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Wireless system may be too small

March 5, 2009

With the increasing use of wireless devices, students may see more support for wireless computing devices at UW-River Falls in the future. Steps have been taken in the past to attempt to move Information Technology Services in a direction that is more supportive of portable computing devices.

Mary-Alice Muraski, computer support services manager of ITS, said outright that permanent computer labs are not sustainable in the long run.

As such, the Information & Instructional Technology Council proposed a resolution last year that would make the campus more accommodating to the growing use of wireless devices and Wi-Fi.

“What we hope to do is provide better support,: Muraski said.

The resolution was proposed to both Student Senate as well as Faculty Senate.  While the Student Senate passed the resolution 14 to 3, Faculty Senate was more divided and ultimately rejected it 7 to 8.

A wireless learning environment is not unheard of in the UW System. As part of its curriculum, UW-Stout requires that all students subscribe to the eScholar service. The service is part of tuition fees, and supplies all students with a laptop no more than two years old, a backpack, all required connectors and wireless connectivity on campus. In addition, all laptops are loaded with software relevant to the students; courses.

The eScholar program aims to set a technological standard for all people on campus.  The end result is faster service and repairs to hardware as needed.

I think it;s kind of nice. I think you;d get quite a bit out of it, UW-Stout Help Desk employee John Pfeiffer said. He noted how useful the immediate technical assistance is and said he couldn;t think of any immediate problems he had with the program.

While UW-Stout;s program may be running well, shifting to such a learning environment would not be without some significant change and potential growing pains.

The entire infrastructure needs to change. We need a better support structure that we just don’t have,” Muraski said.

In addition to a change in the support infrastructure, there are other things to consider. According to Muraski, Wi-Fi hotspots around campus are only able to support around 20 logins, and when more students try to send data through it, the flow of information can be slower. More hotspots would need to be installed in order to accommodate the student body.

There is also the issue of electricity. An increased use of laptops in classes would require easier access to electrical outlets.  A technological restructuring will likely be expensive as well.

Tech council still wishes to increase wireless support, but because of the partial rejection of the original proposal, any plans to move UWRF in a more wireless friendly direction are in limbo for the time being. This will continue to be the case until a new proposed resolution is approved.