Central State University

Launching “Classrooms Without Walls,” with Aruba Mobile-First Network

USE CASE: Enable “Classrooms Without Walls” initiative for introducing virtualized, hybrid learning to expand enrollment, boost retention and support a vibrant on-campus community while saving approximately $600,000 in licensing costs.


Transforming a traditional institution into a center of excellence, characterized by hybrid learning models and borderless classrooms, required Dr. Tonjia Coverdale’s IT team to go beyond mobilizing experiences.

“Deploying infrastructure to match our competitors wasn’t enough,” says Coverdale, Vice President for IT and CIO at 1,700-student Central State University based in Wilberforce, Ohio. “As a relatively small public institution we needed to take a quantum user-experience leap and do it on a budget.”

Robust Infrastructure with Investment Protection

Historically a residential university, Central State officials envisioned delivering a next-gen on-campus experience while also pivoting to establish and grow an interactive distance program. However, the university’s existing limited wireless and legacy wired systems weren’t up to the task.

“As we received one-time state grant funding to create a smart campus, adopting solutions that offered significant investment protection was critical,” Coverdale says. “This meant we not only needed a cost-effective, reliable and secure network for today, but also the flexibility and scalability to meet the demands of tomorrow.”

By collaborating closely with strategic local partner Laketec, a holistic wireless and wired solution from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, was selected and deployed.

Augmenting the On-campus User Experience

With our investment-protected network enabling our “Classrooms Without Walls” initiative, we can help more students stay on course and achieve their degrees whether they’re on campus or not. As an educator, that’s very exciting.Dr. Tonjia Coverdale, Vice President for IT and CIO at Central State University

In addition to distance and hybrid learning options, Central State also placed a premium on supporting its vibrant on-campus community. This put superior residence hall experiences at the top of Central State’s priority list.

“About 70 percent of our on-campus students depend on us for their academic and leisure requirements around the clock,” Coverdale says. “As today’s students expect mobility, high-performance residence hall Wi-Fi is a competitive imperative.”

“From a business perspective, we also needed our residence hall wireless infrastructure to support campus safety while simultaneously staying within our budget,” she adds.

Cost-effective future proofing with 303H APs

Given the multiple demands, Aruba’s 303H access points proved the right fit. “Because the 303H units only require one networking cable, we gained high-performance 802.11ac Wave 2 connectivity at half the cabling cost,” Coverdale says.

“Additionally, each of the 303H APs contains additional Ethernet ports that support our long-term IoT and location-based services goals,” she continues. “For example, we’re evaluating the addition of temperature sensors to provide this generation of environmentally sensitive students with app-enabled HVAC control capabilities to adjust their room temperature wirelessly, rather than wasting energy when they’re away.”

Easy, seamless device sharing and IoT management with ClearPass

For data security, Central State’s ClearPass deployment is enabling seamless self-service sharing experiences as well as protecting student, faculty and staff devices.

“We not only offer smooth portal-enabled onboarding, but users can also elect to securely share their devices with each other,” says Coverdale. Whether it’s granting wireless printer access to roommates or allowing an Xbox to communicate with others across campus, users set their sharing preferences.

“Soon, ClearPass will unify our wireless and wired network access,” adds Coverdale. “This will take us to access management level by enabling us to control IoT and other device connections centrally, which will expand the capabilities we can offer for academic, research and leisure pursuits while also minimizing operational overhead.”

Making students safer

Beyond supplying exceptional academic and leisure experiences, the new infrastructure also empowers campus security officers. Now, they can access wired security cameras from their wireless devices due to Aruba’s 300-series indoor and outdoor APs supplying pervasive high-performance mobility across all campus spaces.

“Before, campus police officers had no visibility into on-campus incidents prior to arriving at the scene,” says Coverdale. “The ability to quickly access video feeds from any camera on a mobile device will significantly improve incident identification and response.”

Scalable wired networking at hundreds of thousands in savings

Adopting Aruba’s modular 3810 switches provided further future-proofing. The switches supplied advanced deployment capabilities immediately and will save up to $600,000 over a five-year period on licensing, thanks to Aruba’s campus switching ‘no license required’.

According to Central State’s managed service provider (MSP), Laketec, an advantage to the 3810’s is the ability to aggregate multiple switch models to create a ‘core’ architecture in some buildings while deploying other models at the edge while gaining the same innovative features and functionality across all of the units no matter how they are deployed.

Further, the 3810’s redundant capabilities, enable a sophisticated failover redundancy for greater resiliency and keeping the network always available.

Quadrupling capacity for a third of original investment

Another significant benefit of the Aruba’s switching innovation is modularity. By simply swapping modules when Central State needs more bandwidth, the institution can modify existing 3810’s to jump from the current 10Gbps to 40Gbps – without purchasing and deploying new switches.

In other words, Central State can quadruple bandwidth across the entire footprint at a cost of only about a third of a forklift upgrade, which equates to an estimated half-million dollars.

Expanding enrollment and boosting retention

With its new infrastructure in place, Central State has turned to implementing its “Classrooms Without Walls” academic transformation. “Our high-performance network enables real-time virtual learning, where professors and students can interact with the same richness as in a physical classroom,” says Coverdale.

“A significant component will be implementing a video conferencing solution to connect our campus with users via their personal computing devices of choice such as desktop, laptop, tablet, or even their smartphones,” she continues. “Students and faculty on campus will be able to collaborate with students and faculty in real time wherever they are and even on-demand. This level of collaboration is only possible because of the investment that we have made in such a high-quality network.”

As its new network is only operating at 30-40 percent utilization today, Central State’s infrastructure is ready to meet such evolving demands. “We envision having the capability to exponentially expand the number of students we can enroll and support,” Coverdale says.

Helping students overcome obstacles to achieve success

What’s more, Central State expects to boost retention and matriculation rates. “Our traditional and non-traditional students increasingly face external forces, such as family or work demands, which prohibit them from being on campus full-time,” Coverdale says. “In the past, these students tended to halt their educational process.”

“Now, with our new network and “Classrooms Without Walls,” we can help students complete their studies whether they’re on campus or not,” she explains. “As an educator, that’s very exciting.”