With fall campus learning relying heavily on online classes, in just six weeks the University of South Carolina (UofSC) achieved a major upgrade of the wireless network on its main campus, which serves approximately 35,000 students and even more internet-connected devices.
With an abbreviated timeline, the university worked with PIER Group LLC (PIER Group), a higher education IT consultancy company based out of Jasper, Indiana, and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to design and execute a full installation of upgraded hardware and software. The installation teams worked within COVID-19 guidelines, and were in and out of the residence halls with plenty of time for university staff to clean before students arrived.
“We’re committed to opening a safe environment for our students this fall, so they can focus on learning and earning their degree,” said Dan Schumacher, associate vice president, infrastructure, UofSC division of information technology. “Our new wireless infrastructure gives students who live in residence halls the bandwidth for data-heavy activities, including video streaming and virtual collaboration, enhancing their learning experience.”
The teams from PIER Group and Aruba got creative when it came to prepping and installing the equipment, and even sealing the deal to work together. “In this environment, we couldn’t even physically shake hands,” said Chad Williams, president of PIER Group. “Our lead engineer couldn’t prep equipment on campus, so we rented a hotel room across the street. But we solved all of our issues collaboratively, and together, we got the job done.”
Advantages for students and security
The expanded wireless network provides students who live on campus with greater reliability, fewer disconnections and faster speeds than ever before. Residence halls alone will have more than 4,700 network access points — compared to the 4,052 total access points that served the entire campus previously.
“The upgrade was done quickly and efficiently,” said April Barnes, executive director of university housing. “We are excited about the expanded capabilities of Wi-Fi in our residence halls and the opportunities it will provide our students. I am confident this upgrade will be extremely helpful and beneficial to our students, especially as we navigate through uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For the IT team, the cutting-edge wireless network offers more centralized management, better security for university systems, more visibility into who is using the network, and the ability to quickly troubleshoot.
While the wireless infrastructure upgrade was necessary for this fall, UofSC is in a strong position to continue to build on this success with more infrastructure upgrades as well as robust instructional learning technology.
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