college students using wi-fi outside on their tablets

Guess what? Higher-ed innovation & student success starts with wi-fi

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock shares invaluable insight from transitioning 2.9 million square feet into mobile-first indoor spaces

Before mobility became essential for student wellbeing, recruiting, and retention, we deployed a wi-fi network at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock that was adequate for meeting institutional requirements and academic demands. Fast-forward several years and our hodge-podge of antiquated equipment from multiple vendors couldn’t handle modern needs. Today, as we’re finishing up a major refresh, we’d like to share nine steps that were critical to gaining the right outcome for us.

Step 1: Articulate the primary goal–it’s more effective than it may seem
Despite sounding like a no-brainer, honing our business drivers into a concise primary goal proved effective because the exercise informed many of the ensuing steps. For us, the primary goal was modernizing our wi-fi to be a differentiator for attracting and retaining today’s mobility-empowered students by offering a home-like user-centric wireless experience to permit students to connect any device quickly, easily, and securely.

Step 2: Seek formal student involvement–what you learn can save the day
Like many institutions, we have a student IT advisory board that typically attracts those with a technology affinity. However, our wi-fi refresh would touch every student, regardless of their interest in the mechanics of making it work.

To validate our refresh plans, we sought out our Student Government Association (SGA) and learned their assistance would help us far more than anticipated. The SGA was a powerful advocate with our administration, which became invaluable over the course of the deployment.

Our SGA interactions uncovered strong student desire for wi-fi coverage in unplanned locations. For example, students desired coverage in our fitness center to enable streaming content while exercising. Prior to the SGA’s involvement, the fitness center was outside the project’s scope because we viewed mobility through an academic lens. The SGA also took the lead convincing our administration that fitness center wi-fi was necessary for meeting our primary goal. In the end, it became the first building we modernized.

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