Innovation: Combined Diverse Network Infrastructure
Innovator: Bryant University
Bryant University’s challenge was to provide a combined diverse network infrastructure
that would enhance the teaching and learning experience, improve campus communications
and network reliability, simplify network management, reduce costs, and improve
business administration processes. As stated by David Lux, Dean of Arts and
Sciences, “We try to push the technology envelope without taking undue
risks. We can’t afford cutting-edge research projects or expensive white
elephants. We want to be out in front of the trends, but we have to be accurate
in our forecasts.” This ongoing effort of combining a robust network infrastructure
and improving technology services is part of Bryant University’s larger
strategic plan for technology integration that benefits the entire campus and
Specific goals for the project:
· Enhance the campus telephony system to provide additional
applications and intelligence, without added cost.
· Provide support for voice, video, and data applications.
· Provide unrestricted wireless mobility to students
and faculty throughout the entire campus environment.
· Improve safety on campus: Integrate VoIP technologies
with public safety mobile radios allowing staff in residence halls to pick up
emergency radio communications.
· Facilitate distance education, collaboration and shared learning
using videoconferencing and video-streaming technologies.
The entire campus community and “neighbors” are beneficiaries. Certainly,
students come first, but the ability to offer more effective curricular and co-curricular
programs for students makes it possible for faculty and staff to model what they
do, for their peers (faculty and staff are consistently engaged in professional
development activities involving Bryant technology systems and capabilities).
Bryant’s technology initiative is a campuswide effort involving campus leadership
and student body. All divisional vice presidents are challenged to implement/support
technology initiatives that will assist in meeting the university’s mission.
Many of these initiatives overlap other departments such as Facilities (with HVAC
systems), Public Safety (with IP security cameras), Residence Life (with the implementation
of the wireless data network and VoIP systems), and Academic Affairs (with the
Blackboard course management system; www.blackboard.com
Technology Choice/Project Design
Bryant, a relatively small institution with limits on resources, relies on
its departments and groups working cooperatively. The university involves departments,
administrators, staff, and students, and networks wherever and whenever it can.
Several years ago, Information Services was repositioned on a divisional level,
allowing IT to foster inter-divisional cooperation on campus and exercise the
kind of autonomy needed to form productive, long-term relationships with vendors.
For this particular project, Bryant selected a comprehensive networking and
communications solution from Cisco Systems (
The solution provides a robust, scalable, standards-based solution that seamlessly
extends the capabilities of Bryant’s existing Cisco-based core infrastructure.
In addition to Cisco, Bryant has worked with partners such as Verizon (www.verizon.com)
and Unicom (www.unicom-inc.com),
to delivering its vision.
Says Art Gloster, VP of Information Services, “As Bryant moves towards
total IP convergence, we have already implemented VoIP, 100 percent wireless
data coverage in all buildings, IP video, LAN mobile radio integration, IP security
cameras, library and audio visual-streaming media storage (enterprise content
management), Wi-Fi/Cell Phone convergence, HVAC controls, physical access security,
digital signage systems, video conferencing, Virtual Language Labs and GIS.
Additionally, we are exploring how our technology can support state Homeland
Security initiatives, global training with affiliated institutions, and interstate
collaboration of educational resources with like institutions. Many aspects
of the project have been completed, some underway and some in the planning stages.
This will effect a permanent change, eventually, in a 100 percent totally converged
“Students, faculty, and staff seem to enjoy showing off our networking
and technology systems when visitors come to campus,” says Lux “And
we’ve seen a real transformation in pedagogy. Our technology systems are
allowing us to do things and explore options that people only dreamed about
just a few years ago. In the areas of communication, collaboration, storage,
and delivery of curriculum we are in a whole new world compared to just a very
few years ago.”
Bryant University is now implementing a campus-wide technology initiative utilizing
the deployment of new and improved technology to develop a single converged
network infrastructure capable of supporting a rich variety of voice, video,
and data applications that enrich learning and collaboration, improve student
career opportunities, boost administrative productivity, and extend Bryant’s
resources beyond the classroom.
The first step in convergence was to implement VoIP in the residence halls,
replacing the existing Centrex system, but accomplished within the confines
of the Centrex system budget. This was completed in summer 2004, as was a wireless
data network. Bryant has partnered with Cisco for all networking equipment/solutions.
This initiative garnered the university “Second Most Wired Campus,”
recognition in the Princeton Review.
