Going Mobile: How Student Demand is Changing Campus Wi-Fi Networks

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | September 4, 2015 | Read Time: 3 mins

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You will never find a Millennial without a gadget or two in hand - hardly a surprise. What’s noteworthy however, is how college students are favoring the use of mobile devices over dedicated platforms like desktops.

 81% of higher-ed students used smartphones and tablets for studying in 2014, up 40% since 2013.

According to McGraw-Hill Education.

The shift to mobile has left higher education IT leaders reeling. Many campus wifi networks have had to play catch up to support the overwhelming demand from more and more mobile devices.

Most college and university campuses don't have the ability to adapt and scale as new and more advanced technology hits their campus wifi networks and this has caused more than a few headaches for both students and college CIO's.

To provide you with some direction and give your campus wi-fi network a boost, it's important you understand the data and know exactly what's taking place on your campus so you can implement a smarter plan to keep up with demand.

By the Numbers

Mobile device ownership has skyrocketed with 86% of college students owning a smartphone as of last year, and 47% owning a tablet, according to a 2014 EDUCAUSE report

In addition, an average college student carries 7 Internet-connected devices with them on campus, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops, according to Re:fuel Agency’s 2014 College Explorer report.

“This growth will continue in the next 5 years and institutions will need to adapt their infrastructure and faculty will want to incorporate mobile learning into their courses,”
- Sharon Loeb, vice president of marketing, McGraw-Hill Education

How Students Use Mobile

According to a survey from cloud provider Domo, which polled 2,228 higher education students to give insights on how they're using their mobile devices on campuses, they found that 46% spend most of their time accessing the internet with their smartphone and 43% with a laptop or tablet.

Today's college students are a "mobile-first" generation and this has changed what students expect when they're on campus both in and out of the classroom.

For example, students use their mobile devices for learning by looking up lecture topics during their actual classes; using specific apps to access information and other mobile apps for browsing through their course textbooks both in and out of the classroom, according to EDUCAUSE.

As for which apps are most popular, students use the following: 

  • Academic Apps
  • University Apps
  • Education Apps - Quizlet, Flashcards, Pearson, and Duolingo
  • Book Apps - CourseSmart and iBooks
  • References - Dictionary and Wikipanion
  • Productivity Apps - Evernote, Dropbox, Microsoft products, Keynote, and Notes

“The rise of studying via mobile is a case of mobile suiting the way students study now. Today’s students tend toward shorter, more concentrated bursts of studying anywhere they’re able, rather than waiting for several hours to hunker down in the library,” said Sharon Loeb.

higher education students on laptops

What This Means For You

As a college or university IT decision maker, you have the unenviable responsibility of creating a secure, mobile-friendly environment for all of your students, faculty and guests and it's only getting more complicated.

94% of students want to use cellphones in school for academic purposes - Student Pulse Survey from Top Hat 

There are several options for you to make this happen but it is imperative that you:

  • Plan for Capacity First - How many users are accessing your network, what areas have the most activity, what types of devices are being used, do you have enough bandwidth?
  • Plan for Security - What is secure enough? You need to balance the user experience with security that doesn't get in the way of productivity.
  • Visibility and Optimization - With so many devices accessing your network and with college campuses covering large areas you have to be able to see everything. With a centralized wifi management system you can not only see everything on your network but also use real-time data to continuously optimize your network.

The increasing popularity of mobile device use enables new learning opportunities for your students and new teaching options for your faculty.

With the right amount of planning and the right wireless infrastructure in place you can support your students demands not only today but have the ability to adapt to tomorrow's challenges.

At SecurEdge we have helped campuses all over the country successfully implement ubiquitous campus-wide wifi connectivity. If you need help analyzing your college’s wireless network, simply contact us here. Our goal is to be a resource for you!

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