Students and staff have new options with laptop computers

Patrick Hayes

For the first time ever, University students and faculty members wanting to avoid crowded computer labs on campus have an option other than the costly expense of buying their own personal computer.
By next week, 50 laptop computers will be available for check-out for as little as $3.50 per day. They will be equipped with wireless Internet access, CD-ROM, word processor, data spreadsheets and other software programs.
Students and faculty members can rent the computers in Blegen Hall room 93 or Westbrook Hall room 45 as early as 8 a.m. by leaving a picture I.D., and must be returned by 5 p.m. the same day.
Internet access will be possible through wireless Hubsinstalled in approximately 80 computer kiosks on campus. Users will be given a wireless PCI card which acts as a radio frequency device to the Hub, giving instant Internet access within a 150-feet radius of the kiosk.
Users will also be able to print at any of the computer labs on campus.
Shih-Pau Yen, academic computer distribution services director, said his department wanted to offer students laptop computers to address classroom technology issues and to make life easier for students on campus.
“We’re trying to solve the students’ on-campus issues, especially classroom issues,” Yen said.
Currently, 62 percent of University classrooms lack Internet connections, according to Board of Regents documents. And, according to a classroom-study document, the cost to provide Internet connections for all classrooms — along with providing projection capabilities — would cost $20 million.
The laptops’ wireless capabilities eliminates the cost of wiring classrooms for computers, Yen said.
Peter Oberg, coordinator of the new laptop program, said the computer services department will re-evaluate the laptop check-out system after fall semester to determine if it should expand the laptop’s capabilities and the number available.
Oberg anticipates the University will eventually have a system similar to the University of Minnesota-Crookston, where students can lease a laptop for a full semester.

Patrick Hayes covers administration and welcomes comments at [email protected]