News_eduroam_ Manolo Gómez_flickr

Daniel Bayer
  Staff Writer

The UNC-Greensboro campus successfully switched over to a new wireless network last week with few problems, according to University Identity Architect Rob Gorrell.

“We achieved just over 50 percent adoption rate going into Oct. 21 based on a strong marketing campaign, and I attribute the smooth transition to a well informed and prepared campus,” Gorrell said.

October 21 was the last day students could use the previous network, UNCG-FacultyStaffStudent.

The new network, eduroam (short for “education roaming”), offers access to wireless networks on college campuses worldwide – far more than the previous network, which only worked on the UNCG campus. The network works on the principle of reciprocity between participating institutions. While each institution is free to set its own policy for use of its network, members agree to provide wi-fi access for students and staff from other colleges and universities in the network. Among the institutes that use eduroam are Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Harvard and the University of Florida.

“As the name implies, the new eduroam wireless offers faculty, staff, and students the same level of wireless service they are used to, but now with the added ability to take that same setup to more than 375 US locations and thousands more all over the world for an instant secure wifi connection,” Gorrell said. “No additional steps or configuration, just open your laptop and instantly connect to the Internet just as if you were still at UNCG.”

The network began in Europe in 2002, with participation from colleges and universities in Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Croatia and the United Kingdom. The network has been available at UNCG since January 2014 and is essential to keeping the campus up-to-date with new developments in wi-fi technology, according to Gorrell.

“I think the biggest challenging is being able to keep up with a landscape that is far more vast than we ever could have imagined as technologists just a few years ago,” Gorrell said. “No longer is the educational experience limited by what a university can provide inside their four corners of campus. With online classes and degrees, multiple campuses, and partnerships with research universities and organizations, today’s academic program is more about collaboration and connectedness than ever. Couple that with the trends in personal technology, inexpensive laptops, smartphones, tablets… every student these days has not just one device, but at least 2-3 that are core to their daily lives and academic experience which need to be connected to the Internet, most often over wireless.”

The new network makes it easier for campus visitors to electronically integrate themselves with the UNCG learning experience as well.

“The flip side is UNCG is able to welcome visiting students and educators to our campus without a time consuming and unfamiliar guest wireless barrier they must navigate,” Gorrell said. “They simply open their laptop that’s been pre-configured eduroam and can spend more time on their educational mission instead of fighting technology. If our old wireless system was analogous to your home landline, eduroam is the modern cell phone of wifi service that is replacing it.”

The eduroam concept could be expanded to include areas besides education, according to Gorrell, keeping affordable internet access available to as many people as possible.

“UNCG is doing their small part as a member of the academic community in supporting Net Neutrality, the way the Internet founders meant it to be,” Gorrell said. “Wifi, as the commodity of the Internet, should be open and available, much like a public drinking fountain, empowering students, educators, entrepreneurship, really anyone. Without a solution like eduroam, controlled by the community and the people, private business will step in to control and monetize wireless access.”

Overall, most students report few problems with the changeover.

“I haven’t had any bad connections” senior Molly Idol said. “My roommate doesn’t read her email and didn’t know it was going to change though. They should’ve had another way to tell people.”

“It’s fine,” freshman Tyler Zalazny said of the switch.

If users are having trouble connecting to eduroam, they can call 6-TECH or stop by the Technology Support Center in located on the 1st floor of the Forney building for hands on assistance. If you are a visitor to the UNCG campus having trouble with eduroam, you should contact your home institution first.

Categories: News, technology, UNCG Students

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