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Laptops Everywhere - Oasis or Mirage?

Jim Bostick, Virginia Commonwealth University

73.7% of students own a laptop, and that number increases to 83.9% for students 18-19 years old, according to “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2007” from the Educause Center for Applied Research. So, is the time finally here when computer labs are no longer be needed? Brian Hawkins and Diane Oblinger call that a myth in the September/October 2007 Educause Review.

An ad hoc survey on the SIGUCCS open listserv in Fall 2007 found 8 schools reporting no decrease or an increase in demand for computer labs with only 3 schools reporting some decrease in demand. Students at Virginia Commonwealth University list more open computer labs as their number 2 technology need, only behind additional wireless networking. But, as with most campuses, competition for space, particularly competition with classroom space, makes adding a computer lab difficult. In that same SIGUCCS listserv survey, 2 schools reported that all of their computer labs could also be reserved as classrooms, while 1 school reported studying the elimination of computer labs altogether in order to change student behavior.

As the presenter has no solutions, this session will be highly interactive and will call upon the audience to discuss the issues, explore the possibilities, and – hopefully – come away with several possible designs for computing labs, computing lab/classrooms, or other alternatives for the next decade.

Mathew Felthousen, University of Rochester

For the better part of a decade IT professionals have been inundated with information on how to lock down computers and networks with the intent to preserve functionality and limit exposure to threats. On the surface it seems sensible that this would result in less work for IT professionals- after all, the labs can’t break when they are locked down, right? However, what most institutions are not paying attention to is how much extra time they are spending on finding the perfect balance between locking a system down and rendering it useless for their constituents. Of particular concern to resource-starved IT departments, locking down a machine seldom results in the promised recovery of staff time. Generation Y has grown up in a multi-tasking world. They simultaneously listen to streamed music, chat online, perform online searches, play games, and work on homework. Even the proliferation of laptops has not eased the burden on IT departments much- if at all- as students eschew carrying their laptops in favor of quickly stopping by the public facilities to reconnect to the world around them. It then should come as little surprise that with each passing year this behavior becomes more ‘normal’, and that the students have an expectation that the facilities they use (and pay for via tuition) will suit their learning styles. A locked down approach immediately impacts their study styles, and sets up a confrontational relationship with the service provider. The challenge then is to find the appropriate balance of ‘control’ that preserves functionality, but is transparent to the educational process for current and future generations of students. Only through this approach will staff time be recovered for more mission-critical pursuits, and in the process the relationship between the student population and the service providers will be greatly improved.

 

CSMS Conference

SIGUCCS logo SIGUCCS Management Symposium 2008
April 6-8, 2008
Tucson Marriott University Park

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Updated: January 31, 2008 | Comments