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September 30, 2002

UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Sustaining Community Through Technology

Industry: Education

Profile: UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science
& Engineering is ranked among the top 20 computer science programs in the nation, quickly rising in the ranks because of its commitment to research, education and overall excellence. There are currently 30,000 students enrolled at UCSD.

Challenge: With UC San Diego’s campus and class sizes growing every year, the school faced the challenge of creating a better student community to enhance student participation as well as create a feeling that the campus was smaller and more intimate.

UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering department developed the ActiveCampus project. It was created to test whether wireless technology could be used to enrich the classroom and campusexperience for students and professors alike. With so many students commuting and using cell phones, UCSD took a closer look at how technology might help enhance the way students were learning, while facilitating on-campus interactions. The goal was finding a solution that was: (1) cost-efficient; (2) operational throughout the campus; (3) robust enough to host custom educational applications and; (4) wireless.

Solution: Today, UC San Diego’s ActiveCampus project uses Hewlett Packards’s Jornada 567 Pocket PCs, Cisco’s wireless LAN access points and Symbol’s Type 1 wireless LAN CompactFlash cards as its first wireless LAN handheld solution. The school installed a high-speed 802.11b WiFi wireless data network in key buildings around campus. Now, anyone in range of the school’s network would be able to access online information right from a mobile device. Computer science senior and freshmen students were chosen to receive the wireless handheld solution. Students would use the devices to access the Internet for research or personal purposes, email colleagues, get campus information, or to take in-class notes and write essays.

The Computer Science and Engineering department on campus also implemented applications to support the ActiveCampus project. ActiveClass was developed to enhance in-class participation. It allowed students to ask questions electronically and the entire class could vote on which others' questions they most wanted answered. Plus, students could respond electronically to teacher polls. ActiveCampus was developed to encourage chance interactions and discoveries around campus such as finding departments, school functions or messaging other students or professors. Students feel more connected to the school and can go to one place to get information their handheld devices.


  • Acceleration of technology learning and change
  • Creation and sustenance of inter-disciplinary and academic administrative links
  • Location-based applications that enhance campus community’s “culture of learning”
  • Infrastructure for education: course projects/research; encourages class participation and community
  • Instant access to campus information from any location on campus

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