With the implementation of a new Wi-Fi network emanating from traffic intersections,
technological tide is turning at
A slew of new, interactive projects, some completed and others in the pipeline, are making the college experience easier and more accessible than it's ever been for students and prospective students.
"We've never had this many projects launched in one calendar year," said
After all, 60 percent of Internet activity is wireless and increasing, Alfonso said.
A major change
The college took the first step toward this technological revolution a year and a half ago by directing the information technology department to put college resources at students' fingertips.
"They asked us to maximize high-tech and high-touch, with the No. 1 goal being access to
Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, is the infrastructure behind the change. It isn't so much a technology as it is a guiding principle aimed at making academic activities possible on any device 24/7. Any student with a browser, whether on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, has access to the college.
BYOD's inception paved the way for a succession of forward-thinking projects. Viking Net, a Wi-Fi network designed specifically for students, enables them to surf the Internet, check email and do anything else online with their own device. (The Viking is the
"I use it for entertainment and to do research for my classes," said
Academic activity and mobile technology merged in
"It's self-service," he said. "Students can practically complete a course with this."
Daisy Gamica, 19, a chemical engineering major, especially likes Canvas's calendar feature because it helps her stay on track with her class assignments.
"When you work and go to school like I do, your time is limited," she said. "It's good to have that visual."
Because Canvas is hosted in the cloud, there are no servers to buy and maintain. And there's no possibility of interruptions in network connections that could halt coursework. That's a significant advantage in the subtropical Texas Coastal Bend, where the threat of a hurricane can lead to shutdowns and evacuations six months out of the year.
Answering the call
Recently, the college upgraded its telephone system to better manage calls from people asking general questions, which increase exponentially at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. Dedicating additional staff to answer the calls wasn't feasible. The dilemma turned into an opportunity, and once again, interactive technology was the solution. Using their own device, students can now just use Ask the Viking.
Accessible via a button on the college's home page (www.delmar.edu), Ask the Viking goes beyond the standard Frequently Asked Questions feature. It is regularly updated according to users' questions. More than 90,000 inquiries have been answered since its launch in
"It's a great tool for answering preliminary questions," said Gracie MartÍnez, student enrollment center coordinator. "The calls that come in now are much more manageable. They're specific questions from students who genuinely need additional assistance."
The top three questions from Ask the Viking users are:
* How do I get a campus map?
* How do I apply for admission?
* How much does tuition cost?
The questions are valuable to the college because they reveal interest by prospective students, Alfonso said.
Best service possible
Attracting students is part of the strategy behind the new technologies. Enhancing the college experience is another part.
"We have to be efficient but also offer the best service possible so that students have a positive experience," Alfonso said. "That's key to being a technology powerhouse."
The college has invested about
But the most far-reaching project is the 78415 initiative. Set for a soft launch this summer, it will make Wi-Fi service available in the ZIP code with the highest number of the college's students - essentially expanding BYOD and Viking Net. There are 1,318 students from the ZIP code enrolled at the college for the spring 2014 semester.
College President Dr.
"We have a mission to improve the quality of life for the citizens of
Once 78415 is launched, the college hopes to grow the project to all the communities it serves. Alfonso expects the cost to decrease proportionately with the number of students in other ZIP codes.
The college's technological advances wouldn't be possible without progressive thinking by its president, executive team and other stakeholders, Alfonso said. Like him, they see the writing on the wall.
"Mobile learning is upon us," he said. "Our students are dictating this. The institutions that provide mobile access will be the successful ones."
"The technical environment at
by Michael Bratten,
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