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The Carletonian

After Survey, ITS Wrangles with Spotty WiFi

<lans to improve wifi accessibility and to make the Hub and Moodle more user friendly in response to the results of a Measuring Information Systems Outcomes (MISO) survey.

During winter term, ITS conducted the MISO survey, a web-based questionnaire that enabled Carleton to determine how students, faculty, and staff view technology services, which enabled ITS to compare its results to those of other colleges and universities.

Over the summer, Chief Technology Officer Janet Scannell analyzed the MISO survey results and created a plan for improvement of services to which Carleton community members responded less positively than those surveyed at 13 peer schools did.

“I wanted to do this survey in order to understand how students, faculty, and staff view ITS services, so we can be responsive to them,” Scannell said.

To improve wifi coverage and connections, this summer ITS increased the numbers of access points and replaced old access points, according to ITS Network Architect Chris Dlugosz ’92. Specifically, ITS removed all first generation access points, replacing them with the newest wifi standard, which has faster and more sophisticated connections. In addition, ITS installed 200 new access points.

The college has 655 access points and will likely have 700 more by the end of the year.

However Dlugosz noted, “delivering service is not just a function of the number of access points deployed. We are constantly evaluating our deployment, using both user feedback and various software-based monitoring and modeling tools to ensure that we are installing both the right number of wireless radios and that we are putting them in the best locations for the way our indoor spaces are used.”

To determine the order and placement of new access points and of replacements, ITS worked with Facilities to coordinate construction, consulted with the network provider Aruba Networks, and listened to user concerns.

In addition, some Mac users are having difficulty maintaining a wifi connection to eduroam. Apple has acknowledged a problem with Mac users accessing secure networks such as eduroam, and ITS is testing their recommended solutions.

Dlugosz urges those Mac users experiencing these problems to check the ITS website for updates as solutions are found. “In the end, we try to maintain two important principles: provide a consistent residential experience across the college’s diverse housing stock and meet the demonstrated curricular need in any campus facility where the college conducts instructional activities,” Dlugosz said.

Beyond improving wifi, ITS plans to customize the Hub.

Because the Hub is provided by a third-party, “we have to work within their offerings and be strategic about the changes we make,” Scannell said. “Too many changes can cause security issues and is overcomplicated. In the end, our goal is to streamline access.”

To understand what changes to the Hub would be most appreciated, ITS created focus groups of students, faculty, and staff. In addition, ITS plans to move the campus over to the next generation of the Hub, but has yet to decide when to do this because the costs need to be assessed first, according to Scannell.

The changes for Moodle have yet to be identified, and there is no specific plan for changes to this platform, Scannell said.

Scannell conducted focus groups with CSA members and randomly selected freshmen and sophomores. She asked these students: “If you were to spend $20,000 on ITS improvements, where would you spend it?” She then gave students a list of options to rank and asked the students to explain their choices.

“This allowed me to see how student think about ITS services,” she said. “Although the responses aren’t as actionable as the MISO results, they give me a frame of reference for making future plans.”

In fact, this year’s changes to the printing quota are a result of the focus group discussions.

With the MISO survey and the focus group results, “we can better address the community’s desires for ITS changes,” Scannell said.

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