Shining a pilot light on beacon technology

By: | Issue: December, 2018
November 20, 2018

Why most colleges are only experimenting:

Determining the technology’s value

“I think the best thing to do in higher ed is to pilot, experiment and be aware of the technology, so that if it becomes mainstream and takes off, you’re ready,” says Brian Rellinger, associate provost for academic support at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Rellinger began dabbling in the technology on his 200-acre campus in 2015, teaming up with national thought leaders to imagine and suggest 15 potential uses for the technology—from campus tours and crowd-flow management to building access and classroom applications.

Ohio Wesleyan’s IT department invested around $100 in several beacons for a library scavenger hunt, which was developed by student IT employees. Rellinger liked what he saw, but is waiting to place more beacons.

LINK TO MAIN ARTICLE: Beacons beckon on campus

“You have to get a critical mass before you get a lot of value,” he says. “It’s one of those technologies we’re keeping an eye on.”

Getting help from a partner

Leaders at Utah’s 32,000-student Salt Lake Community College are also optimistic about testing.

The college’s beacons, set up through Ellucian and its Ellucian Go app, let users know when they’re near its tucked-away health center or multiple libraries. (Students can silence those notifications for a day, or forever, once they’ve learned the locations.)

Piloting beacons through the app has made experimenting with beacons easier.

The college did not have to start from scratch, and it has an active audience already: Since 2016, the app has had 11,500 users and 1 million unique screen views. The app also includes features such as class registration and event announcements.

A few Salt Lake administrators have requested that more beacons be placed on campus with welcome messages and other location-based information, says Web Systems Manager Brandon Johnson.

Lynn Freehill-Maye is a writer who lives in Beacon, New York.