System lets UAS students go unwired and online

Posted: Monday, September 18, 2000

Monica Kane, a student at the University of Alaska Southeast, can sit in her dorm room, fire up her laptop computer and do online assignments without having to buy special equipment.

She's connecting to the university's network and the Internet through the school's new wireless capacity. UAS has loaned Kane and other students an adapter that lets them pick up the computer network by radio signals.

"I can go from here to the (housing) lodge and bring my laptop and it doesn't lose connection. I can just pick up the computer and go," said Kane, a sophomore from Seattle who lives in Banfield Hall on the Auke Lake campus.

Without the wireless capacity, she'd have to buy a cable and a part for her computer in order to plug into the building's wired system. And if she lived in one of the student apartments, she'd have to buy a modem and phone line, which gets expensive, Kane said.

The campus isn't fully accessible for wireless users yet, but it will be soon, vows Michael Ciri, who manages computer services.

"My vision is when somebody gets on campus, they're on the network. It's part of the environment," he said.

Building by building, piecing together funds from various programs, the school is putting in the antenna boxes (about $1,000 each) that plug into the wired system. Computer users receive the radio signals by attaching an adapter ($120-160) to their laptop or desk computer. And it's a high-speed connection to the network.

Students have snapped up the first 50 adapters, which are loaned to them free for a semester. The school also has a cart of 20 laptops, with wireless capacity, to roll into classrooms.

Beth Weigel, who teaches a section of a first-year humanities course, borrowed the cart of laptops on the first day of class to show students how to use the course's home page and e-mail.

Like many UAS classes, the humanities class has posted a detailed course outline, grading criteria and guidelines for assignments. Students are required to respond to 10 assignments posted online as part of a discussion group.

Weigel wished she had thought to ask for the cart Wednesday because her students were writing in class.

"We'll probably get to the point where we'll do some searches in class on the Internet," she said.

Classes always can troop to the computer lab. But the lab can be hard to schedule, Weigel said.

Students could bring a laptop to class before, but they wouldn't have a phone line to connect to the Internet. The wireless capacity lets students tie into the Internet for a class presentation.

Some classes are simulcast on cable television and the Internet, and archived on the Internet. "Let's say you were sick. You could actually tune in from your dorm room and pick up the broadcast," Ciri said.

"I've been getting on the Internet for my online assignments and e-mailing," said Kane, the Banfield Hall sophomore.

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