Universities Look to Improve Bandwidth as Streaming Demand Rises

Campus IT teams need to get ahead of the coming bandwidth demand as growing trends in video use extend beyond entertainment and into the classroom.

The popularity of streaming video for recreation is nothing new to universities, however, growing trends for high-quality lecture videos and interactive class activities will soon put an added strain on campus IT teams.

The streaming revolution is showing no sign of slowing down. Sixty-one percent of Americans between 18 and 29 years old use streaming services as their primary way to watch TV, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. New ventures, such as the recent purchase of MTV campus networks by streaming service Chedder, show companies are embracing the new wave of online viewership.

Beyond entertainment, college students are finding videos to be an optimal way to learn. A student survey at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry found 97 percent of students felt videos of lectures helped them learn, and 98 percent watched these videos online.

As online video viewing grows at an exponential rate each year, universities need to update their networks to stay ahead of the accelerating consumption in and out of the classroom.

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University Access Points Get Number, Efficiency Boosts

In large institutions, adding more access points has been one of the most common answers to beefing up bandwidth.

The University of Minnesota, in partnership with Pier Group, plans to bring over 10,000 new Aruba access points to campus, utilizing the Aruba AirWave network management system to boost connectivity and security for Internet of Things devices.

These improvements will allow the 66,000 students and faculty across campus to reliably connect 116,000 unique devices every day, according to a press release

“Overall, complaints about the network have been greatly reduced,” says Louis Hammond, service owner of Voice and Data Network Services for the university. “We’re receiving praise from students and faculty alike, who have noticed a big difference in the performance. We’re hearing that instructors are feeling encouraged to use technology in the classroom to improve student learning.”

Meanwhile at the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor campus has nearly completed the Wi-Fi upgrade program it initiated in 2014.

With almost 12,000 access points, the university’s flagship campus is proud to be able to service its students and faculty with sturdy Wi-Fi connections from almost anywhere on campus.

“We have almost completed work on the Campus WiFi Upgrade Project that was funded three years ago to ensure that we could provide WiFi coverage from wall to wall, penthouse to basement, in buildings on the Ann Arbor campus," Andy Palms, executive director of ITS Infrastructure, says in a project update

“Providing WiFi coverage in outdoor spaces, heavily used by students, faculty and staff is the next obvious progression of this work. U-M continues to invest in this important infrastructure, allowing our population to work, study, and play, anywhere on the Ann Arbor campus,” he says. 

Universities Double Up on Wi-Fi to Meet Growing Bandwidth Demands

While some universities are modifying their current systems, these changes can be expensive. Instead, some universities have decided to share the load by developing multiple Wi-Fi networks to meet the growing demand.

At Elon University in North Carolina, teachers and students have two networks to choose from, elon-secure and elon-connect, each network designed for different devices. 

This access has cut down on costs the university previously incurred to make sure students had hard-wired internet connections.

“We used to hand out a thousand ethernet cables each year; now students don’t need them,” the university’s CIO, Christopher Waters, tells Inside Higher Ed. “When students come to campus, particularly at private institutions, they expect Wi-Fi to be ubiquitous.”

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Jun 26 2018