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IIBMS – Dartmouth College Goes Wireless

Case – 1 Dartmouth College Goes Wireless

IIBMS – Dartmouth College Goes Wireless

Dartmouth College, one of the oldest in the United States (founded in 1769), was one of the first to embrace the wireless revolution. Operating and maintaining a campuswide information system with wires is difficult, since there are 161 buildings with more than 1,000 rooms on campus. In 2000, the college introduced a campuswide wireless network that includes more than 500 Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) systems. By the end of 2002, the entire campus became a fully wireless, always-connected community—a microcosm that provides a peek at what neighborhood and organizational life may look like for the general population in just a few years.

To transform a wired campus to a wireless one requires lots of money. A computer science professor who initiated the idea at Dartmouth in 1999 decided to solicit the help of alumni working at Cisco Systems. These alumni arranged for a donation of the initial system, and Cisco then provided more equipment at a discount. (Cisco and other companies now make similar donations to many colleges and universities, writing off the difference between the retail and the discount prices for an income tax benefit.)

As a pioneer in campuswide wireless, Dartmouth has made many innovative usages of the system, some of which are the following:

1. Students are continuously developing new applications for the Wi-Fi. For example, one student has applied for a patent on a personal-security device that pinpoints the location of campus emergency services to one’s mobile device.
Students no longer have to remember campus phone numbers, as their mobile devices have all the numbers and can be accessed anywhere on campus.
2. Students primarily use laptop computers in the network. However, an increasing number of Internet-enabled PDAs and cell phones are used as well. The use of regular cell phones is on the decline on the campus.
3. An extensive messaging system is used by the students, who send SMSs (Short Message Services) to each other. Messages reach the recipients in a split second, any time, anywhere, as long as they are sent and received within the network’s coverage area.
4. Usage of the Wi-Fi system is not confined just to messages. Students can submit their classwork by using the network, as well as by watching streaming video and listening to Internet radio.
5. An analysis of wireless traffic on campus showed how the new network is changing and shaping campus behaviour patterns. For example, students log on in short burst, about 16 minutes at a time, probably checking their messages. They tend to plant themselves in a few favorite spots (dorms, TV room, student center, and on a shaded bench on the green) where they use their computers, and they rarely connect beyond those places.
6. Some students invented special complex wireless games that they play online.
7. One student has written a code that calculates how far away a networked PDA user is from his or her next appointment, and then automatically adjusts the PDA’s reminder alarm schedule accordingly.
8. Professors are using wireless-based teaching methods. For example, students can evaluate material presented in class and can vote online on a multiple-choice questionnaire relating to the presented material. Tabulated results are shown in seconds, promoting discussions. According to faculty, the system “makes students want to give answer,” thus significantly increasing participation.
9. Faculty and students developed a special voice-over-IP application for PDAs and iPAQs that uses live two-say voice-over-IP chat

Questions

1. In what ways is the Wi-Fi technology changing the life of Dartmouth students? Relate your answer to the concept of the digital society.
2. Some say that the wireless system will become part of the background of everybody’s life—that the mobile devices are just an afterthought. Explain.
3. Is the system contributing to improved learning, or just adding entertainment that may reduce the time available for studying? Debate your point of view with students who hold a different opinion.
4. What are the major benefits of the wireless system over the previous wireline one? Do you think wireline systems will disappear from campuses one day? (Do some research on the topic.)

IIBMS – Dartmouth College Goes Wireless

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