Networking

How RMIT is transforming on-campus connectivity

The university turned to Aruba for apps, location services, and seamless Wi-Fi between the dorm and the lecture hall to create a connected 'small city' within their Melbourne City campus.

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RMIT's Melbourne City campus

Image: RMIT

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) calls itself one of Australia's main tech-focused institutions. Founded in 1887 as a private school specialising in art, science, and technology, the university went public in 1992, and now has over 80,000 students.

RMIT recently announced its strategic plan to embrace a digital environment by 2020, in order to offer students a more collaborative learning experience and provide a strong and comprehensive internet network for on-campus students and staff.

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

The university enlisted Aruba to deliver a wireless network that would cover the university's Melbourne City campus and its 150 buildings — which it said account for 8 percent of the entire buildings in Melbourne's CBD.

The network also needed to allow seamless authentication and on-boarding of bring-your-own devices (BYOD) to support "anytime, anywhere" learning, not just on-campus, but neighbouring areas such as cafes and shopping centres as well.

Özer Dondurmacıoğlu, general manager for Meridian Apps at Aruba, told TechRepublic that RMIT's ongoing transformation also includes enabling location services, indoor mapping and routing, and an indoor GPS experience for each floor within each campus building.

"RMIT is using our entire set of suite of products. They started their journey with wireless access, so all 150 buildings covered with Aruba Wi-Fi. One of their demands was connectivity of every corner of the environment. Then it was 'Lets easily on-board new staff, teacher, [and] student devices to the network'.

"We look into what it will take to build up a really solid wireless infrastructure; we also guide them towards eliminating Ethernet ports pretty rapidly."

The university's mobile app went live in the last couple of months, Dondurmacıoğlu said, with deployment starting from the library. Aruba has also provided the Meridian app, which uses 5,000 beacons to help students find their way around campus and get to classes on time; the ClearPass security solution, built to accommodate BYOD and guest access; and the AirWave management platform for real-time network monitoring and feedback on IT issues.

SEE: BYOD policy (Tech Pro Research)

RMIT also has a selection of recommended apps for both students and tutors. One of these, the free RMIT Library Navigator for iOS and Android, allows students to find various services in four RMIT libraries.

RMIT now boasts a cloud-based wireless environment that can take 30,000 connections, across its 0.72km square campus in Melbourne's CBD, providing half a terabyte of data per day, delivering what it calls "technologically advanced learning" to its students.

The difference for Aruba customers such as RMIT is that such a network can become a differentiator in the eyes of prospective students or their parents, according to Dondurmacıoğlu.

"Parents and students — one of the main reasons they complain back to the school is if anything networking related, or anything digital experience-related is not up to par to what they're used to. I talk to several higher education customers every month where they say: 'They need to make the Wi-Fi better because they get a lot of parent complaints through their students'.

"That's really the difference between primary education and high-schoolers ... In the higher education space, [it's about] taking those students to a new home and almost to a new city, a new campus, it becomes their small city that they live in; the seamless connectivity becomes important."

Dondurmacıoğlu said Aruba's largest deployment for education in Australia is NSW Department of Education, who have been a customer for over 10 years, and for whom Aruba primarily delivers networks for connected classrooms, including digital screens and support for BYOD.

"The main reason we started working with them was assuming that every single desk in the classroom would eventually have a mobile device, either a tablet or a laptop, that students will interact with to improve their learning experience and carry that with them wherever they go within the campus or outside the campus.

"That was [a] test for us; can we deliver a reliable experience for six to 10 hours in the classroom with lots of devices, generally lots of data."

SEE: Lunch and learn: BYOD rules and responsibilities (Tech Pro Research)

Dondurmacıoğlu also mentioned James Cook University as among the universities in Australia focused on dorm room connectivity, and providing a seamless connected between the dorm and anywhere else on campus, as a differentiator.

"Dorm rooms end up being an extension of students' home ... personalised networking, personalised experiences within the dorm rooms, not only iPhones connecting to the network, but PlayStations, wireless screen sharing devices, TVs ... it's basically become this residential connectivity experience.

"The seamless roaming, the adaptability of the infrastructure, being able to just flip your phone and wherever you're in the campus, indoor or outdoor, you're always connected. That needs to extend all the way to the classroom, and all the way to the library, and from the library to the stadium and from the stadium to the retail — a small city essentially."

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