Cedarville’s Information Technology (IT) department is involved in many areas of college life and works behind the scenes to help life at the university run smoothly.
From maintaining Cedarville’s Internet to setting up Moodle and running the tech carts in every classroom, IT is the power behind many of the academic services at the university.
Ethan Law, a computer science major, heads up the student lab assistants and said the department’s size surprised him when he began working there.
“I had no idea until I worked for IT how big it was and how separated it was,” he said. “There are all these different teams that have different responsibilities, and what I do with user services has no effect on what the network team does or the website team does or information systems or any of that stuff.”
Lindsey Bates, a computer science major, has been working for the IT department for three years and works with the user services team. She is responsible for answering questions and concerns that come in through Twitter, email and phone.
“Troubleshooting any problems that happen in the lab, any issues at night,” she said, “we’re getting a lot of those phone calls and meeting up with the full-time staff to resolve those issues.”
In addition to user services, there are several other teams under the umbrella of IT, Bates said.
Technical services is responsible for making repairs and replacements on computers, cell phones, tech carts and other machines across campus.
The administrative and information systems team handles user accounts, manages the software subscriptions used on every campus computer and works with the school’s website.
The network team manages the Wi-Fi, CedarNet and Internet connections on all lab and faculty computers.
Both students and full-time employees staff IT.
Law said he oversees and works with the students who work in user services. These students, who work as lab assistants, are responsible for refilling paper, toner, staples and other utilities in IT-managed computer labs and helping students with problems.
“We’re here to help other students,” Law said. “We understand what goes on on campus and how it works, so we’re here to be that middle ground between full-time IT staff and the rest of the student body.”
In addition to managing the labs, lab assistants also work with the 13 CedarPrint stations available in academic buildings throughout campus.
Bates said that although there have been several requests for CedarPrint stations in residential buildings, the stations will continue to only be available in academic buildings.
Kathryn Carnegis, director of user services, said each station costs $2,500 and continues to incur costs for supplies, repairs and maintenance after it has been installed.
These costs, as well as security issues involved with dorm access, prevent the university from installing stations in residence halls.
“Things get more heavily used, and sometimes misused, in a dorm building,” Bates said. “So, since they’re primarily for academic purposes, it’s really designed for you to swipe on the way to your class and not for printing a paper at four in the morning.”
IT carefully monitors CedarPrint usage, Carnegis said, which prompted them to install a color-printing station in the BTS and a second station in the DMC for pre- and post-chapel use.
In addition to feedback about CedarPrint, Bates said the department receives a lot of feedback about CedarNet.
Many times, she said, students experience issues and don’t realize that the full-time crew comes in around the clock to fix any problems that occur.
“Sometimes the network team is here and people don’t realize they’re there at five in the morning,” Bates said. “And it’s not necessarily something that is on our end that went wrong. A lot of the time it’s not on our end and we get kinda the bugs out of the system. Most of the time, when I call the development team, they’re already on campus and they’re here all night long working on it. They’re doing their best to get it up and running, and they’re definitely sympathetic to us getting our projects in and doing whatever we need to do.”
Recently, several hardware failures and rogue access points, caused by modems installed by students in their dorm rooms and townhouses, caused several connectivity issues. IT quickly ordered and installed new hardware to fix the problem, Bates said.
When there are issues with CedarNet, she said, it helps IT when students alert them of the issue through email, phone or social media. The more specific students are, the quicker the team can get the problems fixed.
“If there is something wrong, it helps the IT department to know more than, ‘Oh, CedarNet’s not working.’ Tell us the exact application that’s not working and where you’re located and how many people it’s affecting,” she said. “But also realize that there are people trying to fix it and it’s not like they’re out to get you or make it a faulty system. There are hardworking, real people behind the scenes doing hard work.”
Carnegis said Cedarville replaced 660 wireless access points across campus to help with the Internet issues.
The upgrades, as well as new routers installed in some buildings, such as chapel, will help with connectivity issues, though they have caused some issues as well.
“There’s been a lot of Wi-Fi problems because people are coming in and these brand new routers haven’t been used at all,” Law said. “So they’re still sorting through some of that stuff. It’s a lot better now than it was at the beginning of school.”
Law said this upgrade also allowed IT to double the wireless capacity in chapel, which gets swamped with use during the chapel hour.
The upgrades have been completed in all buildings except Hartman House and the HSC, Carnegis said, and the upgrades for those two will be completed by Thanksgiving.
She said IT also introduced a second Internet connection that serves as a fallback if CedarNet fails. By next January, Carnegis said, the two connections will run together and increase the available bandwidth and connectivity on campus.
And IT has several other projects in the works, Carnegis said.
The TechStop center in Tyler offers technical support for students and their devices.
When students have to leave their computers at the center, Carnegis said, they will soon be able to use loaner laptops while they wait for repairs.
With the removal of dorm computers, IT is trying to create a virtual lab for the software that is no longer accessible at all hours.
“The issue right now is that we don’t have all the licensing,” she said. “But we’re definitely trying to expand that and get as many programs on it as possible.”
Carnegis said IT has also developed a new course schedule planning product that they have launched with a group of pilot students.
The tool, which helps with choosing classes and planning academic schedules, will allow students to register for classes on phones and tablets. Carnegis said once IT has a successful pilot, they will open the tool to all students.
As the IT department develops these new tools and services for students, faculty and staff, they continue to keep the university’s technology running smoothly.
Both Law and Bates said they understand students’ frustration with IT problems, especially since they have to deal with the issues, too. But it is important to remember that the department is working hard to resolve the issues and make it all work better, Law said.
“Even though I work for IT, some of my stuff doesn’t work sometimes, too. My computer has had problems, so I understand the complaints,” Law said. “But IT does a lot. There’s a lot that they’re trying to cover, so even though it’s frustrating when things don’t work, there is a lot that we’re trying to do.”
Emily Finlay is a senior journalism major and campus news editor for Cedars. She loves writing, reading, making obscure references in normal conversation and every type of geekery.