Web problems similar at different campuses

by Cassie Lauterbach

Exisiting in an age of technology and speed, it’s important for colleges to maintain a high level of Internet accessibility for students.

As Simpson strives to improve its Internet connection, other colleges in Iowa are making changes to online services.

Buena Vista University offers wireless services to its students.

“Our entire campus has wireless capabilities for student use,” said Bruce Willems, Buena Vista’s help desk manager.

Students at Buena Vista appreciate the wireless connection and prefer it over LAN lines.

“We have occasionally had growing pains, but we work through it,” Willems said. “If we were to lose wireless access, though, there would be a student outrage.”

One of the latest technology trends on Iowa campuses is to offer a program that provides online course management for professors and students. Central College and Buena Vista have integrated the Blackboard program, similar to Simpson’s WebCT, on their campuses.

“Professors use it on a voluntary basis, and those [who] do seem to find it very beneficial,” said Daniel Rouw, Central College’s Web programmer.

These course-management systems allow professors to post course documents and information so students enrolled in that class can access the information online.

“We have had good luck with Blackboard,” Willems said. “It seems to be very popular with students and professors.”

Although they’re separate programs, WebCT and Blackboard are very similar.

“From our perspective, all programs like Blackboard or WebCT have advantages and disadvantages,” Willems said. “This just happens to be the one we decided to use, and it seems to meet our needs well.”

Central College prefers the Blackboard program as well.

“It provides professors the opportunity to post class material online,” Rouw said. “Less than half of our professors are utilizing it currently, but that number is increasing pretty quickly because students are realizing the benefits of having things available online.”

However, technology and Internet capabilities change rapidly which poses some challenges for colleges trying to stay on top of the potential issues.

Last fall, computer viruses swept campuses across the state.

“We do our best to avoid problems by being proactive and taking initiative,” Willems said. “Ensuring that updated and current versions of software are installed prevents many problems.”

At Buena Vista University, full-time students are provided with a laptop for their personal use while they’re enrolled in classes.

“Since we provide laptops, we control what software goes onto them, and we can make sure the most recent version of Norton Antivirus is installed,” Willems said.

At Simpson, in order to cut back on virus issues, students are required to install SmartEnforcer on their computers before accessing the Internet. Neither Central nor Buena Vista has required its students to install a program like this.

The Internet has many possibilities for colleges looking for ways to improve their technology. Buena Vista is considering implementing a Web portal on campus. When students log on to their computers, the Web portal will be able to tell who’s logging in.

“This allows students’ Internet homepages to contain information pertinent to them specifically,” Willems said.

Both schools agreed technology is always changing, and new things are in store.

“The possibilities seem endless,” Rouw said. “Central’s future is determined by how quickly we can keep up with the changes.”