IT Innovations Stem From Campus Climate Survey Responses
Throughout the year, students, faculty, and staff are asked to participate in numerous surveys and offer their opinions on everything from academic experiences to parking issues to the quality of on-campus dining. So is anything done to address the critical feedback that is sometimes received? The answer, in a word, is “yes.” In fact, just since the Campus Climate Survey that was conducted during the spring semester, the Office of Information Technology has instituted a number of innovations that address specifically some of the feedback and common themes that were received in the survey responses.
Some common themes that were expressed by the AU community regarding the wireless infrastructure included:
- Having to download software such as SafeConnect Policy Key and XpressConnect repeatedly;
- Dropped connections;
- Being prompted to log in repeatedly;
- Weak signals in parts of campus, such as on the quad or in the residence halls;
- Complexity of getting connected;
- Confusion between the old eagle-secure and WirelessSetupAU networks; and
- Password change frequency.
In response to the issues that were raised by many survey respondents, OIT created a cross-functional team to work to improve the wireless network. Working through the summer, the team reconfigured the wireless network and simplified wireless access by:
- Removing the "SafeConnect" computer health check system from the wireless network;
- Removing the "Wireless SetupAU" network from the wireless infrastructure;
- Removing the "XpressConnect" tool from the wireless network;
- Installing two new Aruba Networks ClearPass appliances for the new wireless authentication;
- Creating a new network called "eagle-secure" for simpler network access;
- Implementing a new notification system to send email reminders prior to users’ password expiration, so that they can change it proactively before the system restricts the ability to log on;
- Creating video tutorials for each operating system to show how to connect to eagle-secure; and
- Introducing a new password policy option that allows for a 16-character password that only has to be changed annually, and allows users to specify a pass-phrase using natural language. (Research shows that using pass-phrases like sentences is easier to remember and type, as well as more difficult to hack. It also makes it easier to connect to wireless network via multiple mobile devices).
Additionally, OIT conducted a comprehensive site survey to identify the location of poor wireless coverage, weak signals, and blind spots in residence halls, academic and administrative offices, and outdoor areas. For better coverage and signal strength, wireless access points (AP) were installed or relocated throughout campus, including:
- Relocation of 302 APs in Letts, Anderson, Centennial, Hughes, McDowell, and Leonard.
- Repositioning of 54 APs in Bender Library, Mary Graydon Center, Ward, Katzen, and Butler.
- Installation of 20 more APs in some of the academics and administrative units.
- Installation of new model APs – 90 in Cassell, and 52 in the new Nebraska Hall wing.
Director of Network Operations Hassan Marvi explained, “We are now in the process of installing seven outdoor APs on the roofs of Bender Library, Mary Graydon Center, Battelle, Kay, Hurst, and Leonard to provide better wireless signal strength and coverage for the quad and Woods-Brown Amphitheatre. As a result of the changes and improvements we’ve made during the past few months, we witnessed more than 1,700 wireless clients connected to the new wireless network in less than three days (August 17 to August 19) without any issues.”
The changes that have been implemented are a direct result of the feedback OIT received from the biennial Campus Climate Survey, and the department’s dedication to meeting the technological needs of the AU community as well as its overall commitment to providing the most reliable and secure information technology infrastructure possible.