Smart Partners

Simon Fraser University

How One University Residence Overhauled Their Wireless

When Dana Beaton attended Simon Fraser University in the early ‘90s, a poor wireless connection couldn’t get in the way of her success as a student. Why? “Some of us still had typewriters!” she says. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that campus housing is where students live, learn, and work. “It’s part of your whole development into readying yourself for the real world/adulthood,” says Beaton.

Part of the attraction with Shaw Business is they had an interim solution for us

Dana Beaton, Associate Director of Residence and Ancillary Services

Now Beaton is SFU’s Associate Director of Residence and Ancillary Services, where she makes sure student housing is well-maintained, safe and connected for everyone who attends the Burnaby, B.C. public research university. Roughly 1,600 student residents live across 16 buildings on campus at any given time, and every room is a single unit. While that’s a major plus for those who get to live there, SFU’s living quarters were never part of the greater campus internet network, which made for years of outages, hundreds of modem installations, and help desk call after call when things just weren’t connecting.

In 2017, it became apparent the service was no longer cutting it for a campus full of digital natives used to a different level of internet on the rest of campus. “Not having internet service for an hour was a real issue,” says Beaton. “It caused a lot of frustration and was interfering with their studies.”

SFU Residence and Housing decided to go wireless using Managed WiFi from Shaw Business. Because the campus also has a conference service during the summer months, it was important for Beaton and her team to create a seamless internet experience for all guests. “Part of the attraction with Shaw Business is they had an interim solution for us,” she says. That flexibility allowed SFU to continue running as usual during a complicated custom installation process, and Shaw’s “better, more reliable customer service” ensured that while every building was outfitted for wireless, no one staying on campus during installation lost connection.

Students today need fast, reliable internet in order to get the grade

The reliable high-speed connection was just what was needed for SFU’s bandwidth-hungry students. And the Managed WiFi connection was the right choice for a campus that needed all their residence buildings connected in a way that was both easy to handle and dependably secure.

“We liked the idea of internet like you get in a hotel; as long as you have the access key, it would follow you building to building.” During the academic year that made life easy for students, who could then easily travel from building to building without having to log on to a different network each time. It also created peace of mind for those whose exams were administered online, and whose papers were submitted electronically—during those stressful moments in academic life, spotty internet is simply unacceptable.

The switch to Shaw business solution allowed Beaton and her team access to a central dashboard that gives them a comprehensive overview of their own network 24/7, putting the power back in their hands. In the event of a network issue they are now able to make quick and easy assessments using a troubleshooting guide for their institution, developed alongside Shaw.

And these types of quick fixes are necessary in a time of hyper-connected academia. “We’re dealing with Generation Z,” says Beaton. “They grew up with a cellphone or tablet in their hands—where the need for speed right at your fingertips 24/7 is expected.” On top of which, they’re attending post-secondary school in a world that requires a seamless, reliable internet connection in order to be successful in their schoolwork and active in their social lives.

The university residence experience is more than just having a desk where you can work and a place to sleep. “It’s a supportive space where you can meet people, you can find other students that have the same interests as you, or make friends and expand your horizons,” she says. That’s the kind of space where students need to feel comfortable, and for this generation, that means high-performing wireless just about everywhere.