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Eduroam endangering our education

(Simeon W / Flickr)

If you’re a student at the University of Massachusetts like I am, you’re most likely familiar with Eduroam, the school’s infamous wi-fi network. We’ve all been there: you sit down to do some homework or submit an assignment on Moodle and your laptop won’t connect to the internet. If you’re me, you restart your computer over and over to no avail. You then decide to re-register your device and that still doesn’t work. By this point, you’re probably banging your head against a wall trying to run XpressConnect and use the wi-fi. I usually end up calling the information technology department and sometimes I can get it to work again. Other times, it’ll be days before I can get my phone or my laptop to connect to Eduroam again. Even while writing this article, I’m having trouble getting online.

This is a typical experience for a student at UMass. When I first got to UMass, I was required to pay a technology fee that was built into my tuition and fees for attendance. As a college student in 2017, internet access is essential for almost every part of my day—I’m writing this piece in a Google Document right now. So many professors are utilizing programs like Moodle and Blackboard to engage students in new ways and facilitate turning in assignments. I have taken major exams from a laptop and one of my biggest fears was my internet going out during the exam (thankfully, it did not).

We all joke about how Eduroam is terrible, slow and very temperamental—but this situation is no joke. As students, we pay a sizeable fee to ensure that we have the proper internet access that we need. The technology fee was $125 this year, which helps provide internet connection across campus, funds classroom equipment and new emergency blue lights.

Unreliable internet isn’t just a UMass issue, it’s a problem at colleges across the globe. A quick Google search of “bad internet access at colleges” brings up all sorts of forums like Quora, where students complain about slow internet connections. According to a study, state flagship campuses do not fare as well as schools with huge endowments, such as Harvard and Yale, but even these prestigious schools are not doing well. Little known schools like Lamar State College, Port Arthur and Delaware Technical and Community College, top the list of fastest upload and download speeds in the country. These are smaller schools with less students and fewer resources than UMass.

This study also compared state flagship universities, and UMass was found to have the second slowest downloading speed of all the state flagship universities that were examined. So, even when compared with schools of similar size and student population (and many with more students), UMass does not fare well.

We pour so much money into things like sports and our dining services, while we allow our campus to fall behind in the fast-moving field of technology. In 2016, a report found that student fees subsidize a substantial portion of UMass Athletics. While sports are an important part of college life, some of that money would be better spent on other parts of campus.

The IT department is doing their best with what they have—but they need more financial support so they can provide students with the internet we need and deserve.

UMass sells itself as a University on the rise, with its expanding infrastructure, growing student body and declining acceptance rate. We were recently ranked in the top 30 best public universities and have appeared on the list twice before. Yet technology is a crucial part of our education and as long as we don’t have proper access to it, our learning will be limited. As a school that is constantly building and expanding, more needs to be done to assist the students who are already here. Students and faculty alike depend on the internet to conduct research and communicate with their peers.

I’m not asking for the fastest and most amazing internet connection in the country—but I shouldn’t have to worry about being able to access Moodle every time I open my computer. As a college student who is already stressed about every other aspect of my life, the last thing I want to be doing is calling IT services every day.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu.

Comments
5 Responses to “Eduroam endangering our education”
  1. LSNor says:

    When moving in my child a few weeks ago, my wife and child were setting up the room and I figured I would help and connect her to eduroam. yikes… they don’t make it easy. I then did a small tutorial to about 6 kids who needed to figure it out. I connected my personal MacBook Pro ( I was skipping work and needed to do an online meeting for work) and then connected by childs MacBook Air machine. It seems as though they are tracking your every move, long in , etc when you sign on to eduroam but its also slow.

    Also, I disconnected my machine from eduroam hot spotted by machine through my cell phone and did a speed test. I was faster with a hotspot than my child hooked direct.

    I put a program on my childs machine and have already taken over the machine twice to fix things that eduraom prevented from running. like some java calc pages, etc.

  2. Nitzakhon says:

    If access to the internet is something that stresses you out like this, heaven help you in the event of a power grid collapse from a cyber attack, or an EMP take-out of the grid. Or a terrorist attack on campus.

  3. Ed Cutting,Ed. D. says:

    I find this infuriating because in 2011-2012, every dorm room had *two* dedicated 10mbs hardwired connections (faculty offices had 100mbs jacks). OIT didn’t like the fact that students were setting up their own networks.

    OIT doesn’t want students to have high speed internet, it’s a power & control thing, students have to be second-class users because bullies want to feel good about themselves. And UMass has long considered students to be an inexhaustible fungible resource to be exploited.

    So you’re now paying for the campus network AND paying a $125 fee as well?
    That’s double billing…

    So folks — be pissed. Let your professors know the problems you are having — tell them daily.
    Ask the SGA to make a fuss about this.
    Tell your parents, high school guidance counselors, and state reps.

    Folks, you have a slower and less robust network than students did a dozen years ago. Most (all?) of the dorms had the 10mbs by the late 1990’s, which means that your dorm room had better internet connectivity BEFORE YOU WERE BORN than it does now!!!!!

    Be pissed…

  4. wifi is an industry driven scam that is extremely harmful biologically. chronic exposure to pulsed radio frequency fields has been shown, in thousands of studies, to cause hundreds of harmful effects that over time and currently we are seeing an explosion of auto immune diseases as well as increase in adolescent brain cancer and other problems. hard wired internet connections are more reliable and safe. meanwhile, we have bought into the most successful advertising campaign of all time: “21st Century Education.” at least 200 studies currently show that technology doesn’t help learning, it harms learning. http://www.wirelesswatchblog.org

  5. Iris Chelaru says:

    Thank you for your continued support as UMass Amherst Information Technology staff work to improve the campus wireless experience.

    If you are having trouble connecting to the eduroam or UMASS networks, please contact IT User Services (it@umass.edu or 413-545-8324). Include the building/campus location, the date and time when your wireless problem occurred, and the best way to contact you.

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