Now you see them, now you don’t. The connections, that is. In a number of areas on the UI campus, it’s now possible to use properly equipped laptop computer sans an outlet and tangle of cords and cables.
Wireless Internet service has been a possibility in the Pomerantz Business Library, located in the Pappajohn Business Building, since 1998. It started as something of an experiment, for both the University and for Bay Networks manufacturer, who provided Access Points and cards for laptops for students to check out for use within the library.
“Being a test site was a great way to provide for our students,” says Scott Fuller, systems administrator for the Tippie College of Business.
The effort was a success, and the service has expanded each year. Currently, wireless Internet service is available on the east side of campus in portions of the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU), the Main Library, the English-Philosophy Building, Schaeffer Hall, the Language Media Center and other areas of Phillips Hall, Seamans Center for Engineering Arts and Sciences, the Biological Sciences Library, the Psychology Library in Seashore Hall, the Mathematical Sciences Library and other areas of MacLean Hall, the College of Education and Instructional Technology Services in Lindquist, and the University Services Building. On the west side of the campus, portions of the Medical Education and Research Facility, the Pharmacy Building, and the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences also offer the wireless connections. (To see a map of the sites where UI wireless access is available, visit www.its.uiowa.edu/tns/data/wirelessloc.htm.)
“Additional wireless locations may be added based on requests and available funds,” says Pete Trotter, research and development project leader for the University’s Instructional Technology Services.
For those who have entered the computer age within the last 10 or 15 years, the importance of wireless Internet access might be hard to fathom. But for undergraduate students, who have grown up with computers, it’s a natural.
“Students using the service aren’t tied to one location—they can sit anywhere,” notes Paul Soderdahl, coordinator for information systems and technology in the University Libraries. “They can take them to a study carrel and work individually, or a small group can gather and work together.”
In addition, many professors use Blackboard and WebCT—course management tools that contain information from class assignments to lecture notes to course resources. Students with wireless Internet can access the course information and work with other students on group projects without having to be sitting at a desk or in an ITC (the University’s Instructional Technology Centers—large rooms located around campus containing multiple computers for student use).
“Students can find a lot of information online,” Soderdahl says. “The library has more than 12,000 full-text journals and 8,000 full-text books and is continuing to increase its electronic holdings. Most journals that students might need are available electronically, even if they’re still printed. So students with wireless Internet access can search the online card catalog at any hour of the day or night, and in many cases go directly to the material they’re searching for.”
The simplest way for a student to gain access to wireless Internet services within the Main Library is to check out one of the six laptops or three wireless cards, available at the Information Arcade for one-day use within the library with a valid University ID. The Pomerantz Business Library also has 14 laptops and 16 cards available for check out, and the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences is planning to have laptops and wireless cards for checkout soon.
For students who own laptops or are thinking of purchasing one, the best suggestion to assure compatibility with University systems is to consult the ITS help desk and the wireless networking web site at www.its.uiowa.edu/tns/data/wireless.htm for information.
“This is an evolving service,” Trotter says. “For example, having a WiFi (IEEE 802.11b) wireless-ready laptop is not enough in order to use ITS-supported wireless networks around campus. Additional requirements are outlined at the web site.”
Fuller, of the College of Business, says he probably helps one or two students each week to configure the cards in their personal laptops so that they’ll work with the system in Pappajohn. (The systems in the Pappajohn Business Building and those elsewhere on campus use the same hardware but are not the same, and require different card configurations.)
The demand for wireless access on campus has grown as people become more aware of the service and as more students, faculty, and staff show up on campus with laptops, Soderdahl says. But does everyone need wireless service?
“Wireless networking is a complement to the existing wired infrastructure on campus,” Trotter says. “Each has its advantages. Wireless is especially helpful for people who move between locations. It’s a convenient way to check e-mail or browse the web between classes or meetings. You have access to information at any time, in any location covered by wireless service.”
For more information on wireless Internet service on the University of Iowa campus, visit www.its.uiowa.edu/tns/data/wirelessintro.
By Linzee Kull McCray