Unity College has expanded the range of its research and teaching opportunities thanks to a new connection via MaineREN to Internet2, a high-speed networking consortium led by the research and education community.

MaineREN was created by the University of Maine System and The Jackson Laboratory to deliver the Cyber infrastructure necessary to participate in, and be considered for, high-technology research.  Internet2 is an advanced networking consortium led by the research and education community.  Unity’s connection to Internet2 and the way this access will positively affect the College community is part of a series of upgrades led by Director of Information Technology (IT) Bert Audette, who arrived on the job during the spring 2011 semester.

Photo: (facing) Aaron Kennedy, Systems Administrator, at work in the IT Office.  Joshua Roberts, Web Technical and Data Specialist, is at right.

“Prior to our connection to MaineREN and Internet2, we had commodity Internet service at one fourth of our current connection speed,” Audette explained.  To expand research and collaborative learning opportunities with other colleges and universities, Unity would need to increase its IT capacity.  Part of the solution was to connect with MaineREN, Maine’s Research and Education Network, a state-wide high-speed optical data network that connects research and educational organizations throughout the state to each other and Internet2.

A series of internal updates made Unity ready for the Internet2 connection and positive outcomes such as connectivity promised.

Audette says that through MaineREN, Unity College now has much better connectivity to other state, national and international research and education communities, enabling high speed research and videoconferencing opportunities.  He added that Internet2 provides immediate access to resources and experiences otherwise unavailable over commodity Internet connections. From the Arts and Humanities to the Health and Physical Sciences, access to Internet2 enables the development of new collaborations and online communities that have the power to enhance every aspect of Unity’s research and education offerings.

“I have on several occasions been invited to either meetings and working groups that use video conference systems that are connected to I2 (Internet2),” noted Carrie Eaton, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Unity College.  “I am glad to have the option to participate that way instead of driving, both a saver of time and carbon output.”

Diaz adds that she is utilizing a significant amount of cloud computing and data storage.  Fast and reliable internet access are key to her success in utilizing such forward leaning computing approaches.

Professor of Human Ecology Mick Womersley said that access to Internet2 will more easily enable online teaching formats, either for current students or potential students overseas.  In particular, Internet2 will allow video of lectures and voice-over sound of slide lectures and other formats, Womersley says.

He added that this access will also allow download streaming of video more successfully, which is an asset when screening educational movies in class.

“It will allow us to connect more quickly to online earth science and other ‘virtual’ super-computer based modeling systems such as EdGCM,” Womersley stated.  “This is where several hundred or thousand individual PC’s are networked together to give super-computer scale number crunching power.”

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

In 2011, Unity College was named to the top 30 of the Washington Monthly college rankings, and was one of eighteen U.S. colleges and universities named to The Princeton Review’s 2010 Green Rating Honor Roll.

Monday, December 12, 2011