NYTimes Circuits

Each Thursday there is a Circuits section in
the NYTimes. This week 12/9/04 has articles
about how libraries are using roaming reference
for their wireless laptop users to improve
customer support. Reference librarians tote
a tablet pc and wander the building and offer
help to visitors, sometimes volunteering their
aid to people with frustrated looks on their
faces. There's also an interesting article
about downloading e-books and audio books
to patrons. Check out www.kcls.org.



Laptops replacing Labs - another view

At BVU the answer is an emphatic YES! On our Storm Lake campus we provide all of our undergraduate students and faculty with wireless-enabled laptop computers. Our wireless network is ubiquitous - and has been since August of 2000.

Prior to launching our eBVyou wireless laptop initiative in the fall of 2000 we had approximately 200 desktop computers spread across 5 public labs plus nearly 100 networked desktop computers in the residence halls in lounge areas. Our student/computer ratio was 4.1 students per public PC (counting the residence hall PCs.) Late each semester not only were the labs fully utilized, but students would roam from residence hall to residence hall seeking out a computer to work on.

Now we have at total of just 34 public access PCs in three locations. Twenty-four of these are in our library in order to provide convenience for our undergrads, public research access, K-12 groups, and access for community college students. In the last case, we have a center at the community college's main campus in another city and they grant reciprocal access for our students to their library and computer labs. Four of the computers are top-end Macintosh systems in our media studies lab, down from 14 units and now sitting next to docking stations for our laptops that enable them to hook into large displays, scanners and other peripherals. The remaining 6 units are in a Science lab and the original idea was to enable access to Mathematica. However, my understanding is that the Science faculty have since changed over to running Mathematica on a Solaris or Linux server and granting their students accounts on that server. (Enabling students access to Mathematica from anywhere on campus.) At the end of last year, most of the science lab computers had been repurposed into nodes in a Beowulf system. Most of our lab computers get very light use. Our students use their laptops.

We license Microsoft software through their Campus Agreement at approximately $20 per student per year. We license Novell Netware and GroupWise on the same basis. In some cases, course-specific software may be included with textbooks. Specialized software is provided either via simultaneous-user licenses (50 simultaneous for SPSS) or a charge (essentially a textbook fee) for our media studies students to license things like the Adobe CreativeSuite. We manage installations through the Help Desk. There are also approaches like terminal services that I know others are using, but are not currently using those approaches to providing access to specialized software applications.

The money saved on computer labs has been directed into the eBVyou program, initially funding infrastructure enhancements.

The fact that most computers on our campus are now single-user rather than shared-use computers has made keeping working computers available to each student much, much easier.

Ken Clipperton
Managing Director of University Information Services
Buena Vista University | 1 Comments

Sloan-C View, Perspectives in Quality Online Education


Has wireless student laptop ownership allowed you to retire any public labs?

-----Original Message-----
From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv on behalf of Brian D. Voss
Sent: Tue 12/7/2004 6:42 PM
Subject: Re: [CIO] Has wireless student laptop ownership allowed you to retire any public labs?


I'm not sure the situation here at IU fully fits your bill, but let me tell you a brief story from here, for what it's worth. IU does not require laptops broadly, though several specific programs (MBA, Law, etc.) now do; mostly at the graduate level. Business has been very active in encouraging undergrad ownership of laptops.
We were late getting a widespread wireless network into place (2003), and we noticed that the uptake on laptops by our student population was very slow. The logic, as one student told me: Without wireless access, a laptop is a $1400 spiral notebook. Thus the impetus to get wireless up
and pervasive in 2002-03; if we built it, we felt they'd come (to laptops). We did the wireless in a big way, and only this Fall started to notice a dramatic increase in laptop acquisition by our students.
(Probably as they became more aware of the wireless infrastructure from our PR and communication efforts and the normal acquisition cycle at the start of a new school year). We have >35,000 students at the Bloomington campus, and the latest data we have shows laptops in the hands of about 6,000 of those students; overall, more than 97% own a computer of some
As general computer ownership rose in the 90 percentile range in the late 1990s, there was the question of abandoning the student clusters. However, a student again provided the soundbyte -- just because I have a computer at my home doesn't mean I don't need one on campus; I use time
productively between classes in the labs. And we've seen continued intensive use of our cluster facilities through the past 4 years as IT has become more and more integrated into the learning process; adding more and more provided stations, such as in our Information Commons in the
Library. I'd say we have may have more than double the 'cluster' devices we had when you left IU for MSU back in the late 1990s. The need continues to be there.

I can only hypothesize at this point that MAYBE when laptop ownership hits the 50% mark, that we might at that time see an easing of demand for desktops in clusters. But even then, the question will likely still be at issue: Do we need clusters? My thinking is that we will. Likely for a
variety of reasons (including the intensifying use of computers by students in their activies, raising the overall time a student needs to spend in front of one, and with significant quantities still not having laptops, the machines we provide will be used even more by the (even shrinking) legions of students.
Of course, if you need cluster funding to fund wireless infrastructure, that's another matter. But my advice would be to get students involved in considering the issue; and if there are choices to be made, to engage them in helping to guide those choices. I can only infer from your comment
that the pressure is coming from either your own view of your budget, or
your administration's view of it. I think its wrong-headed for university administration (or IT administration), even with legitimate funding issues, to simply make this call. It sets up an adversarial relationship between IT and students, where if you engage them, this can be mitigated or even be a positive thing. We saw this on another IT topic -- bandwidth to the Halls during the heyday of the P2P crisis. Involving the students in making calls -- about limiting bandwidth, paying for more bandwidth to support both pedagogical and recreational use, and finally with implementing traffic shaping to better manage the resource -- really helped us administratively.

For what it's worth, I don't think its time yet to write the obit for clusters. But that truly is a question each institution, with its own situation in mind, must address locally.
Oh ... I think our ratio at IUB is under 10:1 when you take into account the Student Technology Centers, Information Commons, Residential Technology Centers, and departmental clusters.

Good luck!


Brian D. Voss
Associate Vice President IT (Telecommunications)
Office of the Vice President for Information Technology & CIO
Indiana University

On Tue, 7 Dec 2004, Sheehan, Mark wrote:

> Colleagues,
> Have student laptop ownership and wireless networking allowed you to retire any public labs?
> A little over a year ago Franklin Patterson of Mt. Union College asked a question like this on this list. The responses were few, but indicated that the cost to provide common software across a campus full of student-owned laptops was one factor that would require keeping public labs in place, even for those students who own laptops. There's pressure here at Montana State to eliminate public labs because it's felt that our expanding wireless network and increasing numbers of student laptop computer owners will reduce demand for such applications as email and Web surfing, and that these are the primary uses to which our labs are now put by students. (The latter assertion is unsubstantiated, but I think is "mostly" accurate.) My question is really for institutions where laptops have been common (perhaps required) for a few years, and where wireless networking is already widespread. Have you been able to retire any public labs? And if you know it, what are your former and current ratios of students per public computer? (Montana State, at 13 students per public PC is very close to the 2003 Campus Computing Survey's reported average of 12.4 for institutions of our size and weight.)
Thanks in advance!
> -Mark
> Mark C. Sheehan
> Executive Director for Information Services and CIO
> Montana State University
> P.O. Box 173240


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