It’s no secret that technology on campus has undergone some major changes recently.
Students were informed last spring that the university’s email service would be switching to Microsoft Live. In addition, the University of South Dakota introduced a new Internet system over the summer.
Although the new Internet system was a surprise to most when it was unveiled July 11, the Information Technology Department had been carefully planning the switch for a while.
“We began researching alternatives 18 months ago,” said Cheryl Tiahrt, director of Information Technology Services at USD.
Tiahrt said the new network was implemented in order to improve the overall experience of connecting to the Internet on campus, primarily by making it faster, easier and safer to connect to the wireless network in public areas and residence halls.
“The hurdle for getting on the system is lower,” she said.
Students, faculty and staff need to only register to sign onto the new “SDSecure” network once per semester. “SDGuest” is available for campus visitors, and requires them to register once every 24 hours.
The new system — a program called PacketFence that is used by banks, hotels and universities such as Harvard — has several advantages over USD’s old Internet system. One notable advantage is the ease of connecting to the Internet from electronic devices other than just computers. The new system offers better support for smart phones, video game consoles and iPads.
The new system also offers increased malware protection. If a computer is recognized as showing signs of a virus, the system isolates the problem and notifies the IT department that the student in question needs assistance. The previous system neglected to actually check on the health of devices around campus.
Additionally, IT has seen a decrease in student-reported Internet problems. During the first week of classes, IT reported that there had been a 30 percent decrease in the number of students bringing electronic devices to IT for assistance, as well as a 10 percent decrease in the number of devices checked in at IT’s help desk.
“During move-in weekend and the following week we helped 776 students,” Tiahrt said. “As a comparison, last year during the same time we helped 1,109 students.”
Apart from some irritation expressed by students who felt taken aback by the sudden change in Internet systems, student feedback has been largely positive.
“It’s great,” sophomore Amber Loucks said. “I like it better than the one we had last year, because it’s a lot easier to get on. You don’t have to type your name every time you want to get on.”
Fellow sophomore Heidi Westey agreed.
“It’s just a lot faster and easier to get on,” she said.Junior Emilia Hansen said she prefers the new system over the old one.
“It’s a much better feature. Much simpler,” she said.
Tiahrt expressed confidence in the new system, but admitted she was anxious to hear feedback from students, faculty and staff.
“It’s often difficult to get a new system to work,” she said.
Reach reporter Katia Duszenko at Katia.Duszenko@coyotes.usd.edu.