Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Residence Wireless Network (ResNet)
Year Submitted 2005
Name of Institution Memorial University of Newfoundland
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> T.W. Bussey<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Director of Computing and Communications
Telephone: 709 737-8329
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Abstract

ResNet was a big project that involved a number of people from several different departments. There was a project team from the department of Computing and Communications (C & C) that worked on planning the network, network design, programming the online Device Authorization Tool, and overseeing the whole project from beginning to end. The C & C project team worked in parallel with the computer support staff in the department of Housing, Food and Conference Services (HFCS). HFCS helped with obtaining information regarding student network demands, performing a wireless site survey, getting students set up initially, and acquiring feedback from students. HFCS continues to provide support to Residence students, assisting with setup and remediation of any problems. The department of Facilities Management was also involved in the project and had a part in the installation of the physical infrastructure of the network. The project was completed on-schedule, taking 4 months. The dedication shown by everyone who worked on the project is reflected in tremendous success ResNet has experienced since project completion. The results of the project have been very positive; students are happy that ResNet has saved them money (by eliminating the need to go to an outside ISP for network access) as well as given them flexibility of access both in their dormitory rooms and around campus, and faculty and staff members are also benefiting from ResNet during their teaching because so many students now bring their wireless devices to class.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.
Transferability

ResNet was designed to be modular, so that we could leverage the techniques we had learned from the main campus WLANs, and so that the tools we developed for ResNet could be used to assist with main-campus operations. For example, our main-campus tool for assigning IP addresses and maintaining network records ("AutoNOC") was the basis for the DAT tool. The DAT tool, in turn was used to improve the delivery of modem services to off-campus students, faculty and staff.

Our experience can be a reliable aid to other universities embarking on this same road. In addition, the AutoNOC, DAT and modem tools can be ported with only minor changes to reflect different registered IP address allocations and different database servers (we use Oracle). In fact, we are already moving these services to our second St. John's campus and our Corner Brook campus. The experience gained with take-up rates, wireless technology, support demands, and the wide variety of student-owned equipment can all be passed on to other universities.

Quality Impact

At Memorial, there are approximately 1500 students staying in Residence. We expected between 400-500 of these students to create wireless accounts and register wireless devices. To date, there have been over 1200 Residence student accounts created-three times the number that was expected! The project exceeded everyone's expectations. There have been a significant number of reports received from students containing good feedback regarding speed, performance and convenience of ResNet. In addition to the enormous success of ResNet from the student's point of view, more faculty members are taking advantage of the campus wireless network in their teaching, because so many students bring wireless devices to class. Many campus staff and faculty members have expressed an appreciation for the wireless network and feel that it significantly aids their teaching. Also, the campus Computer Purchasing Centre has experienced a substantial increase in sales of wireless equipment, such as network cards and laptops.

The wireless network went into production in January 2004, and the campus Computing and Communications department has been assessing results since that date.

Productivity Impact

A major productivity gain resulting from ResNet is network availability to students. Before ResNet, Residence students had a small lab with 3 or 4 computers in each building or they would have to come to on-campus computer labs during the "public" hours. Students would be able to use this lab at most a few hours per day, with relatively little privacy. Now students can have network access in the comfort of their dorm rooms 24 hours per day. The ability to easily bring personal computers around Residence buildings and the rest of campus is another productivity gain and, Resident students, like home-based students, have ready Internet access for their general use.

ResNet cost reductions include a savings for students who previously paid monthly for network service from an outside ISP. Each Residence student now pays a small fee included with their Residence package for the wireless service which is approximately one third what local ISPs charge. Also, the university as a whole saved money by implementing a wireless network rather than a wired network in the Residence buildings. We had investigated the cost of cabling several times, but it was far too costly because of the age and construction of the Residence buildings.

Innovation

Memorial University's ResNet differs from similar initiatives at other universities in that, in addition to providing network access in the Residence dormitory rooms, we are providing students with mobility, and accommodation of private computers on the main campus network. That is, a student can take his/her personal computer out of the dorm room and use it in any of the Residence buildings and anywhere on campus that there is wireless access. The transition between ResNet and the main campus network is transparent to the user. This transparent interoperability between networks is convenient for students since home computers can be brought to classes, the library and other study areas around campus, professor's offices, labs, cafeterias and any other public areas where students choose to work. We are taking this transparency further, so any member of any of our campuses will be able to work equally in any area. The principal of our Corner Brook campus can operate a presentation in our main Residence Dining Hall!

The online DAT form also brings Memorial's ResNet to a distinct level. There is no need for students to bring their wireless device anywhere to get it set up on the network or to go talk to someone to set up a wireless account-this can all be done online 24/7. The DAT is easy-to-use, user-friendly, and allows for fast, convenient wireless set up making ResNet truly a self-serve network.