When people hear that I am an IT major, they often assume that I know all sorts of deep dark secrets about the inner workings of our college campus wifi, as if I am a wizard or all knowing soul. While I probably know more than the average student because of the courses I take, a lot of the things I have learned about the campus wifi come from me just running web searches, talking to people, and playing with things by myself. Here are ten of the things I have learned about college campus wifi that always seem to surprise people.
The eduroam network can be used at colleges around the world
By connecting to the "eduroam" network on your college campus, you can use that network at almost any other college you visit in the United States or internationally, provided that they also have a network of their own. The sign in process may be slightly different for these networks- I needed to use my full campus email to sign on, as opposed to just my username. However, I love being able to access campus wifi no matter what school I may visit. Speaking of visiting schools, here are ten questions to ask when first visiting a college here.
Range extenders are typically useless, and may be forbidden
It can be tempting to buy a range extender for the internet, especially since they aren't very expensive and can speed up wifi. In my experience, range extenders have been useless in speeding up wifi, and might actually slow the internet down, because the connection has to be reconnected to your extender. And it's not like you can use the extender to hide your web traffic, either. Some colleges might even ban student-purchased range extenders.
The wired connection is faster
I know this is a post about wifi, but many dorm rooms and libraries have access to wired internet, and I take advantage of this whenever I can. My desktop computer is connected to the wired internet connection in my room and I never have to worry about a wifi outage ruining my plans for homework, though I do still have to worry about power outages- read more about dealing with power outages here. If you're wondering why I brought a desktop computer to college, you can read my post on desktop computers here.
You can register wireless devices
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, connecting the device to the unsecured network. There is a limit of five devices that can be registered at once, but I have never had to worry about hitting that. Read more about the Amazon Echo in my review here.
Some websites and softwares require specific networks
Some websites and softwares may only be accessible to students connected to their college wifi. Some examples include student directory, database tools, and others. The library may also have their own services available exclusively on the wifi network. I recommend taking note of which services require campus wifi connection so you aren't surprised when working off campus. Read more about online services from campus libraries here.
Buses have wifi too
One of the things that helped me tremendously when I had to travel to the satellite campus for a class was that the buses had wifi that was reliable, which helped pass the time during the drive. It's great for doing last minute reading or for checking social media. Because it is unsecured, I would be careful and not send any sensitive information. Read more about learning to use the bus system here.
Learn basic troubleshooting
I am always happy to be tech support for my friends when they have wifi issues, but many problems can be solved in thirty seconds or less. I recommend that students learn how to connect and disconnect from networks, how to do manual restarts on devices, learn how to clear cookies, and similar. I wrote a post on ten tech skills every college student needs here.
Take note of the internet service provider
I figured out which internet service provider my college uses by running a web search, so that way I could check to see if they were doing maintenance or similar work that was out of my college's control. You can find the same information by typing in "isp" and your college name, but make sure to check that the information is current- the first result for that search with my college gave me information about dial up internet from 2001. You can also ask the information technology services staff if needed.
Check for planned outages
My college notifies students about planned outages in advance via email and on their information technology services website. I recommend bookmarking this website and checking it frequently to learn about outages and how to work around them. Also, it helps to know it isn't just you dealing with questionable internet.
The firewall protection doesn't block everything
While there are many protective measures in place that block out spam, scams, malware, and other bad things, some things still make it through. Some scam mail I have received included fake research and internship opportunities, a textbook scam, and, my personal favorite, a message saying that my car was stolen and I needed to pay $10,000 to get it back...even though I don't have a car and am very visually impaired. One of my friends at another college had their email hacked and their account sent an attachment with a virus to about a third of their email contacts. It's important to practice common sense and when in doubt, report the issue to information technology services. Do not respond or otherwise interact with scam emails.
I hope that this post has taught you something new about your college campus wifi, or given you an idea of what to expect when you move onto campus. May your wifi be quick and may the duration of your outages go by even quicker.