Wireless network, new e-mail system keep MU IT staff busy

Friday, August 28, 2009 | 9:22 a.m. CDT; updated 8:38 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 30, 2009

COLUMBIA – MU’s Division of Information Technology finds the start of a new school year brings the burden of responsibility.

With the campus-wide implementation of Mizzou Wireless and the new e-mail system switch to Microsoft Office Outlook Live, the division has had its hands full early this semester. Although students were alerted to the Internet transition in November 2008, many have trouble connecting to the new system.

Terry Robb, IT director of marketing and communications, said that is the main reason MU students file complaints. The division's Web site has step-by-step instructions to connect.

Robb said the division receives inquiries from MU faculty and staff, but students  file the majority of complaints.

Sophomore Morgan Kidd, 19, said Mizzou Wireless doesn't have a very consistent connection. “I think it’s way too sensitive because it works fine in one area and then three feet away it doesn’t work at all,” Kidd said.

Kidd, a communication science and disorders major, said the only places on campus she has taken her laptop this semester are the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building and Waters Hall.

“It either wouldn’t connect or it would work in the hallway but not in the lecture halls,” she said.

Robb said the chief reason behind the switch from TigerNet, the former campus wireless system, to Mizzou Wireless was security. “The systems are exactly the same, but now we have better protection for users,” he said.

Robb said Mizzou Wireless users must also be affiliated with MU in order to access the system.

“We offer a guest service for visitors and faculty to temporarily use, and our Web professionals allow them access to a secret key that is changed once a month for security purposes,” he said.

The division offers more than 1,300 wireless access points on MU’s campus. Robb said the division hopes to improve its technology in the near future.

“Instead of using Wi-Fi we may use different technology to blanket the campus in the future,” he said.

Junior Rachel Collings, 20, said she frequently experiences problems with Mizzou Wireless.

“If I’m in any of the buildings on the Quad or along University Avenue, my Internet connection will say that I’m connected but no applications will actually load that require wireless,” she said.

Collings said her Internet connection is interrupted sporadically and is unreliable when using Mizzou Wireless.

MU students and faculty also upgraded their e-mail system over the summer. While students switched to Outlook Live, faculty upgraded from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Robb said.

More storage space, blogging capabilities and picture libraries are among the benefits students can expect to receive with the transition.

“The new Outlook Live offers 10 GB instead of the old 40 MB, and students can keep their new e-mail address for life instead of losing it after graduation,” Robb said. “It’s more consumer-oriented now.”

Robb also noted the new feature that allows students to collaborate in virtual work spaces online. He said 6,800 students have yet to make the switch to the new system, and the division has generally heard positive feedback from those who already have made the switch.

Robb said students who don't switch to the new system by October will have their new accounts created for them. Those students will lose all existing mail from their old mailboxes, and they will have to call the Division of IT to set up their credentials to log in, he said.

The division recently introduced the new Tegrity lecture capture systems, which allow professors to record their lectures and post them online for students to access later. Students can also play the lectures on iPods or cell phones. Robb said more than 50 courses plan on using the system this semester.

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Dion Wisniewski August 28, 2009 | 3:29 p.m.

I think it's great that students are having problems connecting to wireless in lecture halls. As a TA for a class I find it very annoying when students are surfing the internet rather than taking notes. Opening a word processor does not require the internet and status updates on facebook can wait until the end of lecture...

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