Champlain College Continues Technology Leadership Role with Campus-Wide Converged IPC Network
July 16, 2004
By Jenny Carless, News@Cisco
In a world in which most colleges provide only the most basic phone services to students, Champlain College in Vermont has taken a dramatically different approach - raising campus communication to a new level by installing a campus-wide converged Internet Protocol (IP) network that provides students, faculty and staff with the latest communication opportunities.
Founded in 1878, Champlain is a private, comprehensive college. It offers undergraduate programs, professional certificates and a master's degree and has approximately 1,650 students.
Champlain's innovative programs and sophisticated telecommunication implementations - including a sizeable online education program, a diverse technology curriculum and most importantly, one of the most advanced campus-wide IP Communications (IPC) systems in higher education - serve as an example for other regional businesses and academic institutions.
In looking for a replacement for its antiquated Private Branch exchange (PBX) system, Champlain wanted to utilize its existing fiberoptic network and also deploy advanced applications. "After initial research, we didn't consider anything other than IP Telephony or Communications," explains Chief Information Officer Paul Dusini. "We saw the added value of voice over IP - the applications, the convergence and how we could communicate better with our students."
Although Champlain considered several providers, ultimately it chose Cisco Systems because of the company's leadership in data communications.
"Convergence really relies on a solid data infrastructure," says Aaron Videtto, Champlain's telecommunications administrator. "We knew that Cisco, as a strong leader in the field, would give us more options and more applications into the future."
Dusini and Videtto had several goals for their Cisco IPC implementation. Chief among these were:
- Better, more efficient communication with students
- Flexibility, to accommodate the very dynamic campus environment
- Reliable 911 service
- Unified messaging
- Exposing students to advanced, business-level communications
Key elements of the implementation include Cisco IP phones, Enhanced 911 service, Cisco IP Contact Center (IPCC) Express and Cisco Survivable Remote Site Telephony (SRST).
Champlain has installed more than 700 Cisco IP phones 7912G, 7920G (wireless), 7935G and 7970G throughout the campus, in dorm rooms and business offices.
Enhanced 9-1-1 (E911)
"We have a lot of residential students, so 911 is a serious concern for us," says Dusini. The E911 service provided on Cisco IP phones automatically gives the location of a caller's phone to emergency services - and automatically updates upon relocation.
Cisco IPCC Express
Cisco IPCC Express provides features such as call-in-queue and expected-wait-time messages. "This helps us provide significantly better customer service in areas such as admissions and academic advising that experience high call volumes," explains Videtto.
Cisco SRST helps enable Champlain to establish satellite locations easily with fallback support to Cisco IP phones, by helping a router provide temporary call handling support if the local area network connection goes down. "Before, thinking about the complications of establishing satellite locations made us squeamish," says Videtto. "Now, it will be almost a non-event."
Bringing Campus Communications to a New Level
With its new IPC system, Champlain can disseminate information better, while engaging students in a higher level of community awareness. Cisco IP phones also afford greater flexibility and save money in terms of moving costs.
"Increasingly, students today walk onto a campus and want to know the specifics of your network," says Dusini. "It's a way of life for this millennial generation; they just expect to be able to communicate instantly and seamlessly."
"We wanted to go one step further, and give our students experience with what it's like to communicate in today's business world," he adds. "That gives them a head start when they graduate."
"From a business perspective, also, it has brought our in-house communications to the next level," adds Videtto. "We're providing better customer service, and at the same time, using a system that's easier to manage."
From alerting students that classes are cancelled due to bad weather, to providing daily announcements of campus activities, to security warnings about a suspicious person near the dorms, the campus IPC system allows Champlain to communicate better and faster with its entire community.
"We can really capture the students' attention with messages over the IP phones' LCD displays," says Dusini.
IP phones also save time and money on relocations. "If you compare the cost, time and inconvenience of moves with a traditional PBX to those with IP telephony, it's quite dramatic," says Videtto. "People can't believe that all they do is unplug their phone and plug it in at the new location."
Videtto estimates that before installing the IP implementation, every individual move required at least two hours of labor and $100.
"Further, we now maintain just one network for both phones and data. Before, we had to maintain the fiberoptic network for data and copper for voice," he adds.
Dusini and Videtto are confident that the new communications infrastructure provides the strong basis for future expansion and upgrades that they intended.
Expanding to multiple locations will be made easier with the converged network, and they plan to increase usage of the Cisco IP phones' LCD screens as a communications portal.
Further wireless expansion is also an important next step. "From my perspective, as we look to providing better service and flexibility, why have employees tethered to their desks?" Dusini asks.
With its recent IPC installation and plans for future expansion, Champlain is well positioned to continue as a role model to both the business and higher education communities in the region into the future.
Jenny Carless is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz, CA.