Students on campus using wireless devices

Survey finds continuing campus bandwidth squeeze

Reliable mobile access on campus continues to challenge university network administrators. With students bringing anywhere from two to five devices to campus and professors integrating mobile into the curriculum, high bandwidth is in high demand.

As more classroom activities require Internet access, the number of postsecondary educators who believe they have access to adequate Internet bandwidth is declining, suggesting that bandwidth is not keeping up with demand, according to the most recent annual survey by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

Yet educators noted improvements in other areas, including security measures and e-portfolios.

Only 36 percent of respondents defined their current campus bandwidth as meeting their ideal level — a decline from 2013. Adequate bandwidth, along with online access and Wi-Fi, is required for virtual classes, multimedia-rich content and interactive software, the report stated.

That finding was no surprise, said Karen Billings, vice president of the SIIA Education Division, which represents more than 180 companies that provide software, digital content and other technologies that address educational needs. "As there is more and more use of the Internet in the classroom, the bandwidth is not keeping pace," she added.

Besides bandwidth, other areas with perceived gaps between the current state and the ideal were:

  • Educator access to the level of technology resources common to other professionals.
  • Institution leaders’ use of technology tools for decision-making.
  • Availability of digital student achievement data to guide instructional decisions.
  • Availability of online tutoring.

On the bright side, survey respondents perceived security tools to protect student data and online privacy as strong on their campus. Like their counterparts in the K-12 setting, postsecondary IT officials have had to meet some stringent federal regulatory requirements, Billings noted. In fact, the security-related benchmarks were among those closest to ideal levels. Other benchmarks that approached ideal levels included:

  • Students access to digital educational content online.
  • An institution Web site/portal that provides the education community access to appropriate resources.
  • Online courses.

Benchmarks that showed significant improvement in the current level of integration include:

  • Institutional management supported by digital enterprise systems.
  • Interactive multimedia instructional materials.
  • Personal e-portfolios for students.
  • Access to online professional learning courses.

Increasing usage of BYOD and a decrease in restrictions over last year were apparent in both K-12 and postsecondary segments of the survey. Almost all postsecondary participants reported mobile devices are allowed in the classroom, usually without restrictions.

In this year's survey, 2-year and 4-year institutions were on par, with approximately 90 percent currently accepting mobile devices in the classroom.

This article originally appeared on Campus Technology, a sister site to GCN. 

About the Author

David Raths is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer focused on information technology.

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