- Three-fourths of colleges offer Wi-Fi on 81% or more of their campus, up 17% from three years ago, according to a new report that indicates two-thirds of business officers support full coverage to manage the "insatiable appetite" for bandwidth.
- Smartphones used the most bandwidth, followed by desktops and gaming devices, per the annual State of the Residential Network report by the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International based on responses from 351 college administrators. Seven in 10 schools let students connect an unlimited number of devices to their Wi-Fi.
- In response to growing demand and to keep up with technological change, more schools are outsourcing their residential internet services, updating their related strategic plans more often and increasing their IT budgets, the survey found.
When students step on campus they expect "high-quality wireless access," the report notes. Yet a "surge" in the number and use of internet-connected devices places heavy demands on colleges' networks.
More than two-thirds (68%) of surveyed business officers said they have increasing concerns about Wi-Fi budgeting, up 10% from 2017. But nearly all (98%) said high-quality internet access is critical to their college's mission. Additionally, 95% of respondents said residential networking is necessary to attract and retain on-campus students.
Universities must "boost, manage and optimize bandwidth usage in order to maintain network efficiency and cost-effectiveness," as well as meet student demand, the report warns. Doing so might be easier if increased demands were isolated to academics, but the authors point out that smartphones and gaming devices are among the "greediest bandwidth hogs."
And even though students can use smartphones to learn, such devices can also "be disruptive in the classroom and are often viewed as a significant threat to campus bandwidth consumption," the report contends. Nearly 73% of respondents reported smartphones as one of the devices with the biggest drain on bandwidth, while more than half said the same of desktop and laptop computers (59%) and game boxes (53%).
Meanwhile, 89% of institutions see Netflix as the "biggest content threat" to bandwidth. Other video and music streaming services were also top concerns.
To that end, Purdue University blocked use of several applications — including Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Steam, iTunes and Pandora — in academic spaces from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, Inside Higher Ed reported. It made the move after the IT department found academic sites accounted for only 4% of the web traffic originating from the university's life science building.
Instructors are divided over whether cell phones belong in the classroom, with about one-fourth of faculty members banning them, according to a recent survey.
A 2018 study from Rutgers University, however, showed that allowing students to use devices for nonacademic purposes was linked to lower final exam scores. Moreover, performance declined even for students who didn't use their devices but were in classrooms where they were allowed.