Network will help teachers

Staff and students connected to Burnaby, B.C.-based Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) teacher education curriculum will soon have the ability to connect to a wireless network almost anywhere in, and immediately around, the Faculty of Education building using a network purchased from Enterasys Networks Inc.

The wireless network, built with Enterasys’s RoamAbout technology, is a new pilot program called the Learning Community Module in the teacher education curriculum, which prepares teachers to instruct students in grades six to nine.

According to Burkhard Kraas, supervisor of network operations at SFU, the building has been wired with 20 access points using the RoamAbout technology with the 802.11b standard.

“The reason is has been done is to infuse technology into the entire teacher education program,” Kraas said. “So what this is, is it’s a part of their training to use laptops in the teaching environment.” Available to the teachers is a trolley with 10 laptop computers wirelessly connected to the network and meant to be used in the classroom.

Kraas added that in addition to classroom use, the faculty can use laptops connected to the wireless network to work wherever they want while preparing classes and making presentations to students. The laptops equipped with the wireless network card can access the network from most places in the building, he said.

According to Afzal Shah, senior systems engineer at Enterasys Networks Canada of Toronto, there is a big need for security in a wireless campus network like the one at SFU. To make sure only those authorized to access the network are able to use it, each user needs an encryption key and goes through an authentication process.

“Not anybody walking in will be able to access the network,” Shah said.

Anyone with a compatible PC wireless card installed in their laptop can use the network if they have authorization, Kraas said. The cards are essentially plug-and-play, but some vendors’ cards need additional drivers added before it will work, he said.

If all runs smoothly, SFU is planning on expanding the wireless program to other parts of the university.

The installation of the wireless network took about three months to plan and implement, Kraas said.

“The challenge was, first of all, we had some experience but not on this large scale,” Kraas said. Measurements had to be taken in and around the school to determine where the access points had to be located to give the best coverage. The school wanted to make sure users were able to take the laptops outside to the patio to work, but the network couldn’t stretch too far from the building or the possibility of hacker intrusion from outside would increase.

Apart from SFU’s implementation of the RoamAbout wireless network, the university is also migrating its asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network infrastructure to a Fast Ethernet-based network using Enterasys’s X-Pedition switch routers and Matrix switches.

Enterasys Networks is on the Web at Simon Fraser University can be found at