Meeting Wi-Fi Expectations Of 21st Century Students

By Simon Mortimore 

The 21st century has brought with it constant technological advancements. Parallel developments in communications, media, mobility, and society have only relatively recently converged to bring vast increases in the opportunities available, particularly for academics to teach and for students to learn.

Almost all of the multinational, multicultural students crossing our doors use connected devices throughout their everyday lives. As such, there is an expectation to be able to connect to the internet wherever they are on campus — from their accommodations, lecture theatres, the libraries, and whilst in the cafés.

Whether it’s used to download teaching materials, conduct research, or view videos to aid learning, the wireless network is now essential as our principle point of connectivity with our members and visitors, who connect many thousands of unique devices each day.

The University of Oxford is world renowned for both academic pursuits and its ancient roots and prestigious heritage. Providing seamless connectivity across the multiple sites of Oxford’s 700 year old Exeter College comes with extra complications because of the tightly packed historic and often protected buildings. The digital savvy student residents of these buildings have driven a huge increase in data traffic over the past three years. From a typical modest growth rate of 10%, two years ago it rose by 40% and then 70% in the past twelve months, a phenomenal expansion due to many factors. Over the same period, the number of devices per person has increased from an average of less than one to more than three.

Growth in video use and quality, especially in collaborative and two-way calling, has particularly driven bandwidth demands.

From an IT perspective this scenario requires constant visibility and control across multiple networks, to ensure users have a continuous, secure and top-rate service. As a university, it is also imperative to be able to grow your network as the often cutting-edge requirements quickly evolve.

As incoming students enroll, they bring with them high expectations of the connectivity which will underpin their digital experience. In the eyes of these young people, ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage is as basic an expectation as electric lights or running water and by meeting and exceeding their needs, an institution can help support and foster world-class education and learning, both for today and for the future.

Simon Mortimore is the computing manager of Exeter College within Oxford University, where he has been actively involved in ICT delivery since 2002. He stands as the elected chairman of the Colleges IT Manager’s Committee, where he is tasked with coordinating the proposal and delivery of collaborative projects and services among the many legally-independent constituent colleges. As a voting member of the University Infrastructure IT Board, he is involved in decision processes for a wide variety of different projects supporting the delivery of education, research and business systems within this thriving, world-leading institution.

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