Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios (CEM, for its Spanish acronym) is a Puerto Rican educational institution with four campuses. It focuses on health programs, offering bachelor, associate degrees and technical certificates in several Health Industry careers. CEM’s goal is to provide students education through training and prepare them with the tools they need to thrive in a fiercely competitive job market.
CEM’s management has a clear understanding of the leverage that technology can offer to the business, particularly in two critical areas: communications and data management. Nowadays, college education goes far beyond the traditional classroom. Institutions need to be proactive in attracting students with a diverse offer courses. For CEM, this is particularly critical as many of their students are already working full time and request flexibility in their class schedule.
Wi-fi connection across all campuses is also a must, as students need to have Internet access to do research, deliver projects and communicate with professors. Internally, CEM’s staff at its four locations requires top quality interconnection between campuses, as well as a robust system to securely manage the students’ confidential information — which is used by financial aid officials and other federal regulatory agencies to measure, evaluate and certify educational institutions.
CEM needed a systemic approach to telecommunications, to cover all needs for campuses located in Bayamón, San Juan, Humacao and Mayagüez. At the time they contacted WorldNet, they had limited bandwidth devoted basically to administrative purposes and students services, which put them at a disadvantage regarding their competition. They were also looking to have better infrastructure to support the connection demand of the modern systems being installed in the institution.
At the administrative level, Internet connection at CEM is critical for email messaging, data base management, financial and accounting systems, as well as for both employees and students to have access to federal and state financial aid agencies. On the other hand, their main clientele, students, are constantly requiring to access the internet to get information for their courses that is not readily available in the usual EBSCO databases (a system for healthcare professionals). Last but not least, with the migration to more modern systems came the need for stable bandwidth that could handle the immediate access need and that could also address the need for scalability.
Low bandwidth, high demand, poor connection speed and frequent service interruptions due to their out of date infrastructure were affecting CEM’s services – and risking potential growth. Service-wise, there were several gaps that required prompt attention: poor Wi-Fi connection on all campuses, which was affecting the student access to this very much needed service, and data systems integration for the administrative offices to broaden the capabilities of their Information System’s implementation.
WorldNet installed a centralized fiber optic network at the main office in San Juan, with a 100Mbps capacity and 30 Mbps of Internet download speed. Speed, bandwidth, security, reliability and scalability are all features that CEM needed – and the fiber optic network provides for all of that. Having smaller student populations, the other locations got 20Mbps. A robust Wi-Fi connection is being implemented at all locations, along with a centralized Fortinet solution for network security.
The solutions were designed and implemented taking into consideration the need for scalability, as CEM plans to continue expanding its offers and growing its enrollment. Currently they are in the process of migrating their telephony services on one of their campuses to make use of their Intranet to simplify the Voiceover IP system and use the through output of their network capabilities.
Probably, the most important feature of the centralized system that has been installed is the uptime it allows, since outages and technical transport issues have decreased. This is particularly critical during registration periods, when the demand for online services intensifies dramatically and students need to have seamless connection to CEM to be able to complete their registration processes.
CEM’s new capabilities for online courses have added a new line of business, with an annual projection of $20,000. Besides, the institution can better integrate new audiovisual technologies and improve online information sharing with students regarding their courses. The institution is now capable of considering distance learning as an option for courses that can be offered in this format, which will allow for a wider reach to students almost in any part of the world.
On the other hand, the institution’s corporate image has improved significantly among core audiences (students and professors), as they now feel part of an up-to-date school that provides them with modern tools like robust Wi-Fi and stable data systems.
The interconnection between campuses and within the facilities is seamless and network management has proven to be easier as itis all comprised within one single telecommunication network.
Security is also an added value, as backups can be made in house without the need of third parties involved. Its new network, and security features makes it easier to manage student data, financial aid data and other areas, thus supporting student retention; as an added value, backups can be made in-house without the need of third parties involved, which strengthens information security.
The fact that the system is scalable, give CEM’s executives the peace of mind they need to venture into new projects, since they know the network will withstand the growth pains.
According to Carlos Rodríguez Ramos, Dean of Administration and Finance, “WorldNet’s integrated solutions addressed all the issues and closed all gaps that CEM had identified.
Interconnection, security and communications are no longer problems at any of our locations. But most important, WorldNet went beyond solving issues: their integrated solutions are supporting CEM’s growth. We get around 100 new sign-ups per year; we are experiencing higher retention rates and our corporate image continues to improve within the community and potential students.”