Mississauga First City in Canada to Launch a Virtual Campus

First it was state of the art traffic management systems, and now it’s this.

Mississauga has been quick to embrace innovation and change and its latest initiative will not only benefit students of all ages—it'll set the city apart from the rest of the country.

At a recent general committee meeting, city staff introduced a new "virtual campus" service that will enable post-secondary students to access school resources anywhere in the world from Mississauga.

The service is slated to launch on May 1.

Mississauga, in partnership with University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), is launching what's known as eduroam (education roaming). It's a secure, worldwide roaming service that offers students access to postsecondary institutions around the world. It can be accessed when they visit city facilities with wi-fi access.

As of now, eduroam is available in more than 70 countries and 17,000 locations worldwide. Eduroam provider Canarie will automatically authenticate and connect the users' mobile devices to the eduroam Wi-Fi network as they move throughout the city.

Believe it or not, Mississauga is the first city in Canada to launch the program eduroam. The city also has a similar partnership in place with Sheridan College for creating a virtual campus using the city's free public Wi-Fi network.

The move is bold, but not unexpected—especially since the city is working on its Smart City designation.

"Technology plays a significant role in enabling a connected and engaged City," said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. "The progress we are making through our innovative IT Master Plan positions the city as a leader in Smart City technology. It is also a large part of what makes Mississauga a great place to live, work, attend school or do business."

Other experts, including UTM's principal, are impressed.

"The University of Toronto Mississauga applauds Mississauga's new virtual campus." said Professor Ulrich Krull, Interim Vice-President of the University of Toronto and Principal of UTM. "Students and faculty members from UTM, and post-secondary visitors from around the world, will benefit by having direct access to online institutional resources at city of Mississauga locations such as libraries, community centres, arenas, transit terminals and public spaces. By implementing eduroam the city has created a virtual campus that helps position Mississauga as a global hub of creative and innovative activity where talent can thrive."

The city also announced that staff also presented an update to council on the progress of the IT Master Plan. The plan, established in 2015, guides future improvements to services using technology.

Some key actions featured in the IT Master Plan include?

* Development of the new Advanced Traffic Management System
* Suite of web and Wi-Fi solutions developed for the Ontario Summer Games
* More than 55 data sets on community centres, fire stations, leash-free zones and more now available on the City's Open Data Catalogue
* Code and the City, Mississauga's first open data hackathon, held in 2016; Tech and the City scheduled for October 2017 at UTM
* Creation of a framework coordinating Smart City initiatives across all city services and with external partners now underway
* Expanded online services and mobile applications, public Wi-Fi access and development of a Wi-Fi Corridor are in progress.

While the move will certainly benefit students looking to study remotely, it’ll also benefit the city because it’ll successfully frame it as a decidedly forward-thinking and modern one that’s unafraid of change.

It’ll be interesting to see how the roll-out goes.

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