Computer labs & the 21st century

Staff editorial
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 7:19pm

Money is tight at USU Eastern, that’s a rhetorical statement. So why does Eastern fund two separate computer labs for student use? The library lab has a room with 20 computers and another 17 on the first floor. The Reeves Building has 92 computers on the second floor, west end. Student computer labs were needed a decade ago, but are simply not being used on this campus or most campuses.

Most students bring their own laptops, tablets, etc. to campus so fewer students need access to computer labs. Eastern offers two student labs, with student fees funding those labs. A decade ago, higher education reduced its labs to save money and more effectively use the space.

An examples is a study at the University of Notre Dame 10 years ago wrote 75 percent of its seniors and 90 percent of its freshmen owned laptops. They were looking for ways to redesign its computing labs to encourage more laptop use.

At Eastern Illinois University, the current computer lab configured exceeds student need and demand. The school’s technology fee recognizes a need to change and advance laboratory support and management. As it stands, it is inefficient method for appropriating student-funded resources.

The University of Minnesota Duluth discussed new learning space and design in its computer labs. Indiana State University has 24-hour labs open, but dropped from 47 labs to nine or fewer because of the drastic decline in student use.

In 2006, the University of Wisconsin settled on a 10:1 ratio of student per PC in public labs, clusters or classrooms and noted student use has been flattening.

Five years ago, “Inside Higher Education” published an article saying campus computer labs will be invisible, personal computers will be shapeshifters and colleges will spend less to make sure students have access to the software needed for courses.

Neither of the USU Eastern labs are used to capacity or even near capacity at any hour of the day. Huge computer labs are a waste of student’s fees. Weekends in the Reeves Building shows hardly any student use and the library lab is locked unless a student requests for it to be open. It has not been open this academic year. Use at night is minimal in the Reeves with one or less students using its computers.

The hours of the labs are similar: the Reeves lab is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Weekend hours are 1-6 p.m. on Saturdays and 4 to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

The library lab is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Weekend hours are noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 2 to 10 p.m. on Sundays. No Eastern student labs are open after 10 p.m., however USU in Logan has labs open until midnight.

The student fee allocation committee funds computer labs for a handful of students to use. If students are not using them, why are tax payers and student fees funding them?

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