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Improving Student Network Connections

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Feedback provided by students for the 2014 TechQual* survey showed it was apparent with the growing number of student and the ever increasing number of mobile devices that each student brings to Pepperdine, the Network staff knew they needed to upgrade network connectivity in all student areas. Major upgrades were made to the network and Wi-Fi services at the International Programs campus of Lausanne and the outdoor student areas at Malibu.

*TechQual is a survey tool used by Information Technology (IT) to gauge how satisfied the community is with technology services offered at Pepperdine. 

Pepperdine students are grateful for better connectivity at the Lausanne campus

Late December 2013, a parent of a student who was attending Pepperdine's Lausanne campus was not satisfied with the Internet connectivity experience they had while they were there. The International Programs (IP) staff teamed up with the IT staff of Network Services to launch a strategic redesign of the network services for the students. If successful the redesign will be replicated to improve network connectivity at Pepperdine's other international campuses.

Keeping pace with the growing technology needs

The Lausanne program face the same challenges as Pepperdine's other international campuses. They have been asked to keep pace with an ever increasing IT service expectation with no on-campus IT staff or with the adequate technology. They have accomplished much over the years but the gap in IT services, especially with regards to wireless, continues to widen.

To help bridge the gap, IT staff partnered with IP staff including Ezra Plank and Mark Berneche to do a complete assessment on the network needs of the campus and help conduct a redesign that will be manageable and scalable for future needs.

Three stage model: Assess, Design, Implement

Assess. The redesign project was approached with a three stage process. During the first stage of the project required IT staff to assess the needs of the Lausanne campus. In the summer, Network Services Senior Director Dave Holden and IT staff Z Kasilag traveled to Lausanne to conduct a technical survey on the performance of the current infrastructure being utilized. Their assessment found that the entire infrastructure needed to be replaced and the Wi-Fi network needed to be upgraded.

Below a picture of the Wi-Fi signal strength prior to the redesign.

sub basement lausanneThis is a heat map of the sub-basement area at the Lausanne campus. Areas with acceptable coverage are shaded green.

Note: This image does not represent other problems that affect performance such as interference or cabling problems. Therefore, you should only imply that non-green areas have unacceptable Wi-Fi. You should not imply that green areas are okay.

Design. With the information gathered from the assessment stage, Network Services staff created three designs that incorporated a new, enterprise-grade solution that would simplify the old network architecture. The design team also recommended the IP staff to consult with IT's Information Security Office and adopt any recommended changes in order to ensure that all restricted information is managed appropriately.

In December 2014, the design team including IT staff Ian Rowell and Z Kasilag returned to the Lausanne campus to test the design plans to ensure proof of concept.

Implement. In early January 2015, after Ian and Z's design test, the Network Services design team including, Dave Holden, Associate Chief Information Officer Kevin Phan, John Figueroa, Ian Rowell and Z Kasilag traveled to Lausanne a final time to install the new infrastructure.

Below are some pictures of the installation of the new network infrastructure.

Telecommunications Closet (BEFORE)

Before

 

Telecommunications Closet (AFTER)

After 

 IT Director Dave Holden drilling holes for new wiring.

Drilling

 IT team putting new access points (APs)in gathering hall for students.

Gathering hall

 

 

Students' experience improved

Students have been very happy with the new Wi-Fi and network connectivity improvements. Below are a few testimonials from the current students in Lausanne.

I can do homework in my own room now which is a plus.
My phone also never times out of the wifi.
I can stream youtube videos in HD which is super cool, and I can call my parents without disconnecting.

 

There is wifi over the entire area of the house and it is extremely fast and reliable.

 

This has definitely enhanced my school performance and allowed for me to utilize online resources successfully. Also, I am finally able to skype my parents and communicate with them about my abroad experience without losing connection every minute. By talking to my parents this helps me to overcome feelings of homesickness and loneliness which are inevitable when studying abroad in a foreign country.

 

 

Network Services staff complete outside Wi-Fi for students

During the 2014 summer, IT's network services team worked diligently to bring WiFi outside in areas like Joslyn Plaza, the Amphitheater, Adamson Plaza, and the Gregg C. Juarez fountain. This project was in response to IT's annual TechQual survey, which gauges the community's satisfaction with central IT services. For the past couple of years, students have been requesting wireless Internet access in the outdoor areas on the Malibu Seaver campus. The recent advances in wireless technology have made it possible to complete this project for Pepperdine students.

The Pepperdine Graphic articles on IT's Wi-Fi enhancements:

School of Law WiFi network re-design to increase capacity and coverage

During the summer, the School of Law Wi-Fi infrastructure was upgraded. Based on field testing and feedback from IT's 2014 TechQual survey, IT staff including Ian Rowell, Zorian Kasilag, and John Figueroa helped redesign the area to provide the best possible coverage with the latest wireless technology. Devices included the 802.11a/g/n dual band routers, which increase connection speed over wireless by transmitting over two frequencies instead of just one, and access points 802.11ac, which provide better data transmission. They were placed in some of the densest first floor classrooms at the School of Law.

During the School of Law's new student orientation (NSO), the network team conducted a large scale test in classrooms C,D, and E. Part of the orientation included NSO instructors showing more than 200 students how to use Lexis Nexis, an online legal research portal, on their laptops or mobile devices. All 200 students were able to follow along and login in real time with no wireless network issues.