Campus & Community

Wired up: PBSC expands internet access

Palm Beach State College students will have more wireless internet access on campus this fall, and those in Belle Glade can now can borrow mobile hotspots to use at home for free.

The College is expanding Wi-Fi to 133 additional classrooms across the campuses and to the Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus. The initiative means that by the end of September every classroom at PBSC’s Belle Glade campus, the smallest of the four, will be wireless. While Wi-Fi is being expanded to 19 classes in Boca Raton, 66 in Lake Worth and 27 in Palm Beach Gardens this year, College leaders plan to continue expansion in the future until all classrooms are wireless. All classrooms at the fifth campus under construction in Loxahatchee Groves also will have Wi-Fi when it opens next year.  WIFI-093015_1063

“There are a lot of faculty who wish to use wireless technology in their teaching to help engage students,’’ said Dr. Ginger Pedersen, vice president of information services. “Having wireless in the classrooms will allow that to happen.”

In a separate initiative, the Belle Glade campus library, responding to a student survey last year, secured 10 mobile hotspots that are now available this fall for students without home internet access. Students can check out a device for up to a week at a time and use it at home to complete homework, apply for jobs and conduct research.

Angelica Cortez, a librarian on the Belle Glade campus, said her staff surveyed 100 students last year and found that over 1 in 5 did not have internet access at home.  She partnered with Mobile Beacon, a national Educational Broadband Service provider of low-cost, 4G LTE mobile internet access for schools, libraries and nonprofits, to acquire the hotspots for the campus. The devices work everywhere there is a Sprint network.

“I’ve been working on the project for a year,” she said. “This will help our students because they do need internet access for their courses whether it is an online course or in-person course.”

Precious Pace, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management at the Belle Glade campus, said the devices came at a good time. “Times are hard,’’ said the mother of four who works full time and goes to school. She noted that because of the cost, she had to cancel her internet service earlier this year, which meant she only had access at school or at a local restaurant.

“I’ve been toughing it at the library, toughing it at McDonald’s. I’ve been back and forth late at night trying to get school work done.  This is definitely going to help me,’’ she said, noting that her son, who is a freshman in high school, also can access the hotspot to do his homework.

Dr. Roy Vargas, dean of academic affairs at the Belle Glade campus, commended Cortez for her work on the project. “Some of our students don’t have internet access,’’ he said. “This is a good way to get them connected with technology. She deserves all the credit because she really did a great job with this initiative.”

Until four or five years ago, wireless Internet access was only available in common areas at PBSC campuses, including the student lounge, cafeterias, courtyards and bus stop areas. However, the College implemented a pilot program about four years ago to put wireless in seven classrooms. Mike Merker, technology infrastructure director, said he is pleased that the College is moving forward.

“I’ve been advocating for expanding the wireless across the College for a long time, he said. “As long as we have good uses for wireless, we need to keep expanding it. We need be current and up-to-date.”

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