« Why Run a Service? | Main | Voices Carry »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Shannon Ritter

I saw that same article about the computer labs being phased out at the University of Virginia and my first thought was "wow, really?", but that was immediately followed with "well, I guess that makese sense". As a parent of a 17-year old who will be heading off to college in three short months, this move makes perfect sense to me. My son has lived with his own laptop for years now (in fact, the laptop he has now is his second - he completely wore out the first one he had). It's part of who he is and I can't imagine him not having one. I think as more and more schools start using laptops it's just a natural progression to have students bring laptops with them to college.

Also, having been a part of several EDUCAUSE discussions and groups related to informal learning spaces, I think it's incredibly important and something we at Penn State really need to think about. Do we need to have computer labs all over campus that are set up the way the are, or would it be more beneficial for students if we had labs that could easily transition into collaborative, creative spaces that encourage students to spend time there? I've seen some great examples of informal spaces at some ELI meetings and it's exciting to think about ways we can design those spaces on campus.

Scott McDonald

I think this makes a lot of sense. I know one of the things that we have talked about is the idea of key serving software to student laptops. From my point of view this is the next step in the disappearance of the lab and the emergence of the laptop as lab model. If students can log-in and key serve the high-end software they need to their laptop wherever they are, there is even less need for the labs. Need SPSS for a homework assignment? No problem, key serving to the rescue. I think this move is (yet another) critical step in eliminating the brick and mortar restrictions on the higher education classroom and opening the learning environment up. Long live mobile computing.

Ed Garay

If it was up to me, I would have remodeled (years ago) most of our computer labs into comfortable notebook friendly lounge areas, with comfy chairs, indirect lighting, a super-fast wireless LAN and some wireless printing.

I would have kept just a few traditional labs opened, with fast desktops to run specialized cpu-intensive apps, ...and I would have converted most of our instructional computer labs (those with ceiling-mounted projectors, projection screen, presenter's station etc. to be more notebook-friendly.

I would have used some of the savings in renegotiating some software licensing agreement to give students the option to install certain commercial software on their machines, for free.

Today, schools could also standardize on, say the inexpensive Acer Aspire One netbook, and offer it to incoming students or those who may need it, for say $200; the subsidized netbook would include some pre-loaded software, free tech/repair support and free battery swap desks spreaded throughout campus.

On the other hand, the UIC Student Multimedia Lab I am putting together is an example of what modern specialized computer labs might look :: fast video rendering workstations with 32" flat screens can can also be used for collaborative learning projects. (I wish UIC had group study rooms with large flat screens for walk-in collaboration, but we don't, so I am trying to show their usefulness as well in an otherwise multimedia production lab environment).

I thoroughly agree with your posting :: mobile ubiquitous connected computing is indeed where it is at. I further call is comfortable computing, anytime, anywhere.

Michael Brooks

@Cole Camplese I am curious what the future holds for Apple in the NetBook field. Rumor has it that Apple has ordered touch screen displays that are to ship by November this year, as you may be aware. Without remembering the exact size I think the displays were somewhere around 8 to 10 inches. It would not seem that the standard MacBook mini would be the direction Apple would go with this. I would predict a more iPod Touch on steroids (because everyone else seems to be) planned for these screens. The possibility of it running Snow Leopard combined with some of the best thought through Usability in the industry (it doesn't take much) would make this a distant possibility for ease of mobility, creation tools, and an overall good time. A pair-able Bluetooth keyboard would complete the package.

Michael Brooks

I agree with the changing situation of the common student. What I feel we have to consider is the idea that a university must provide accommodations for the non-typical student situation. The spaces would be better used as a collaborative environment but can not become completely phased out. Some space must be provided for the students who may not own a laptop, even if that space becomes a much smaller one. I don't want to assume that your intention is to completely phase out the labs as they are but, for argument sake, we should not leave out the obligation that educational institutions hold for all students, not just the typical ones. Does this mean that we shouldn't progress with the changing times here at Penn State? Absolutely not, we would quickly become irrelevant if we did not move forward. If it is not fair to say that to attend Penn State you must already have your own laptop then perhaps we should rethink the services provided to incoming freshmen. With the innovation of increasingly inexpensive technology, maybe we could begin to provide the option of laptops to student as part of their tuition so aid can be provided to acquire them. There would be a lot to work out with a situation such as that but it is considering the idea that we should not remove a service without providing another equal service for those who may need it.

Cole Camplese

@Michael Brooks Completely agree! The digital divide is real and by segmenting the haves vs the have nots even further is dangerous territory. There are lots of great reasons to reimagine some of our spaces -- but the wholesale closure isn't even being discussed ... as a matter of fact I haven't heard anyone at PSU suggest we close any of our labs. The only conversations I hear now are about rethinking pieces of labs. Students still show up without machines and use ours for quite a bit of time. I think this will be the case for a few years to come. I was honestly just blown away by the UVA decision and wanted to layer some PSU thoughts on it.

@ Ed Garay The thing I worry about with the NetBooks are their inability to handle non-cloud tasks. As an example, our College of Education's teacher education programs require students to buy a MacBook ... they do this b/c they can rely on the superior (and easy to use) digital content creation tools. NetBooks, as of yet, do not allow for any sort of prosumer level digital media production. I am betting that will change, but for now it is an issue.

Thanks to both of you for your comments!

John T. Harwood

Virginia had *300* PCs in its cluster -- and one campus. I would be very slow to generalize from such a small operation to PSU, where one unit manages 5,000 desktops. There's also some serious data on why students prefer to do academic work in clusters rather than in residence halls and apartments. Environment matters; so do apps that students cannot otherwise access.

Cole Camplese

@John T. Harwood Still surprising that a University would be so open and aggressive about changing course like this. I love the directions we are going here at PSU -- experimenting with different kinds of spaces that can support more activities. The collaborative spaces, the Digital Commons, and the soon to be opened Education Gaming Commons all represent some really cool things for us to look at. I think the long term is cloudy -- will students still want to use our machines? Or will they prefer to use our printers, software, and spaces with their own machines? I have no idea. I'm eager to watch the UVA story unfold. BTW, thanks for the comment!

The comments to this entry are closed.