such as Breakfast, Loyalty programs, an onsite restaurant, and airport shuttle service.

In the Fall of 2011, Educause released the an Info Graphic that details the results of their 2011 National Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology.  In this Info Graphic, I found interesting that 78% of undergraduate students reported that WiFi was “extremely valuable” to their academic success.  WiFi was second to a laptop computer.

I would agree that WiFi connectivity is something I look for when I’m traveling, especially when traveling overseas, so I’m not surprised by the data from the TripAdvisor survey.  However the statistic from Educause did surprise me.   As a technologist who helped to launch WiFi services at my institution, I don’t think we ever expected it to be primary connectivity choice.  Back in 1999, I installed WiFi in our college library thanks to a state grant.  Immediately we identified several limitations, especially when a group of staff members started attempting to download large files over the wireless network.

While “speeds and feeds” have improved with various versions of WiFi over the years, I still recognize that this is a shared network medium, which essentially means that the available bandwidth from an access point is shared by all the devices associated with this access point.  This is different from modern wired network connections, which offers dedicated bandwidth to the devices “plugged in” or connected to these wired ports.  But at some point the convenience of wireless connectivity has overshadowed the benefits of dedicated bandwidth.  In fact, I’m seeing is that less than 25% of the wired ports in our Residence Halls are actively used.  I’ve also observed that 96% of the DHCP offer and renew events on an average day, at our campus, are associated with the wireless network.

So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the expectations surrounding WiFi connectivity.  Given the fact fewer cellular carrier are offering unlimited data plans, I recognize that tech-savvy customers are more mindful of where they can attach to WiFi networks.