Ryerson, Windsor spread wireless across campuses

Two Ontario universities have rolled out wireless access points that will create campuses with near universal Internet access.

Ryerson University in Toronto and the University of Windsor

are using Aruba Networks’ mobility solution to create Wi-Fi hotspots in common areas such as cafeterias, lounges and libraries.

“We’re only targeting right now the common areas where people gather — the meeting rooms and that sort of thing – with the idea of eventually, and hopefully sooner than later, rolling out many more to the campus,” said Ed Drouillard, manager of technical support at Windsor. “People are definitely using them as they’re going up.”

Windsor has installed 74 Aruba dual-radio 802.11 a+b/g thin access points in select areas with plans to expand coverage into six more buildings. Ryerson, meanwhile, is installing 200 APs to cover 24 buildings across campus.

Both set-ups are being centrally managed and are replacing older wireless solutions which were beginning to grow beyond their means.

“We decided that the same types of devices you’d put in a home really wasn’t going to work . . . in an education-type setting. In classrooms, if you had many people trying to use that technology at the same time, essentially it would fail,” said Drouillard.

Ryerson has being using wireless technology since as early as 1998, according to Ken Woo, assistant director of communications, “but as we scaled the network,” he said, “we found that . . . there’s a whole bunch of issues around upgrading the code and trying to control it.”

By deploying a centrally-managed solution like Aruba, Woo said he is able to control each access point as well as shut down unauthorized access which could disrupt legitimate traffic.

Ryerson is also trying Wi-Fi in classroom situations. The university’s IT management faculty is using wirelessly-enabled classrooms for actual course content. The class can collaborate on material over the network and take quizzes online. Woo said there are layers of security around sensitive course material to prevent students viewing it before class.

The university’s ultimate goal is to create a paperless learning environment, said Woo, but that doesn’t mean traditional wired network access will become outmoded anytime soon.

Windsor’s plan is to step up wireless access to include other areas – such as a faculty of education building that was designed with Wi-Fi in mind – but the university isn’t looking to replace its existing infrastructure.

“The speed difference between the wireless and the wired is so dramatic that I can’t see the wired going away anytime in the near future,” said Drouillard. Like Ryerson, Windsor will put more course content and in-class material online, but those things can be accomplished over the wired network, he added.

Ryerson’s next major Wi-Fi rollout will be in 2006, where an additional 300 APs will be added to cover its Centre for Management Studies building. The university is also testing IP phones over Wi-Fi for its student counselors with a rollout planned for later this year.

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