Pilot study to investigate effects of non-academic apps on PAL connectivity

ITaP is conducting a pilot study this fall to test technology that could mitigate the effects of demanding non-academic applications on wireless connectivity for students and instructors in large lecture halls who are trying to access academic apps like Blackboard.

The study will suspend access when class is in session to Netflix, Hulu, Apple updates, iTunes and Steam on Purdue Airlink (PAL), Purdue’s wireless network. The classrooms affected include: Class of 50 Lecture Hall, Room 224; the Electrical Engineering Building, Room 129; Lilly Hall, Room 1105; and Wetherill Lab, Room 200. Users in and around those rooms can connect to PAL Academic to avoid competing with the bandwidth-consuming apps.

The applications will be suspended on PAL only in the rooms being studied and only when class is in session. Access to a student's mobile phone provider's network will be unaffected. Outside the rooms, PAL will still be open to any service. There is no plan to limit PAL in residence halls or in non-classroom areas of campus.

Network traffic hosted by PAL has increased by more than a factor of five in the past five years, and at the same time the price for more bandwidth has doubled. This raises concerns about escalating costs associated with providing access to non-academic applications during class. Big contributors to the bandwidth crunch include the proliferation of wireless devices, advances in web video and high-quality streaming video and online gaming with large data requirements. Netflix is the biggest culprit. Other major non-academic bandwidth consumers include Hulu, Apple updates, iTunes and Steam.

In a typical large classroom, hundreds of students may be present, each operating more than one wireless device simultaneously. In addition to cost concerns associated with meeting these students’ non-academic bandwidth demands, there is a technological limit to the number of wireless access points that can be accommodated in these rooms before the signals from the devices overlap and actually degrade service in the room.

ITaP is conducting the study in the four large lecture halls to see if curtailing major non-academic consumers of wireless bandwidth improves access to teaching and learning applications. The goal is to allow students and instructors to connect more easily, stay connected and get done what they need to do – like using classroom response technology or connecting to an assignment in Blackboard – faster.

ITaP will actively monitor network conditions during the pilot to gauge how much the technology improves the reliability of PAL connectivity for academic applications. If the study shows that the technology enhances PAL‘s reliability, the system could be extended to other classrooms.

For more information email palpilot@purdue.edu.

Writer: Greg Kline, IT communications manager, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8167 (office), 765-426-8545 (mobile), gkline@purdue.edu

Last updated: November 12, 2018