The Westminster community underwent many endeavors at the start of the semester, one of which was the navigation of a new wireless network. The network will make modern education more accessible and convenient to students and professors alike. Though, like many digital endeavors, this transition did not come without challenges. On Thursday, Jan. 21, the community had to experience crashing Zoom meetings, delayed emails and prolonged completion of assignments accompanied by a pesky "Error: Could not connect" message illuminating their screens. The institution's Information Technology Services department resolved the ordeal soon after it had begun.
Late Thursday night, W.A. (Andy) Changoway, Project Manager/Infrastructure Engineer of Westminster College's Information Technology Services Branch, informed the campus that the department resolved all issues, saying: "Changes have [been] made to the network after identifying the cause… all wireless networks should be back up and operational."
Changoway urged any students still experiencing technical difficulties in contacting the Help Desk.
But the connectivity did not just impact in-person education. Our virtual students also experienced similar challenges. Emiley Weber, a sophomore English major, shared that virtual learning with connectivity issues made it seem "as if we did not attend the class."
When prompted to discuss the intent behind the project of adding a new wireless network, Director of Information Technology Services Kelly Hartner stated that its inspiration resulted from "bandwidth issues [due to] increased internet streaming. To address this, we started working on a plan to double the amount of internet bandwidth available to the college…These plans included replacing and upgrading our wireless access points…" Hartner traced the challenges to "a configuration problem…found in the systems that attach devices to the wireless network…causing [it] to get saturated and hence unusable."
Hartner also proposed strategies for the Westminster community to implement to keep this endeavor efficient. As network enabling occurs within academic buildings over the next few weeks, Hartner advises students and faculty to "Forget the Network" and resign on to WC-Secure when prompted to do so.
Hartner encourages the Westminster community to practice smart habits when surfing the web and to use caution when clicking on links, including those found in emails. She also promotes "maintaining anti-virus and anti-malware software on…devices." With firsthand information on both the issue and its prevention, members of the institution may take advantage of the connection and make an active effort to keep it as clean and functional as possible.
Many individuals are eager to attest to the punctuality of the IT unit, including Chief Information Officer Erin Smith, who remarked, "[They put] everything they have into making it right."
Smith went into expansive detail on the efforts of Changoway, claiming he "kept working on the issue even though that meant a 15-hour day for him…everyone who works in ITS has that same kind of dedication."
Hartner credits several student employees as well, giving specific recognition to Mark LeBlanc, Alex Georgescu, Max Furimsky and Brandon Hunsinger for "[going] above and beyond in…getting this network upgrade done and issues resolved. I sincerely appreciate [their] work and dedication."
With the new connection now functioning as planned, the Westminster population can expect to enjoy the increased bandwidth and receive optimal access to a 21st-century education.