An Open Letter to the Staff of Algonquin College

I understand: you are having technical difficulties.

Please understand: so am I.

The wireless on campus is currently best described as non-functional. Without being an overly tech-savvy person, I’d wager that the oncampus wireless network is congested now that you’ve removed all the desktop computers from the campus, except for the a handful that are dedicated to the animation, graphic art, and game development programs, in your move to go green and mobile.

First of all, you’re not fooling anyone. While you refuse to provide hardcopy timetables and syllabi, third parties have not stopped demanding them. The only thing that has changed is now the student assumes the printing cost. No trees are saved. Only your money is saved. Similarly, while you tout the convenience of etextbooks and mobile learning as the way of the future, any student who stops to think about it knows, really, what you’re doing is figuring out a socially acceptable way to cram 45 students into a classroom that was only built to accommodate 30 desktops. By doing this, you’ve increased the income of tuition by 50%. Now, it’s fine that you’re trying to increase your profits. You’re a business and that’s what businesses do. But sack up and be honest about it.

Second of all, nowhere in my program is it a requirement that I have a home Internet connection. I pay IT fees so that I can have access to the Internet on campus. Currently, I think it would be fair to say that I am not getting my money’s worth, but that’s not even close to the point. The point is this: all professors, all IT staff, and all administrators should assume that if the wireless network is down on campus, no student has any access to wireless, anywhere. Most of us do, but some of us don’t, and those who don’t are not in any way failing to meet their responsibilities as a student.

This means you should be prepared to make alternate submission arrangements. You should be prepared to provide instructions in handout form. You should be prepared to provide students with hardline Ethernet connections if your inclass work requires the Internet. You should not assume that a student is able to use the Internet outside of class because they may rely on the campus wireless to complete their research, and so you should be prepared to extend or modify homework assignments.

Sounds pretty complicated and ridiculous right? It is. But you brought this on yourself. You brought this upon us yourself. You did it for the money, and you’ll probably have to spend a lot of money to undo it.

I don’t know how you’re going to fix this. You might have to bring back the desktops. You might have to deforest a small country to provide the paper that we need to go without the Internet for a however long we’ll be without it. You might have to pay a lot of money for a wireless network that can support 20,000 students and staff, including their laptops and smartphones. I do know you need to fix this, and fix it fast. Until then, you need to understand that this problem is affecting the students’ ability to be fairly educated and assessed, so get to work.

Yours,

Wren

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10 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Staff of Algonquin College

      • I attended the Town Hall and heard about your letter, thank-you for allowing your concerns to be read. It is important that the college is aware of how the students are affected. I would encourage you to contact ITS and tell them exactly where in the college you are having problems so that they can be aware of how you are affected. Also ITS, the Student’s Association and the Office of the Dean- School of Business are handing out cables free of charge and you can receive free adapters from ITS to help boost your device to a 5.0 if it is not there already. Although these are not the long term solutions for wireless; they may help you get connected now and allow you to participate in your classes. Thanks for speaking up, and please encourage others to do the same.

      • It actually surprises me that people think I’m so self-centred. Allow me to clear up a few common misinterpretations of this letter:

        I carry two Ethernet cables with me at all times; one is for me, and one is for whoever in my class asks. Someone usually asks.

        I have Internet at home. Not all of my classmates can say the same.

        I have some trouble connecting to the Internet on campus. I know how to problem solve and get past it.

        My point is I shouldn’t have to. My point is not all of my classmates have the options I have. My point is not all of my classmates have the same access that I do, just because I happen to have experience troubleshooting Internet access and they don’t and that’s not fair to them. We all paid the same tuition and we don’t have the same access to education and that is the part that is wrong.

  1. Algonquins primary issue is that for the most part, ITS is staffed by business students. Go in there one day, and then go to the ‘Computer Systems Technician’ classes(yay! shameless plug for my program) and see if you recognize anyone there that works in ITS… They don’t. The reason is because that school is such an IT disaster that the students who know IT won’t work there(this only makes the problem worse of course because nothing is ever done properly). Although I am no longer a student(haven’t been since 2008), this issue remains. It is not new. It was so bad during my years that we actually found a wireless network that ITS didn’t tell people about so that we had access to a working network(I’ll leave out the rest of the details…). Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect a resolution any time soon. I’ve set up wireless networks on a similar scale and to call it ‘troublesome’ is an understatement. To call it ‘expensive’ is like saying Bruce Wayne’s house is expensive. The only true way to fix the wireless at Algonquin is to turn it off, rip it out and rebuild it from the ground up.

    • Thanks for your input. I don’t know about, admittedly, most of what you said. I’m just a writing student. I just know the Internet isn’t working. I also know that I paid my IT fees and it should. And I know that right now, because the Internet isn’t working like it should, my classmates and I have a very hard time completing and submitting assignments. I know we did our part, and it seems like a lot of people feel like it’s time for Algonquin to do theirs.

    • I can’t say that it ALL needs to go. If nothing else, the wireless access points, maybe. Don’t forget, the school was wired with GigE-to-the-wall and optical between buildings, so there’s plenty of bandwidth.

      I would also hope they kept the Ethernet connections in what used to be computer labs so students could jack in if needed.

  2. Thank you,
    They need to stop blaming the slowdown on ridiculous slowdowns as portable 3g hotspots and microwaves and admit the real problem is the wireless routers/modems were simply not ready for the increase in traffic. Every single router/modem in the campus needs to be replaced with units that can accept higher load capacities. I’m in a program that doesn’t relate to computers, I just have experience as a computer enthusiast and an ex-employee/technician at Staples. Even with my basic background in computers I can understand its a simple issue of router/modem load capacity, why ITS cannot understand somebody with my simple background can, is beyond me.

  3. The main thing they have to work on is access point load and closing down the bandwidth on certain ports because students are choking out the individual access points and switches with torrents and downloads that they cannot keep up. It is pretty much a 2 hour job given how their infrastructure is set up to change it and have all access points sync properly. Now I know students would be upset over this but they really just have to do it for the wireless. If they want to do their illegal downloading they can do it using a lab with the hardwired lines as they handle the load better. I would suggest that to them as well. It was like that 3 years ago when I started there and it is still like that to this day because they are unwilling to take the steps to prevent it.

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