The Ithaca College Information Technology (IT) department’s recent attempt at a Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) upgrade caused a stir among on-campus students. Many campus residents found an email in their inbox with vague instructions to connect to the upgraded Apogee MyResNet Wi-Fi system upon their arrival. These instructions led to much confusion across the student population.
The change comes in the wake of many students complaining about connectivity issues in the past, a persistent issue throughout the history of the college. The upgrade from a 2.4 GHz network to a 5 GHz network has the potential to remedy many issues the community has faced in the past, but only if they can connect to said network. The complexity of the connection process has failed to create an environment where students can “seamlessly connect.”
The residence hall Wi-Fi system was not nearly ready in time for move-in. The confusion that students faced was preventable, because according to Apogee, it was caused by “new methodology as well as some technical issues.” These should have been ironed out far before the students’ arrival to campus.
IT and the Office of Residential Life failed to communicate effectively, opting to use a seemingly unorganized series of emails communicating the problems and solutions that students were facing, ultimately deciding that stronger measures must be taken by stationing Apogee technicians around campus Aug. 22, and providing access to a technician in Job Hall on Aug. 22 and 23. Needing a technology professional to access campus Wi-Fi should not be the expectation, it should be an outlier circumstance. The lack of preparation from Apogee, IT and Residential Life was apparent in the necessity of this recovery. Thankfully, that recovery has proven to be effective in connecting students to the networks vital to their work and study. In addition, the Residential Life Wi-Fi website fails to mention the Apogee App students can use to streamline their connection process.
Issues with Wi-Fi are divided between two categories: range of coverage and speed. The upgrade to a 5GHz connection solves the issue of speed, but further increases the issue of coverage. According to Netgear, the difference between a 2.4GHz connection and a 5GHz connection is that a 2.4GHz connection offers wider coverage, but slower speed, and 5GHz offers less coverage, but higher speeds. The 2.4GHz network is still active for students to connect to, but increasing the quality of access points without increasing the quantity of access points does nothing for students who find that the Wi-Fi cuts out often.
In order to prevent this in the future, IT must work closer with Apogee, communicating effectively and often regarding network status. Internet connectivity tests should be done several times in the weeks prior to student arrival. To streamline the process even further, Apogee and IT could improve the coverage of the “Ithaca College” network. But most of all, clear and effective communication should be prepared far in advance of the first move-in dates. Communication should be clear and concise, so any student on campus can follow the instructions without issue. If the process is too complex to provide simple instruction, the process should be reworked to prioritize connectivity first.