Lewis University makes the grade with campus-wide high-speed coverage
A few years ago, Lewis University, a rapidly growing Catholic Lasallian institution just outside Chicago, needed to update its high-speed Internet access to offer its more than 5,500 students, along with a faculty of 200 and staff of 350, the ability to get online anytime, anywhere on campus.
In response to these needs, the school deployed a wireless network by putting hot spots throughout the campus. These were primarily in academic areas of the 77-year-old university, which is situated on 380 acres in Romeoville, Ill., and has five regional campuses and an airport located adjacent to the campus.
“Today’s students demand high-speed Internet access wherever they are at any time,” says John Dalby, the university’s chief information
The university’s need for faster, more advanced applications had outgrown its existing wireless network capabilities. Students soon found that having access only in academic areas of the campus wasn’t enough. “They wanted to actually collaborate with each other all over campus,” Dalby says.
“The network just wasn’t dependable and would always disconnect,” says graduate assistant Monica Aguero. Helene Chmielewski, the university’s director of instructional technology and end-user services, says, “We had connectivityissues. We had slowness. It really turned more into a burden than a benefit for us. Students, faculty, and staff stopped using it because it wasn’t reliable.
Sustainable Network Solutions
Lewis University knew it needed a new wireless solution and knew what it wanted. “Our ideal wireless network would have coverage across the entire university,” says Dalby. For security and redundancy purposes, the university wanted the network to be separate from its wired network. “It also had to be fast enough so that the students were getting good service throughout the university,” notes Dalby.
When Lewis University’s first network provider was acquired by Scientel Wireless, the company met with the university and found numerous problems. At first, the university thought it simply needed to deploy more radios to provide
better coverage, but Scientel took a longerterm view.
After an in-depth network reassessment, Scientel brought in Motorola as an equipment consultant. “Our recommendation was to change the technology direction and redesign the network using the enterprise-class Motorola Wireless LAN product portfolio,” says Nelson Santos, executive vice president of Scientel Wireless. In doing so, Scientel reduced outdoor infrastructure by 50 percent and indoor infrastructure by 30 percent. “Some may equate the reduction in infrastructure with a reduction in coverage. In fact, it isn’t an exact correlation. It is really about proper RF (Radio Frequency) planning,” says Santos.
Using Motorola’s WLAN planning tools ensure only the network equipment needed is deployed, resulting in less waste. Additionally, wireless networks are less expensive to deploy and maintain over time than wired solutions.
A Major Competitive Advantage
How are Lewis University’s students and faculty responding to the new network? “We’ve actually quadrupled our network utilization over the last year,” says Dalby. “It’s being used by our students in the classrooms and anywhere they want to collaborate.” The faculty is also enthusiastic. “Now that we have reliable wireless access, I am using my PDA much more than before,” says Ray Klump, associate professor of mathematics and computer science. “You’d be surprised how many students are instant messaging me for help, and now I can access and answer those questions from anywhere on campus.”
The new wireless network is also a major competitive advantage for student and faculty recruitment and retention. “Our enhanced wireless network has added a new dimension to us being able to attract students, retain students, and encourage
them to continue on to a higher education with Lewis University,” says Chmielewski.
Dalby concludes, “Our improved wireless network is now another excellent tool to enhance the educational experience for the entire university community. It makes it easier for our students and our faculty to achieve outstanding successes.”