What It Means to Be First
Buena Vista d'es it again; BVU president Fred Moore talks about advancing Web-based
Given the comprehensive nature of that
implementation, and especially since the fully wireless campus was
unprecedented, was this initiative driven by the president’s office?
Long known as the nation’s first totally wireless campus,
Buena Vista University
(IA) is again pushing out front, this time leveraging technology
to broaden Web-based instructional programs and forge ahead with integrated
campus communications. Campus Technology asked the school’s innovative
president, Fred Moore, (photo at right) about plans to keep his institution in the lead.
Buena Vista University is often mentioned among
the early adopters of wireless technology. Was BVU the first wireless
We were the first totally wireless
campus in the country. Other institutions were experimenting with wireless,
but none before us provided a comprehensive wireless network with access for
all faculty and students via laptops furnished to them.
Did you implement your wireless network at the
same time as your laptop program?
Yes, both were implemented in the fall of 2000. But two years in advance of
putting the computers in the students’ hands, we furnished the faculty
with laptops and began a very strong faculty development program in the area
of technology. We invested first in the faculty so they, in turn, could make
sure that the students were able to leverage this opportunity to the maximum.
I was an advocate and provided encouragement, but
this was a massive mobilization of faculty and staff who worked diligently together
for a smooth implementation—along with students, I might add: Many students
were involved in installing the wireless infrastructure.
What was your main reason at that time for
embarking on the project?
convinced, after a review of the scholarly literature on learning, that technology
improves learning. We were not interested in having the technology tail-wag
the learning dog, if you will; rather, we wanted to invest in digital tools
to enhance the learning environment for our students. The only way to make sure
that students can take maximum advantage of technology is to have universal
access. So at that point, we were determined to put a laptop in the hands of
every student, with easy network access throughout the campus.
What are the major benefits you’ve seen over the
years, since your launch in 2000?
Above all, being able to use technology to address different learning
styles; we’ve been able to do a lot of customization of the learning process.
Second, everyone is on the network, so we are a real campus community, in virtual
interactions as well as face-to-face. Collaboration has increased exponentially.
Third, having access all the time means that students don’t have to wait—and
in our society that’s important. Students shouldn’t have to wait
to use tools that enhance their individual learning.
Thus far, what’s been the long-term impact of
this technology “first,” in terms of ratings and the profile of BVU?
In terms of recognition, we’ve
certainly received our share of media attention. And our ratings have grown
steadily. It’s also notable that with faculty searches over the past few
years, we’ve been particularly successful in securing our first or second
candidate. I often ask people in the interview what attracted them to BVU; they
normally refer to the technology. I think our high-tech profile signals to candidates
that this is an innovative institution. We’ve also [been able to] diversify
our student recruitment pool, attracting more out-of-state students in recent
Has the high-tech recognition also helped the
perception of your graduates in the job market?
Our students are known to graduate very proficient in technology,
which increases their marketability; they hit the workplace ahead of peers because
of the experience they’ve had here.
You certainly chose the right technologies to
focus on back in 2000, and your decisions seem to have served you well. Will
your institution be motivated to maintain a technology edge? What’s next, in
were to visit here, what you’d see is an institution that’s on the
move all the time. We are constantly reinventing ourselves. Many [of our “nexts”]
will build on programs already in place. We were the first private college in
Iowa to sign on to our state’s fiber-optic network, the Iowa Communications
Network, allowing full interactive audio, video, graphics, and data. We are
now the largest private educational user of that facility.
Several years ago, we began to offer Web-based classes, delivered over the network.
Next—and this will depend upon accreditation—we are planning to
launch, over the next five years, several fully Web-based programs at the undergraduate
and graduate levels. Again, depending upon accreditation, we plan to make two
of the programs available this calendar year.
And Information Services is planning to extend VoIP to several BVU Centers around
the state, with a pilot installation scheduled for this spring. They are also
exploring wireless voice convergence—VoWLAN+cell phone—to enable
individuals using a single instrument to receive calls through the network in
areas without cell service, and still receive regular cell calls when cell service
Further, media studies faculty are exploring the move to HDTV in BVU’s
TV production facilities. If implemented, HDTV at BVU could enable students
to create, edit, store, and broadcast digital media.
Do you feel that these initiatives will help
maintain your institution’s edge in the future, as the wireless campus
initiative did in 2000?
BVU continues to pursue its mission of preparing students for leadership and
service in an information-driven, global society.
BVU Technology at a Glance
- Gigabit Ethernet to all network closets (Avaya Cajun
- 14 Gateway 975 servers, dual-CPU, GigE attached
175 WiFi access points providing 100 percent campus-wide
seamless roaming (Avaya AP-8,
installed Summer 2004)
- 1,375 laptops, replaced every two years (Fall 2004 new
systems: Gateway M405)
- Four battery swap stations
Standards-based voicemail for all—integrates with GroupWise messaging (Avaya Modular Messaging, installed Fall 2003)
All-digital radio station and AVID suites, enabling media studies students to create content on their laptops and end up with it on the air—radio or television replaced Summer 2004)
VoIP system serving the new Estelle Siebens
Science Center and new facilities (Avaya S8700, installed Summer 2003)
Wireless laptop labs at BVU Centers, piloted three years ago