Community College Upgrades IT Infrastructure

In the past decade, businesses and suburban developments have sprouted in the rural community surrounding Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Consequently, the college has found itself addressing diverse requirements from both students and industries. Although the college has grown an average four to five percent each year, Waubonsee is not immune to competition. As at many community colleges today, geography plays a less critical role in students’ educational options than it did ten years ago. The explosive use of the Internet and distance learning pose very real challenges. With that in mind, Waubonsee Community College turned to its long-term partner, Hewlett-Packard Company, for its IT infrastructure and Internet solution.

“We are seeing a shift in the way we do business and in how we meet the needs of our students. Waubonsee Community College must demonstrate that it has some distinctive beneficial educational features to attract students here,” explains Christine Leja, Waubonsee’s executive director of Information Technology. “We see technology as a useful tool to enhance learning, but not as the driving force for the way we learn.”

When Leja joined Waubonsee’s staff in 1967, her challenge was to build upon the success of the existing HP 3000s. This infrastructure needed to be enhanced if technology was, as Leja put it, “to demonstrate real assistance in the learning environment.”


Overcoming Existing Limitations

Observing the growth of Internet-based education and access to educational institutions, the Waubonsee faculty wanted a flexible, scaleable and reliable IT infrastructure upon which to build their new educational offerings. From an internal perspective, Leja wanted to host an Intranet to improve communication and administration workflow. The existing e-mail system limited the transmission and reception of documents in different formats and did not permit remote access. “In our legacy technology, we had a Microsoft LAN solution that we were extending to be a campus-wide network,” Leja explains. “While the LAN tools were helping us to sustain short-term growth, the technology was very limiting.”

HP introduced the college to one of its channel partners, RMS Information Technology Integrators. RMS helped the college purchase and implement an HP 9000 D370 with Model 20 disk array as its Intranet and mail server. It also added a “chat” server used for distance learning courses and two HP 9000 D270s: a Web server to run Netscape SuiteSpot Enterprise Server software and to host the Waubonsee Web site. To complement these, HP OpenView was purchased to manage traffic patterns and performance issues. HP support was also contracted to provide a four-hour response time to any hardware or software problems.

With the HP 9000 D-Class servers and HP OpenView in place, and with continuing implementation consulting from RMS, Leja notes, “the results have been a server base and infrastructure that are easier to manage from an operational perspective.”


Enrolling Software Solutions

Waubonsee chose Netscape for its Internet solution because of its ongoing support and product development. Components selected include Netscape Communicator, Netscape Messaging Server, Netscape Calendar Server and Netscape Enterprise Server software. These provide comprehensive information management, communication, collaboration, and automation on the Internet.

After reviewing Waubonsee’s use of the Netscape Messaging Server, RMS proposed a customized solution to employ using a ten-step methodology. “Downtime for implementation was very short between semesters,” says Leja. “RMS came prepared. They developed a scripting process to automatically add and remove students from the fluctuating e-mail directory, and successfully put it in place during the college’s usual shutdown. Now we’re using the scripts to add students into the e-mail system. Faculty and students will have a common way to communicate even if students don’t have personal access to e-mail at home. Plus we have a more flexible e-mail system that permits all types of incoming transmission to be received correctly. Our end-users find it easier to use and easier to communicate, which translates into increased productivity for the college staff.”

The benefits of the new HP/Netscape solution are clear to Leja. “Our Web page currently has the ability for a student to query courses, but they have to book them by phone. Our next step will be to have the entire class catalog posted, along with the ability to register online. As demand increases for Internet-based classes, we will continue to grow those offerings. This means there will be heavier demands on our chat server, which provides the hands-on classroom discussion environment that is so essential for the success of these classes.”


Looking Forward

To further improve operations, Waubonsee created an ATM backbone to serve its three separate campuses. “Although each campus has decentralized services, we are gradually trying to integrate all of them,” Leja explains. With this backbone, they wanted to open opportunities, not just for video interactive television, but for a series of Internet-based courses that could potentially feed desktops, as well as cable television in students’ homes.

With this infrastructure in place, the faculty, administrators and students who comprise Waubonsee’s user base can quickly access valuable information. “Our users are anxious to have more and more features made available,” says Leja. “With everything electronic, our staff is definitely moving away from paper. And our Intranet now is used for better workflow. With these new server capabilities from HP, Netscape and HP’s Internet channel partners, we can be more proactive in delivering service and more innovative educational content in the courses we offer.”


Contact Information

Hewlett-Packard Company

Palo Alto, CA

(650) 857-1501

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.