Cedarville University is continuing its commitment to campuswide networking, based on a philosophy of making information available to people who need it, when they need it, and where they need it. The outworking of this philosophy is the installation of networked computers in each office and multiple computer labs around campus. The underlying network, called CedarNet, serves as a vehicle for revolutionizing education at the University. Cedarville was an early leader in campus networking (CedarNet was started during the summer of 1992 through a business partnership with IBM.) and continues to set an example in the use of technology within higher education. The University provides over 2,100 computers on campus. Each of the 1,250 residence hall rooms includes two Ethernet ports and wireless access. Support is provided for connection of student-owned computers (more information, see the Self-Provided Computer pages). There are presently over 2,000 student-owned computers on campus, bringing the total on-campus computer count to over 4,000.
CedarNet exists and is well-used because of intensive strategic planning efforts. The University produces a major technology plan every 5 years and performs quarterly assessments to determine how the plan is working. This continued emphasis on planning has helped maintain CedarNet's principal advantages:
- Ubiquitous access (computers everywhere)
- Maximum capability (over 150 software packages available)
- Low cost (due to concurrent-use licenses and use of desktop systems)
Interesting Features of CedarNet
Over 95% of the faculty and student body use the network daily. The network is handling 300,000 electronic-mail messages daily (approximately 90,000 of these messages are to or from the Internet). Students and faculty have access to over 150 software packages on CedarNet, ranging from general packages like Microsoft Word to specific applications like human anatomy. Students, faculty, and staff use the CedarInfo section of CedarNet about 7,000 times a day for routine operations like registering for classes, checking grades, and signing up for payroll direct deposit. Online directories (including photos) and other resources provide instant access to important information.
As Cedarville works toward remaining on the leading edge of technology integration, several exploratory projects have been undertaken:
- In keeping with Cedarville's vision to be known as a communications University, one where technology is widely available and extensively used, a series of initiatives under the cuMobile moniker was announced in March 2009. The first initiative worked to leverage the growing capability of campus cell phones. This was followed by Cedarville website updates where portions of the site were customized for a cell phone/smart phone format, making it more compatible with small screens and mouse-less interaction. Other recent technology developments in use or under study include:
- Mobile applications (available free on the Apple and Android stores)
- Tablet devices like the Apple iPad
- The use of Netbooks - computers with 9- to 10-inch screens that are lighter and more portable than standard notebooks
- Dual-mode cell phones - allowing users to save minutes by making calls over the campus wireless network
- Wireless Voice Over Internet Protocol or wVOIP - which would use Internet technology such as Skype to make free or low-cost calls (Skype can run on many WiFi-enabled phones)
- A conversion of the campus phone system to Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) began in September 2010. Various buildings and departments will be converted to the new system over the 2010-2012 time period. The VOIP system is an open-source project operated by SipFoundry.org. Cedarville University is a founding member of the EDU cooperative for SipFoundry.org.
- Computer-science faculty and students started a two-year research project in the fall of 2004 aimed at exploring issues surrounding grid computing (sharing computer processing power over large, high-speed networks).
- During the 2003-04 academic year, several faculty and staff members explored the use of Tablet PC's.
- During the fall of 2001, a small team of faculty and staff began evaluating the benefits of having every Cedarville student use a PDA. This pilot project expanded to include selected students beginning in January of 2002.
As part of the University's strategic plan, wireless network access has been expanded on campus. Access is currently provided in all residence hall bedrooms and co-ed lounges, classrooms, offices, and open-seating areas of the major academic buildings. Outdoor wireless coverage was added in the fall of 2005. All of Cedarville's wireless connections in academic buildings and residence halls provide 802.11a/b/g/n (100+Mbps). Most outdoor wireless is 802.11a/b/g/n, with the rest covered by 802.11a/b/g. More information can be found on the Cedarville SPC wireless access page.
One of the most popular areas of CedarNet is the library resources section. Students can access the library's on-line catalog from their dorm rooms 24-hours a day. Access is also provided to a variety of Internet based resources, including full-text newspapers and journals, periodical indexes, and application-specific databases. The network also provides access to subscription research databases on the Internet and to the vast resources of OhioLINK. Through OhioLINK, Cedarville students have access to over 24 million resources, can search the catalog of any public university library within the state, and can have identified materials delivered to campus for personal use within 48 hours.
Internet Access Speeds
Cedarville students and faculty have direct access to Internet/web resources from their residence hall rooms and offices via the University's Gigaman connection currently operating at 190 megabits/second. Because of the ubiquitous and high-quality access, many faculty members have integrated Internet resources into their required coursework. Students often incorporate Internet materials in research papers and in classroom presentations. Cedarville is also a participant in Internet 2 (providing additional bandwidth beyond the regular Internet connection). The Internet 2 participation means that Cedarville students and faculty can develop high-speed networking projects with colleagues at major research universities around the country. All University-provided computers connect at 100 Mbps, providing excellent speed for accessing on-campus and off-campus sites.
The University has placed a major emphasis on providing special-purpose hardware and software for graphics production. Laser printers are available in each public laboratory and CedarPrint stations and several flatbed scanners are available for student use. Students and faculty also have ready access to color printers, digital cameras, slide scanners, video-capture equipment, and video editing stations. Several graphics programs (such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere) are provided on the network.
CedarNet is based on Novell Netware, SUSE Linux, RedHat Linux, and Microsoft Windows software running on a series of Hewlett Packard servers. Most software applications are made available from these network servers, rather than loading the software on individual computers. The login servers are supplemented by various special-purpose servers which handle web pages, Moodle, project storage, and network management.
The physical network is based on a twisted-pair distribution system within the buildings and fiber-optic cable between buildings. Network traffic flows between buildings and the network center via gigabit Ethernet or multi-gigabit Ethernet. Switching technology is utilized to segment network traffic and maintain good performance. All end-user devices connect at 100 Mbps or higher.
Cedarville University received the CAUSE Networking award in 1997, given in recognition of the integration of networking technology into the instructional program. This "once in a lifetime" award highlighted the pervasive use of technology throughout the University from registering for classes, to viewing online course materials, to awarding final grades. Cedarville was the first Ohio institution to win this award. Only one other Ohio institution has won the award.
CedarNet has been overwhelmingly successful. Faculty members are using the network to prepare course materials, communicate with students, and deliver instruction in the classroom. All of the classrooms have network drops and wireless, over 80% of the classrooms have a computer and projector installed. Furthermore, we have several classrooms where there is one computer per student. Many courses are offered in a "blended" format, where there is regular in-person instruction and then online instruction using Moodle. CedarNet has certainly changed the educational atmosphere at Cedarville University making access to information possible any time, any where.
Evaluating Technology at Colleges and Universities
If you are considering technology as one factor in selecting a college, you may want to check out the Consumer Guide produced by Educause (an international association of colleges and universities with a focus on improving the use of technology in education).