In support of the learning process, Bryant uses its network to distribute encoded
CTV educational broadcasts and classroom sessions to students on its intranet,
and to affiliates abroad. The network infrastructure and advanced AV technologies
support remote management of equipment life cycles such as projector lamps,
source selections, and startup/shutdown features, and allows for streamlining
support efforts of high-demand classroom AV technology and Bryant’s campus
laptop program, which services over 3,000 users.
Community messages and organizational announcements can now be distributed
via the network, strengthened by Bryant’s new digital TV studio, which
opened in January 2005. The campus radio station is also distributing radio,
broadcast over the IP network. Bryant’s network supports Citrix application
for students/faculty uses, and helps to maximize IT staff efficiency. This ability
is extremely important as Bryant’s laptop use increases, and distance
learning initiatives are expanded. The network infrastructure supports synchronous
and asynchronous distance learning initiatives, which the university is expanding
to support international affiliates as well as graduate/undergraduate courses.
Bryant is also opening up access to its network resources through its I2 affiliation
with OSHEAN Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative
Network allowing for high-speed collaboration with other institutions. The university
also has an advanced, segregated residential network that allows administrators
to manage performance, user access/activity, and virus threats, and streamline
Bryant provides gigabit Ethernet service to the entire campus and 100 mbps
full-duplex throughput to all devices on campus. Says Rich Siedzik, director
of Computer and Telecommunications Services, “We are in the process of
replacing our DS3 Internet connection with a dark fiber connection. This will
increase our Internet bandwidth capacity to gigabit speed. With dark fiber in
place, Bryant will be able to extend many of its campus-wide technology initiatives
well beyond the physical boundaries of its campus.”
“As we’ve gained momentum with technology innovation,” says
Lux, “progress seems to come more smoothly. People in our community have
gained confidence as they've seen initiatives work. The technical challenges
don’t get easier, but the increased level of confidence in our technical
systems really helps with the human issues involved in new initiatives.
“One of the surprises we’re facing in providing a wireless infrastructure
on a converged network has to do with laptop control in a classroom” says
Philip Lombardi Director of Academic Computing & Media Services: “The
environment of ubiquitous computing has opened up a means for students to cheat
during exams, view broadcasted video streams, surf the web, and instant message
(just to name a few things) during lectures. This is creating a challenge for
both faculty and Information Services. Faculty are finding themselves seeking
new ways of adapting their course content and teaching styles to be more engaging
so students will participate in class. IS is exploring technology alternatives
to help alleviate this problem by incorporating instructor-based controls and
setting up laptop-use policies for classroom participation. One of the products
we’ve been piloting for laptop classroom control is by Silicon Chalk.
This product not only allows the instructor to manage students’ laptop
use in the classroom, but also allows for the student to capture the instructor’s
presentation on the laptop, for later review. Additional challenges have been
with students using the network for entertainment purposes: they’re using
gaming devices such as Xbox over the wireless network, and that has caused some
issues. To overcome this problem, Bryant has adapted network use policies and
performance remediation tools to minimize network degradation.”
Bryant is actively planning a variety of new applications. More than 2,700 students
already have access to IP phones, and in 2005, Bryant will extend the system
to faculty and administrative offices. Unified messaging for administrators
and faculty is also being planned to allow them to manage voicemail and e-mail
messages from a single, integrated mailbox for improved responsiveness and productivity.
IPTV, Web cameras, and IP Communicator softphones are all products the institution
is looking into, for students to use on the laptops deployed to them. Also being
planned is the migration of videotape (held by the library) over to a storage
area network (SAN) unit, for distribution by the network. Through the VoIP and
IP security camera systems, Bryant is offers improved communication, security,
and safety to its students. A Homeland Security effort will also improve community
relations, says Gloster.
Says Siedzik, “It’s to your advantage to incorporate technology
in as many ways as possible into the total educational experience. Students
are aware that technology is the future and enhancing their university experience
through the use of technology better prepares them for their future careers.
Putting action behind the theme of being “student focused” drives
you to be an innovator of technology rather than a follower.
“Key to this is getting “buy-in” from all parties involved.
Have patience; let people express their problems and concerns so that you can
understand their problems. Only then can you really understand the obstacles
and barriers and begin to frame the project requirements. Getting “buy-in”
needs to be more than just getting approval or understanding of the plan. If
we've learned anything, it's how important true ‘buy-in’ can become.”
Related Links and References
Princeton Review “Most Wired Campus” www.forbes.com/finance/lists/8/2004/LIR.jhtml?passListId=8&passYear=2004&passListType=Misc&uniqueId=950107&datatype=Misc