POWELL, Wyo. - Today's high school students aren't that much different than their parents when it comes to where they do homework - often on their bed or in a favorite chair in the family room. After improvements this summer to Northwest College's wireless network, they'll have that same luxury when they go to college.
All residence halls and instructional buildings on the NWC campus already have wireless network computing options but access doesn't always stretch to every corner in every room and hallway.
"We're adding up to 11 access points to each residence hall," Casey Dearcorn, NWC's computing services director, said. "That's a big improvement over the one access point we have now in each hall."
Along with increased access, the purchase of a new software package will provide for a "smarter system," one Dearcorn says will allow for more stability and diagnostics.
"If this works the way we're hoping," Dearcorn said, "the system controllers will detect dead spots so we can better position the access points, and if they detect that one access point is overloaded, the traffic will be automatically diverted to another access point in close proximity." The enhanced wireless system won't impact the traditional wired Internet available in all residence hall rooms.
The impetus to improve the college's wireless capabilities began with students themselves. The NWC Student Senate president and vice-president, who sit on the college's Academic Computing Committee, expressed their frustration about wireless online access to the committee.
"As more and more students were bringing wireless laptops to college," Tiffani Kennedy, student senate vice president from Townsend, Mont., said, "it was getting harder to get on the Internet and to stay on. It's really a problem with online classes or classes with online components, especially when you're submitting homework and taking tests online. We were prepared for a fight when we told the Academic Computing Committee that we wanted better wireless access, but they were just glad we told them. They looked into the situation, listened to more complaints and determined it was an actual problem."
The total price tag for the wireless improvement package is a little over $71,000 and will be taken from the college's budget reserves.