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Ten Facts About College Campus Wifi

I know a lot more about college campus wifi than the average student who lives on campus. Between my experience as an IT major, befriending IT specialists, and taking half of my classes every semester online, I have spent many hours learning the inner workings of my college campus wifi and how it works, and also sometimes how it doesn’t work. Here are ten facts about college campus wifi that can help students better access the internet in class, in the dorms, and even when traveling.

The eduroam network can be used at colleges around the world

Eduroam is an international wifi roaming service for users in research and higher education. In simpler terms, Eduroam allows students and faculty to access the internet from thousands of hotspots from all around the world. When I travel to other colleges and universities, it’s great that I can access wifi with my home university network and not have to ask for any other passwords, and is especially useful when I am visiting medical centers.

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Range extenders are typically useless, and may be forbidden

One of my friends considered purchasing a range extender for their dorm, as they thought it would help with speeding up slow college campus wifi. However, range extenders in a college dorm often have the opposite effect, as the connection has to be re-routed through the extender and drastically reduce speeds. In addition, range extenders are forbidden at many colleges because of how they work with the campus routers.

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Many dorms and libraries have wired connection options

For students who have slow wifi in their dorms or want to have more consistent internet access, many dorms and libraries have wired Ethernet cables that can be connected to a desktop or laptop computer that have faster speeds than traditional wifi connections. When I lived on campus, I used a wired internet connection for my desktop computer that worked well, and would connect to wifi on my other devices like my phone and tablet.

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How to register wireless devices on college campus wifi

Have a wireless printer, game console, Amazon Echo, or other wireless device? Many schools have a website for students to register their devices so they can connect them to the school network. My school’s website requires students to enter the MAC address of their device and register it with their student account. After that, they can connect the device to the unsecured network. There is a limit of five devices that can be registered at once, but I have never worried about that.

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Some websites and software are only accessible on certain networks

The student directory and a few other university-specific webpages are only accessible while users are connected to a specific campus wifi network (not Eduroam). This was also the case for accessing software in one of my IT lab classes- students would have to use a VPN or other login tools to be able to access the software off-campus. Professors will disclose if a software or website requires special login protocols for off-campus access.

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Buses have wifi too

At many colleges, buses are equipped with wifi routers so students can check their online classes or work on other assignments while on one of the campus shuttles. This was especially helpful when I was commuting to a satellite campus for some of my classes, as I was able to use my iPad to browse information or check schedules. However, since these hotspots are typically unsecured, I would avoid typing in sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

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Learn basic troubleshooting skills for college campus wifi

There are a few helpful troubleshooting skills to know for solving issues with college campus wifi. Some of the most useful skills I have helped friends learn include:

  • How to type in login information for all of the wifi networks, including Eduroam and college-specific wifi. This often consists of the student/faculty email and network password
  • Disconnecting and reconnecting to wifi
  • How to clear cookies
  • Locating the MAC and IP address
  • Performing a manual restart or hard reset on mobile devices
  • Connecting to wired internet

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Take note of the internet service provider

There have been times where the internet service provider for my college has had unplanned outages that my college forgot to notify students about. For this reason, it helps to know who the internet service provider is so that students can learn more about planned or unplanned outages. This information can be found by running a web search with the college name and “internet provider” or “isp” attached. It’s worth noting that the internet service provider cannot troubleshoot issues with college campus wifi for students- that is for the school IT department.

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Check for planned outages

Many colleges have a dedicated page for notifying students about outages for wifi and other services such as online learning management systems, email, and other major systems. I also signed up for email alerts so that I could plan my schedule accordingly around outages and make sure that I had options to access applications or other information even during outages.

The firewall protection doesn’t block everything

Even though the firewall protection blocks out a lot of scary things like malware, viruses, and spam, students still need to be proactive and make sure they do not click on any suspicious links or emails. If a student’s account is compromised in any way, they will often have to get an entirely new account issued by IT and lose all of their files and emails.

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Other helpful tips for using college campus wifi

  • Wifi connections are often slower in crowded student areas, such as the student center
  • Long text-based pages can be downloaded for offline use with a simplified reading tool such as Pocket
  • Many colleges allow students to access library databases and materials on the college campus wifi without having to go to the library

Ten facts about college wifi and how it works, or how sometimes it doesn't work, from a student who studied IT and has spent many hours on their college wifi