Required laptops and Tablet PCs in College: Front page news in Burlington, VT’s Daily Newspaper

I was surprised to see this as the front page story in Monday’s Burlington Free Press. It is about the requirement of laptops in local colleges and also focused on the fact that the UVM Business School is requiring Tablet PC’s (which they referred to as “laptops on steroids”). The article is title Luxury of Laptops.

Please note that the free press only archives one week’s worth of news stories. I just don’t understand this policy.  So since the link will break shortly I am pasting the article here. IT IS OWNED and COPYRIGHTED 2004 BY THE BURLINGTON FREE PRESS , Gannet News etc. here is the legal copyright info on that (this link is permanent thank goodness)

Luxury of Laptops 

By Jill Fahy
Free Press Staff Writer


Forty-five business students file into a lecture hall at the University of Vermont. They take their seats, pull laptop computers from their book bags, plug the machines into electrical panels on their desks and flip open the lids.

In the click of a few keystrokes, they’re ready for class.

UVM’s undergraduate business majors are among a growing number of college students nationwide who are required to own laptops for classroom use. What began as a mandate among mostly private colleges has grown.

College officials and students in favor of the laptop requirement tout the mobile, versatile computers as essential educational tools in a world increasingly driven by technology.

“UVM is always trying to have students use technology that puts them in the forefront of what technology is or what technology will be in the future,” UVM business professor Matthew Bovee said. “… (The laptops) are a way for students to gather and produce the information they need to be successful.”

The new tool brings change to campus, from the sound of classrooms full of clicking, to the added cost of buying laptops and the subsequent threat of theft.

Laptop on steroids?

UVM has required its business undergraduates to own laptops since 1999. This mandate was expanded this fall, when students were asked to purchase convertible laptops — or Tablet PCs.

Referred to by Microsoft as a “laptop on steroids,” the device can be converted from a traditional laptop into an electronic notepad, enabling the user to handwrite notes using a digital pen.

Students purchase the $2,200 Gateway computer package through UVM. Undergraduates who demonstrate need might receive loans that cover the cost of the computers and software.

Requiring laptops for UVM’s business majors is an obvious decision, according to professors at the college. They say laptops are used in class for such tasks as word processing, spreadsheet analysis, PowerPoint presentation, Internet access and database access.

Professors say upgrading to the convertible laptop will encourage business students to use the computers more often and in classes outside of their majors.

Cole Thomas, a freshman business major at UVM, said his Gateway convertible laptop was worth the expense.

“I take notes on it in different classes because it’s quicker just to write than to type,” Thomas said of his laptop’s tablet function. “It’s definitely more than I thought I’d have to pay for a computer, but it was worth it.”

Who requires laptops

A growing number of universities and colleges require laptops for individual programs. Only a few private colleges and even fewer public institutions, however, require laptops for all students, said Kenneth C. Green, who studies college technology as director of The Campus Computing Project in California.

A couple of factors prevent many colleges from instituting the requirement, Green said. The computers are just too expensive for some students, he said, and curriculum often needs to be adjusted to meet the technology.

The first colleges to require the purchase of computers by all students were Drexel University and Dartmouth College, Green said. A few large public campuses, including the universities of Florida and North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also have the requirement, he said.

“You see it in a lot of professional schools and in a lot of graduate programs,” Green said, “but it’s not half of them at best.”

While those in favor of laptop requirements say teaching and learning are enhanced, others want to see proof through research that the requirements improve the overall educational experience.

“In many ways,” Green said, “the infatuation with technology remains to be documented in terms of the outcomes.”

No need?

At Champlain College, which specializes in preparing students for jobs in technology, desktop and laptop computers are ubiquitous. Each year, the college spends more than $100,000 for laptops and computer accessories, which are periodically used by different classes, said Paul Dusini, Champlain’s information systems director. Having professors sign out computers when they need them maintains flexibility, Dusini said.

“Our goal is to use technology in efficient, effective ways in the classroom,” Dusini said. “If you implement a laptop program for the whole campus and they aren’t widely used in a particular major, students are going to resent the fact they had to spend $1,000 on a computer and they only used it once.”

Champlain business professor Charlie Nagelschmidt said requiring all students to own laptops doesn’t make sense given the number of technological resources available.

“We have so much technology in so many places on campus, we hesitate to put that financial burden on a student as a requirement,” Nagelschmidt said.

Although the college has no plans to require all students to own laptops, Dusini said, the business program will likely mandate that its students buy them within the next two years.

Many Champlain students own computers and an increasing number own laptops, Dusini said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if half of them are bringing laptops to school, whereas before, it was maybe 20 percent,” Dusini said.

Stephen Ricotta is a Champlain freshman who says he uses his laptop in just about all his classes. The business major said his father insisted and bought him a Dell over the summer.

“I was skeptical about bringing it to all my classes,” Ricotta said, “but it’s worth it.”

The downside

Students who bring expensive laptops and other high-tech gadgets to college are taking a chance of their being stolen. There were 591,000 laptops stolen in 2001 in the United States, according to Safeware Inc., an insurance company that covers owners of electronic and high-tech equipment.

UVM reported 18 computer thefts on campus during the 2003-04 school year, UVM Police Administrative Lt. Larry Magnant said. No computer thefts have been reported this year, he added.

“Laptop theft is a matter of opportunity,” UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis said. “Any time you have something that expensive and that small and that needed, it goes away if you’re not careful.”

Laptop locks, alarms and even tracking software are available to students who want to protect their investments, Margolis said.

Contact Jill Fahy at 660-1898 or
[email protected]

 

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