As part of Millikin University's strategic plan, Millikin's Information Technology (IT) Department will be making upgrades over the next several months to provide students, faculty and staff with technological benefits in the classroom and across campus. The plan includes creating a "next-generation" campus network that will satisfy present needs and provide for the coming trends in technology use. The goal is to have the project finished by the beginning of the fall 2013 semester.
"Millikin University's Board of Trustees has allocated 1.5 million dollars to perform a technology infrastructure upgrade," stated Director of Information Technology, Pat Pettit. "The upgrade includes the things you don’t see but expect to just work – the cabling, the core, and the equipment that distributes network traffic across campus. We've been utilizing the existing infrastructure for a long time, and we have made it work, but now it's time to upgrade it to accommodate the growing number of devices and ways that faculty and students want and need to use technology."
"Most of our faculty want to use technology to enhance their teaching, including video," stated Pettit. "The upgrade is designed to allow for that and for a relatively new phenomenon referred to as 'Bring Your Own Device,' BYOD." The Information Technology Department has been conducting polls during the summer with incoming students for several years to see what sort of devices students are bringing to campus. "We've seen tremendous movement toward laptops in the last few years – almost 100 percent," remarked Pettit. "But, then we started polling them to see what additional types of devices they were bringing, and overwhelmingly, the results were mobile devices such as iPads, tablets, and smartphones. We're finding that students are bringing an average of three devices each. This tells us that the students want to be mobile and they want to use their technology everywhere and be connected all the time to enhance their learning experience."
The IT Department will be adding a blanket of wireless across campus including administrative offices, faculty offices, open spaces, and inside classrooms so students can use their devices for interactive purposes. Besides upgrading the physical structure, the department is also making sure that there will be enough bandwidth to the Internet for the campus. The department plans to work with the Illinois Century Network (ICN), a telecommunications backbone that provides high speed access to schools and nonprofit organizations across the state to increase the capacity of their access to the Internet.
Millikin is further taking advantage of technology opportunities with a classroom in ADM-Scovill Hall on Millikin University's campus. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) designated classroom has been equipped with a Polycom distance learning system that delivers audio and video to distance students in a synchronous environment. Business graduate students began using the technology in January with students physically in the classroom and students tuning in to the class from across the United States and Canada. The system delivers a more active and inclusive environment for the distant learner by allowing them to participate in the classroom discussions and content with the students, and instructor who are in the physical classroom. Students both in the classroom and at a distance interact through video and audio simultaneously, which is different from other "distance learning" environments where students read, work, and then turn in assignments and are graded by instructors that they never see.
As stated by Pettit, "it is important to build a 'next generation network' to grow and expand our access to the Internet. All of our instructors utilize technology in some way – to illustrate or add resources to their content. Technology is vital to the way we communicate, teach, learn, and the way we do business. This is a huge step forward for Millikin in being able to prepare our students for the future."