University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Map showing how wifi signals will be distributed across U of T campus.

The Mobile Scholar

As students and faculty snap up smartphones, U of T aims to make Wi-Fi fast and ubiquitous

“Unable to connect to network”: It’s a message that every student dreads, but many were receiving last year – particularly at U of T’s largest library – as the growing use of smartphones and tablet computers caused demand for campus wireless access to soar.

In the past several months, however, improvements to the network have caused service complaints to mostly evaporate. Since fall 2010, the university’s information technology department has launched two rounds of upgrades, resulting in expanded Wi-Fi coverage on all three campuses and vastly improved connection speeds.

The second phase – to be completed this fall – will extend coverage to popular outdoor spaces, such as Willcocks Common and the Sid Smith patio.

The university has also simplified what many users complained was an overly complex login procedure. Whereas users previously had to authenticate themselves twice and log in anytime their connection was dropped, the new system requires just a single authentication and remembers users anywhere on the three campuses. This means that for each device they own, students and faculty only ever have to log in once. “It makes it easy to roam from building to building and from campus to campus and stay connected,” says Patrick Hopewell, director of enterprise infrastructure solutions. A third round of improvement, to be launched next year, will “saturate” coverage on all three campuses, he adds.

Prior to the upgrades, inconsistent service acted as a lightning rod for student dissatisfaction, says Hopewell.

With the recent improvements, the number of complaints has dropped significantly, observes James Lawson, the help services manager at Robart’s Library’s Information Commons. “There are some specific devices that have trouble connecting, but the overall experience has moved from a high volume of complaints that we couldn’t do anything about to very infrequent ones.”

Recent Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. 2 Responses to “ The Mobile Scholar ”

  2. Jeff says:

    It is too bad that the online article doesn't have all of the same charts that were in the print edition. The graphic on changes in device usage was very interesting.

  3. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    You might get the impression by looking at your map of St. George wireless access points that a great deal of the St. Michael's College campus has wireless access. For example, Alumni Hall (121 St. Joseph Street) has some wireless access, but for instructional purposes, the Internet is not available in seven out of the 10 classrooms in the building.

    Across the street, Carr Hall (100 St. Joseph Street) fares much better, with five of the seven classrooms connected. Next door, Teefy Hall has eight classrooms, none with wireless connections.

    Internet connectivity is not absolutely essential to some classroom activity (and indeed, some instructors do not want connectivity as it can also be a major distraction, but that is a whole different discussion). But instructors and students making presentations in the classroom are often surprised that the largest undergraduate college on the St. George campus is not better connected.

    As a side note, we get a lovely clear signal from the Regis College wireless system in parts of Alumni Hall. Their system is not accessible to the A&S students who study here, so just because the map may show a nice little circle somewhere doesn't mean that everyone can use that signal.

    Thanks for the article, but it is really misleading alumni and shortchanging students by purporting to show coverage that isn't available.

    Ian Jay
    Classroom Audio/Visual Bookings
    St. Michael's College