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Evangel was first University in USA to use newest Wi-Fi technology

Published on Jan 17, 2017 by Paul K. Logsdon

First published, Jan. 13, 2017 in the Springfield News-Leader


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Not long ago, free campus Wi-Fi was a recruitment tool. Today it is so expected and necessary, you won’t find a college campus without it.

The problem now is keeping up with the growing number and type of wireless devises — laptops, iPads, cell phones and gaming systems are taxing campus Information Technology departments from coast to coast.

When Gary Blackard joined the Evangel University family three years ago as Chief Information Officer, he found a system that had slipped from its state-of-the-art status.

“Today, that is no longer the case,” said Blackard. “We have invested a lot in great technology.”

In fact, Evangel University is now recognized as an innovative campus with world-class technology.

In the summer of 2015, Evangel became the first college in the country to adopt the new Wave 2 technology from Ruckus Wireless, Inc.

“802.11ac Wave 2 is the newest version of the newest Wi-Fi standard and delivers wireless speeds as fast or faster than most wired networks,” said Blackard. “Now Evangel students and faculty can easily connect with multiple devices at the same time, in classrooms, in the dorms, and literally any place on campus.”

Dari’Anne Hudson, a senior from Louisville, Ky., concurs. “As a journalism student, reliable Wi-Fi is vital to my day-to-day activities. I no longer struggle with any of my devices anywhere on campus.”

National publicity

2017-01.13-A Blackard IT, Ruckus
Gary Blackard, chief information officer at Evangel University, reviews real-time Wi-Fi usage on campus with Isaiah Jesch, systems administrator, and Dennis Wood, IT planner. // PHOTO BY: Paul K. Logsdon (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Following the successful launch and a semester-long period of evaluation, Ruckus chose to spotlight Evangel’s success with a corporate video, industry case study and press release that was utilized by scores of broadcast media across the U.S., and was also featured in industry publications such as Campus Technology and IT Business Net.

Prior to the purchase, the university conducted an on-site demo, using two identical residence halls as testing grounds. Ruckus Wireless and another equipment provider each deployed their Wi-Fi in one of the dorms for 6 to 8 weeks.

“The student surveys given after the pilot were night and day,” reported Dennis Wood, IT planner. “The Ruckus dorm pilot went well, while the competing dorm recommended that we not waste time and money based on their experience.”

Higher education is one of the most challenging environments for wireless, according to Rich Kusak, senior manager of systems and data at Evangel. “IT doesn’t have any control as to which devices and how many students bring to campus. The expectation is that it just needs to work everywhere,” he said.

“Following the launch, student feedback is coinciding with the test results we were seeing. Ruckus is delivering superior numbers, and that directly translates into a better customer experience,” Kusak added.

The lecture circuit

Reinforcing Evangel’s reputation as an innovative university, Blackard has been invited to speak on several occasions about the technology revolution taking place on EU’s 100-acre campus.

On Tuesday of this week (Jan. 10, 2017), he spoke in Orlando, Fla., at the Association for College & University Technology Advancement Winter Seminar.

ACUTA is an international non-profit educational association representing more than 1,800 individuals at more than 500 institutions of higher education. Members range from small schools to the 50 largest U.S. institutions.

“The conference was interested in our strategic alignment process as much as the technology itself,” said Blackard. “We come from the perspective that when we help the students meet their needs, we are helping our faculty and staff as well.”

In June, Blackard will combine his IT and the strategic skills when he speaks at the prestigious UBTech Conference, again in Orlando. His topic will be: “IT Strategic Planning On A Budget: Using the StratOp system.”

“We feel that IT needs to be more of a people business than a technology business,” he concluded. “We are making that shift at Evangel.”


SIDEBAR#1:  Using technology to enhance teaching and learning at Evangel University

Mark Fabian
Mark Fabian

“For the last few semesters, I have been using Kahoot! for weekly review sessions in my Old Testament Literature class. Kahoot! is an online quizzing tool, where students work individually or in teams to answer questions. Students are awarded points for each question based on how quickly they select the correct answer, and students can track their rank as they compete against their peers. At the end of the quiz, the top five scores are displayed.

“My students consistently looked forward to the weekly Kahoot! quizzes, and I have gotten great feedback on the use of this tool from student evaluations. My students would literally be on the edge of their seats, with devices in hand, eager to participate and compete against one another. It has been a fun and effective way to jump-start engagement and review course content.

“This activity absolutely depends on fast and reliable Wi-Fi. Especially because students are competing in real-time, you need Wi-Fi that can adequately accommodate a room full of participants (I’ve done it with up to 50 at a time). A slow connection or any interruption would be frustrating to students, thereby discouraging participation and engagement.”

Mark Fabian, Director of Digital Learning and Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies


SIDEBAR #2: Response from founder of Kahoot!

One never knows when a story, a quote or an idea will generate a response. The sidebar above generated a very cool response from the inventor of Kahoot! software.

From: Alf Inge Wang
Sent: Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hi Mark,
I just read an article about you using Kahoot! in your bible classes.
I’m thrilled.
I had the idea for Kahoot! in 2006, and I really believe this great idea was given to me from God. I’m a born-again Christian and engaged in worship ministry in Norway. I’m also the inventor/co-founder/composer of/for Kahoot! in addition to being a professor in game technology.

God bless your work and ministry!

All the best,
Alf Inge Wang