500 Words At A Time: An Old Person Online

Before we moved to Ferris State University, we purchased the latest and greatest in virus software. Having been around colleges where the internet is open, having the latest virus software is important. You cannot imagine how apoplectic I was when I learned about Ferris State Universities’ online network. Now, to be fair, it got better with a round of improvements over the summer of our fourth year. Still…

Ferris State University has a closed network. Unlike other colleges that have an open network, which requires agreeing not to do something stupid, to use the internet at Ferris you have to…

  • be a student or faculty
  • have ALL of your devices that will use Ferris internet registered with Ferris; computers, tablets, phones, and video game consoles
  • install the virus software that Ferris uses, which often has device conflicts resulting in devices being put into quarantine, unable to access any of the internet
  • have an approved device. When we got here tablets were not approved devices and my Windows Surface caused all sorts of headaches (not a tablet and not really a computer at the time)
  • be prepared for slow downs, lack of service, and the oddness of not having a wifi signal in certain parts of the campus. Yes, you read that right, Ferris wifi does not cover the entire campus.
  • be prepared to have students and faculty suggest meeting at McDonalds because McDonalds wifi is stable and stronger than the signal on campus
  • be prepared to interact with students working in the IT or TAC (Technological Assistance Center) when you have a problem. Lately, the competent have risen to the top, but for a while the incompetent seemed to be working the phones and desk (first two years, I requested talking to a supervisor, not that helped)
  • be prepared to have IT “fix” your devices when a service call does not work. “Fix” is often expensive, timely, and subsequently breaks

Why does Ferris have a closed system, because as explained to me by a member of the IT department, one year, many years ago, the network was hacked. The decision was made to lockdown system access to control (read micromanage) anything and everything that could access the system. Very reactionary thinking I said and the IT person responded it hasn’t been hacked since. Guess what? Two years ago, it was hacked. I got the notification along with hundreds of others.

As part of the closed system, there is an online Blackboard or at least that is what it used to be called. Now it is called Ferris connect and serves as an online hub for ALL of your registered classes. Except, when a professor chooses not to use it. What is on the blackboard for a class is completely up to the professor. Some turn on the basic, here is your class and how to contact me. Others, go all out with email, forums, assignments, grades, and more. Upside, when it works AND is put to use Ferris connect is one-stop shopping for your class needs. Downside, is that there are professors who don’t use it, Ferris Wifi is spotty, which means connecting can be difficult, and the software operating Ferris connect is old, which is its own set of problems.

The strangest aspect of online technology in college, from the perspective of watching technology expand from nothing into every facet of our lives, is how institutions, such as Ferris do not appear to be embracing technology to the fullest extent. In the case of Ferris, having a locked down system with insufficient architecture to cover the entire campus equally, and out of date software that is supposed to be the hub for all classes that students are expected to know how to use, but faculty do not use with the same level of expertise.

 

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