Stop by 928 Commonwealth Ave. and you’ll glimpse something that would have been impossible just a year ago: School of Hospitality Administration students busily taking notes and studying lessons on new iPads.
SHA is one beneficiary of a two-year, $8.6 million installation and improvement project for wireless on the Charles River Campus, covering more than 200 classrooms, along with dining facilities and dorm rooms. For the latter, the scorecard stands at 9,500 down, fewer than 600 to go. (The laggards are in brownstones on Bay State Road, and BU should hit the “on” switch on the last of those come January.)
Following the upgrade at SHA, the school bought 80 iPads for faculty and students, radically changing the way course work can be presented and analyzed. “Since most students do not have their own iPads yet, many faculty are able to create opportunities for small group work or sharing,” says Christopher Muller, dean of SHA.
Unchained from cables and wall outlets, students have welcomed the new access, says Howard Male (SHA’12, SMG’12), president of the Student Union. “The feedback I’ve heard from students has been quite positive,” he says, notwithstanding some “significant issues” with spotty service on South Campus, and of course, Bay State Road. “Wireless has improved significantly since my freshman year. There’s Wi-Fi on the BU Beach, in all the major residence halls, and in the classroom buildings.”
“Wireless networks are increasingly organic, changing characteristics in response to a wide variety of external and uncertain factors,” including interference from other networks, says Michael Krugman, associate vice president for infrastructure and communications services at Information Services & Technology. “We’re doing everything possible to provide a reliable and consistent service, but students increasingly carry two or more wireless devices,” and given BU’s extremely large student population, technology officials face a significant challenge in enhancing service.
The installation began after students fingered wireless access, or more accurately lack thereof, as their number one tech gripe in a University survey two years ago. Not only were too many spaces barren deserts for access, but classrooms that were wireless often suffered from spotty service, James Sappenfield (CAS’10, SMG’10), then Student Union president, said at the time.
“At this point, we are in the final stages of the project to deploy services in the brownstones” west of Granby Street, says Charles Von Lichtenberg, IS&T’s network systems group director. With student spaces nearly completed, “we are gearing up to begin to cover and upgrade wireless throughout the academic and administrative facilities” on the Charles River Campus over the next three fiscal years.
Across town, meanwhile, “all of the classrooms on the Medical Campus are wireless-accessible, including the lecture halls,” as are dining facilities, says Bryan Bettencourt, network engineer for that campus. Some upgrading of the campus’ wireless service is under way, he adds.