FHSU launches wireless campus

HAYS, KS -- Imagine a campus where every student and professor carries computers that can instantly access the vast knowledge base of the Internet from anywhere -- a classroom, a residence hall, a lobby, or sitting under a tree.

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, announced at a news conference today that Fort Hays State was initiating a three-year process to convert the university to wireless mobile computing by the beginning of the fall 2007 semester.

" Fort Hays State University has long been recognized for its 'high-tech/high-touch' vision," President Hammond said. "The underlying assumption of the vision is the integration of leading edge technology with personal attention to achieve the most productive learning environment available in higher education. The logical next step in this institutional vision is the creation of a wireless and mobile computing environment whereby each faculty member and student can learn anywhere, anytime."

FHSU will be the first of the Kansas Board of Regents institutions to convert completely to what has been referred to elsewhere as a "laptop" environment. The president explained that "mobile computing" was the preferred terminology for the initiative at FHSU, which would include some versions of portable computing technology that go beyond laptops.

The initiative will be carried out over three years.

Year one, beginning in the fall 2005 semester, will see the installation of a wireless network that reaches all campus spaces. No matter where he or she may be on campus, a person will have remote access to the Internet. Other first-year steps will include creation of pilot programs in at least one department in each of the four colleges and the process of soliciting and testing specific hardware and software from vendors. A final decision will be made on one or more mobile computing approaches to student laptop ownership, with options for either purchasing an FHSU-recommended computer or adhering to a minimum set of hardware requirements for students who already own a computer. By early spring 2006, a vendor or vendors will be selected, and the decisions regarding student ownership and fees will be announced to prospective and continuing students for the new academic year that begins in fall 2006.

In the second year, starting in fall 2006, the university will provide laptops for faculty members who request them and provide training for effective use of the technology in the classroom. Also, university technicians will be trained to be both Mac-certified and PC-certified so that some repairs can be completed on campus.

In the third year, starting in fall 2007, all incoming and currently enrolled students will be required to possess one of two types of university-specified mobile computing hardware (Mac or PC). Students who own non-specified models will not be eligible for software or maintenance from the university.

The university mailed letters last week to its students and prospective students to alert them to the three-year initiative. The letter, which included specific information about the types of hardware that would be acceptable in fall 2007, explained the importance of wireless mobile computing:

" By using this network you will be able to access the World Wide Web, e-mail, grades, financial information, the on-line course delivery system, and communicate anywhere on campus. By the 2007-2008 school year all FHSU students will need to have laptops or tablets that meet our mobile computing standards. If you follow the recommendations below you will be assured you will have the necessary platform for connecting to our wireless campus network and the computing power necessary for typical applications."

Dr. Larry Gould, who as provost serves as FHSU's chief academic officer, talked during today's news conference about the importance of wireless mobile computing for enhancing the learning environment. "Through creative use of desktop, classroom and lab-supported technology, faculty develop teaching methods that are student-centered, interactive, participatory, problem-solving, practical, engaging and team-oriented," he said. "The result is acquisition of information literacy and transferable computer skills that will serve students for the rest of their lives."

The provost said policy and planning should drive technology; not the other way around. "It will be vital to obtain optimal buy-in from faculty and staff through training programs before extending the initiative to our students," he said. "When faculty engage students by requiring digital portfolios, Web page creation, collaborative projects, digital audio and video submissions, and so forth, then student acceptance of the programming increases and behavior problems such as Web surfing, instant messaging and e-mailing are greatly reduced."

President Hammond said FHSU's conversion to a wireless campus had already begun with some limited applications. "Right now there is complete wireless coverage in Forsyth Library," he said. "We also have partial coverage in the Memorial Union, Tomanek Hall, Picken Hall, Davis Hall and Rarick Hall, and we will place some wireless access points in the Stadium Place Apartments that will open in August."

He noted that laptops already were available to faculty in the checkout area in Tomanek Hall, and he said the provost had purchased some laptops for faculty through an action plan under the university's strategic planning process. Also, Virtual College instructors often get laptops when they teach in China.

Other examples of the conversion to mobile technology that are already under way include Personal Data Assistance devices in the nursing program -- which allow instructors immediate access to information, such as medication data bases, that are helpful in teaching and working with patients -- and the use of handheld wireless devices in some classrooms to allow immediate feedback from students. The College of Education and Technology recently purchased a set of the handheld wireless devices, or "clickers," for use in its Foundations of Education course.

President Hammond said the early announcement and the three-year period for implementation are intended to make the transition go smoothly. He added that although the university has mapped out a clear plan for converting to wireless mobile computing, input from students, faculty and staff would allow refinements to be made as the plan moves forward.

" We will provide the highest quality and most responsive maintenance and laptop repair for students and faculty at all times," the president said. "We will provide a choice between Macs and PCs. And in making this conversion mandatory, we certainly will not impose financial requirements that contradict our promise of 'Affordable Success'."

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Office of University Relations   |  600 Park Street   |  Hays, KS  67601-4099
(785) 628-4206   |   Fax (785) 628-4152
Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu