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Friday, May 5, 2017

Traditional Computer Labs on the Way Out?

With more students bringing their own devices to campus, there’s a growing trend of moving away from the traditional computer lab in favor of comfortable areas that encourage students to connect to the Internet to study.

“The whole dynamic is changing inside computer labs,” said Casey Gordon, director of IT for College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, and St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. “By virtualizing IT resources, we can revolutionize the way students do their work, give them spaces that foster greater collaboration, and expand how they use their own devices.”

However, making the transition requires planning, a commitment to training and support, and a willingness to discuss the change with all stakeholders because eliminating a bunch of desktop computers doesn’t automatically mean the move will cost less. Available campus bandwidth has increased threefold over the last five years, requiring more investment into the technology necessary to support it.

“I shy away from discussing cost savings and focus instead on deciding what’s the best use of our dollars to meet the changing needs of students,” Gordon said.

Faculty must also be part of the conversation. The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, found that some faculty members saw the labs as a way to attract students into their department.

“So if you remove them, that’s a major concern,” said Heath Tuttle, assistant vice chancellor for IT services at UNL. “We discuss the benefits of collaborative learning spaces where students can sit down with their laptop or a device they check out, have a coffee, and do their work.”

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