Monday, 16 April 2012

Wireless developments and laptop loans

Two other great presentations at this morning’s departmental meeting which I thought were definitely worth summarizing:

Currently we have over 600 wireless access points, covering mainly teaching and social space, and other congregational areas, recently we’ve been working with faculties to cover the academic areas they have requested. We’ve done a lot of good work and cover probably about 90% of central campus where students are, but that is still only about 10% of the total campus.  We know the world is becoming more and more mobile, and we can see that in the figures of concurrent connections to the wireless network which is rising exponentially. We also know that we need to get wireless into student bedrooms before the start of this next academic year. So, lots to do! Moving forward we’re going to approach installation on a whole building basis, and revisit coverage in some areas. We also need to look at how we cover our external areas – grassy banks, outdoor seating areas etc. We’ll be looking at new standards, with higher bandwidth and the possibility of 4G coverage.

I suppose the thorny question is whether we’ll get to wireless being the primary network? It already is for our students. It would require less cabling and kit, less power and less cooling. We might even be able to deliver phone services over it. Watch this space!

Laptop loans
Last year we started a pilot laptop loan service in the IC – driven partly by the demand for PCs which often outstripped what we had, and feedback we had from students telling us they’d like such a service. We also knew it was something others were doing, and we had the opportunity because some laptops became available from a service no longer being run. It was a pilot, so we only had 10 laptops and was restricted to the IC for 2 hours at a time. Student feedback was mainly good, but they didn’t like the old laptops, or the battery life. So, this year we embarked on a real service. We purchased 66 fairly rugged laptops with 6 hours battery life complete with a bag, power and mouse. These are used for loan and teaching and the flexibility does allow us to cope with seasonal demands.  They run our Windows 7 managed desktop, a familiar environment with access to many applications, and can be booked in advance through our resource booking system. This is called myR&R which amuses me no end. I know it stands for My Rooms and Resources, but it will always be My Rest and Recuperation to me.  When we first went live with it, I tried to book some.

It’s proving to be a very popular service (the laptops) with 53% of users using the service more than once. Currently not many students are booking them in advance, but we know that will change over time.  Our next tasks are to publicise the service more, look at expanding it, and investigate developments such as self-issue and return and allowing them to be taken away from the IC.

No comments: