USAO Goes 100% Wireless for Student Convenience
Students found a welcome new convenience when they returned to campus this spring at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma – the broadest access to Internet services available on any college campus in Oklahoma. Better yet, it’s free.
USAO became the first Oklahoma school to “go totally wireless,” a term meaning that students, faculty and guests with laptop and handheld computers can surf the Internet from anywhere on campus – even outdoors or in the middle of the campus oval.
“Students are psyched!” said Misty Shepherd, a sophomore in psychology from Lindsay. “This will help students tremendously. Now we will be able to do more together. We will be able to meet in the library and work on our own computers or even in the cafeteria. This will absolutely enhance the reputation of USAO. It shows that we are technically as capable as any big university.”
USAO President John Feaver called it “another milestone for USAO. We are delighted to provide students with this new level of service and access. This marks an important step forward in service to students and faculty.”
Better service to students was the whole idea behind the plan, said Lynn Boyce, chief information officer for USAO.
“USAO students want a quality education and quality services,” Boyce said. “Students want to study together, research together, and access the information they need. Before, students had to meet in labs, when they were open, or in the Library, when it was open, and try to collaborate in quiet tones so they would not disturb those sitting next to them. Now they can meet anywhere on campus, anytime they choose, open their laptops, and work together as they wish.”
Response from USAO students was enthusiastic.
“It’s awesome,” said Tim Soucy of Claremore, a freshman in chemistry. “The Internet is not a pain anymore.”
“It’s great for the school,” said Jason Snodgrass, a senior in history from Owasso.
“We were able to purchase equipment from Extreme Networks which works seemlessly with our existing wired network,” Boyce said, “allowing us the security we needed as well as the services we wanted.”
Access to the wireless network at USAO requires no password for campus visitors, but the service is limited to web browsing and e-mail. For security reasons, campus servers and other networks are not available to wireless visitors. But faculty and staff can get to their files and campus networks by simply using their approved log-ins when they connect. This gives better security for all users.
A survey of other Oklahoma colleges showed that 10 schools are building wireless networks that cover more than half the campus. From survey results, USAO is the first to offer total coverage. While wireless networks are growing in popularity at smaller private schools, it’s a complicated undertaking at the large public universities.
At the OU-Tulsa campus, students enjoy wireless coverage across more than 60 percent of the campus, including outdoor spaces. “Students have responded well to this service, says Tracy Kennedy, director of university relations. “It’s a value-added benefit for students, but also for faculty, staff and guests. People really enjoy it.”
The buzz in Austin Hall – where Information Services is housed at USAO – can be heard campuswide.
“At this moment, we’ve got 40-plus active wireless access points strategically placed around campus,” said Adeel Siddiqui, computer network specialist at USAO. “We’ve tried to encompass as much area of the campus as possible. Specifically, we’ve installed the radio transmitters (wireless access points) in all the buildings around campus that have a regular flow of people. That includes Austin, Troutt, Davis, Gary, the Student Center, Nash Library, the Fieldhouse, the Original Gym, Sparks, and Lawson Court clubhouse. There’s at least one wireless radio transmitter -- if not two or three -- per floor of each building. That allows for perfect uninterrupted access to the wireless network.”
Even outdoors, the coverage is good, Siddiqui said. “We’ve even tested the wireless network in the middle of the USAO oval, and even there we get excellent connectivity. If there are any dead spots around campus we will try to completely eliminate them. For now though, we’ve tried to make sure that at the very least, those areas around campus which have heavy incoming and outgoing volumes of people will have easy, fast and secure high-speed access to the wireless network.”
Using the new wireless network at USAO “is a breeze,” Siddiqui said. “We have open access to the wireless network for not only USAO denizens but anyone else visiting the campus as well. That means that wireless Internet access is free to everyone.”
“As soon as your wireless device -- PC, laptop, iMac, PSP, cell phone, etc. -- is within range of our network, it should almost immediately pop-up with a message saying that the ‘USAO_Guest’ wireless network has been detected. At that point, you should at least get the option of connecting to it or not; or in most cases, you’ll automatically get connected to the network without any action on your part.
In their residence halls, however, students will find their high-speed wired access to be a more practical choice, Siddiqui said. “For students who live on campus, I would like to emphasize that the wireless network is not a proper substitute for the hard-line high-speed internet access that is provided in every dorm room and apartment on campus. This new network is simply a means to have convenient and high-speed availability to the Internet with your portable wireless device when you’re not in your dorm room or apartment.”
Technicians will be working to improve the system continually in coming months, Siddiqui said. “This is a fairly new venture for us and we will be continually monitoring and tweaking our wireless settings to make the network even more secure, fast, and practical for everyone to use. If you’re a Facebook.com member, feel free to join the “USAO Wireless Addicts” group for regular updates about the USAO wireless network. USAO Information Services welcomes any input from students, staff, faculty, and anyone else who happens to use our wireless network.”