University is seeking technology overhaul

Aman Ali

Kent State wants to make extensive changes to campus technology in the near future by creating more tech support centers on campus and expanding the university’s wireless Internet coverage.

Implementing these ideas was the focus of the Student Quality Advisory Committee’s meeting yesterday. Edward Mahon, vice president for Information Services, created a student advisory committee to discuss improving campus technology during the SQAC meeting on Feb. 2.

Yesterday, Mahon asked the committee what technological services the university should provide. But some members of the SQAC suggested to first figure out what technological services were obsolete.

“There are many technological things that aren’t being used,” SQAC member Omar Tahboub said. “We can use those funds elsewhere in the university budget.”

Mahon proposed shifting university funding toward implementing “mobility centers” all over campus. The centers would operate similar to the university’s current help desks, but the mobility centers would be found in more locations on campus.

“We want to put these mobility centers right where you want them,” Mahon said. “Ideally, if you have a technology problem, you could walk around the corner and get it fixed.”

The SQAC welcomed the idea. Vice Chair Paul Marnecheck suggested charging students a small fee every semester for unlimited access to the mobile centers.

“By charging a small fee, it will make the mobile centers wildly accessible,” Marnecheck said. “This could be a huge revenue drawing tool for the university.”

Accessibility was also a central issue regarding wireless Internet on campus. According to Mahon, approximately 40 percent of the Kent State campus is covered by Flashzone wireless Internet.

“I know we need to finish wireless Internet coverage,” Mahon said. “The locations we chose already were predetermined by the needs of faculty and students.”

For areas on campus that don’t have wireless Internet access, Mahon added that Information Services created an application process where faculty and advisers in each department can ask for it.

In addition to wireless Internet and mobile centers, the third initiative Mahon wanted the SQAC to consider was creating portals for students.

“Portals are a one-stop shop for all of us,” Mahon said. “Students can log onto one page and get access to all the information they need, like class schedules, news and weather.”

The proposal would be similar to Flashline, the portal system Kent State has currently implemented. Several SQAC members wanted to see the new portal provide services like e-mail, weather forecasts and information on local restaurants in Kent. But the committee didn’t want to the portal to be too cumbersome.

“Simplicity is the keyword here,” SQAC chair Dennis Boyd said. “Students might already have subscriptions or bookmarks that they already visit, and the last thing they need to see is another page of weather, news and e-mail.

Marnecheck suggested students should be able to customize the new portals.

“If you want the cluttered portal, then you should have that available,” Marnecheck said. “Conversely, if you wanted a more simple approach, you should be able to have that as well.”

For now, Information Services will work with the SQAC to determine what Kent State students want to see on the portal. The two groups are currently working on portal surveys to distribute on campus.

Contact student affairs reporter Aman Ali at [email protected]