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Bellevue College Upgrades Network to Support Mobile and Classroom Tech

Faced with an escalating number of mobile devices on campus, Washington State's Bellevue College has deployed a unified wired and wireless access network based on Aruba Networks' Mobile Virtual Enterprise architecture. The new infrastructure delivers campuswide wireless access inside buildings and outside in common areas.

Bellevue's previous network could not keep up with the coverage and capacity demands of the institution's 36,000-plus students, faculty, staff and guests. Other challenges included a complex and time-consuming device onboarding process as well as inadequate security capabilities. After a student focus group told Bellevue's IT Department that wireless access was a primary technology concern, the college sought a new network to deliver reliable and secure access for students and support leading-edge educational technologies.

For a proof of concept (PoC), Aruba first installed its infrastructure in the Student Commons. "During the PoC stage, Aruba told us to deploy their gear in the densest, highest-use area we had, which is our cafeteria," said Russ Beard, VP of information services/CIO for the college, in a prepared statement. That allowed Bellevue to evaluate the technology in a real-world, challenging environment.

The full network was deployed in just two months. Comprised of Aruba Access Points, 7200 Series Mobility Controllers, Aruba Mobility Access Switches, the AirWave Network Management System and the ClearPass Access Management System, the network supports up to 15,000 simultaneous wireless device connections at any given time across the 100-acre campus.

"Our students' laptops, tablets and smartphones are becoming an integral part of their college environment — both inside and outside of classrooms. They are being used continuously to access educational tools and materials that are improving the learning process," noted Beard.

The new unified infrastructure supports access to Bellevue's Canvas learning management system, which is currently the most-used application on campus. Other network uses include Microsoft Lync, a virtual desktop infrastructure program and interactive whiteboards. The college is also planning to use lecture capture and video broadcast solutions to implement the flipped classroom model for some of its courses. In addition, the college radio station uses the Aruba network to stream its digitized programming to students, and Bellevue's TV station will eventually use the network to upgrade its services as well. Future plans for the network include new buildings and outdoor classrooms for forest care and water conservation courses, and potential partnering programs with area hospitals and local companies.

On the management side, Aruba's AirWave Network Management System allows the College to identify who is on the network, where they are accessing the network, the mobile devices they are using and how much bandwidth is being consumed by specific devices, so that IT can quickly troubleshoot issues and plan for future capacity requirements. AirWave ClearPass provides secure onboarding of mobile devices, ensuring that each user has the right access privileges based on who he is and what device he's using.

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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