Fall 2009: Computers in the Classroom

COB Courses to Require Laptop Use in Classroom - Fall 2009

NOTE: This article discusses laptop specifications as of September 2008. For an outline of the most recent College of Business laptop requirements, please click here.

As the popularity of laptop computers continues to increase, many colleges and universities now require their students to purchase or have ready access to a laptop for course work. By the 2009 fall semester, students in the College of Business will join this trend as many COB courses will require laptop computer use.

According to Dawna Drum, College of Business Instructional Technology Coordinator, the requirement specifies that COB students must have easy access to a laptop computer for course work when their instructor requests it. Course descriptions in the University catalogue, as well as course schedules on the registrar’s system, will indicate which courses and course sections require laptops. However, the requirement does not obligate all COB instructors to request laptop use in their courses.

Tim Vaughan, Management and Marketing Department Chair and professor of management, will be taking advantage of the requirement in his courses. Specifically, students in his Process Design Simulation courses will use laptops, which he said fit naturally into the course.

Drum said that students can meet the requirement by borrowing a computer from a sibling, if purchasing one is a concern. She also said that while the College of Business will not be able to help a student with purchasing a laptop, she suggests that COB students, who have an interest in purchasing one, contact the Financial Aid Office about the possibility of additional loan eligibility.

Students must be able to have a laptop on which they can install course required software. Drum noted that while students can rent laptops from McIntyre Library, they cannot install software onto those computers, so this is not a good option for business students.

Requiring laptops in the COB has been discussed and planned for several years. Drum said with the increase in technology use, problems have arisen with reserving labs for class periods. To ease up on these conflicts, the COB laptop cart became available to instructors and students. However, Drum said the option is so popular that not enough laptops are available for the demand.

“It’s just not feasible for the College of Business to provide everyone with a laptop,” she said.

Vaughan added that the requirement addresses the literal requirement for technology in today’s society.

“The original idea was the understanding that this is the way people function – the way the world works,” he said.

The requirement does not specify a particular computer brand. Drum said the COB recommends either the Lenovo Thinkpad T61 or Thinkpad X61, which she said is a quality computer for the business world. However, Drum said she doesn’t recommend students use a Macintosh based computer since most software students will use only works on Windows.

“(Students who use Macs) will need to be self-sufficient,” she said “They will need to be prepared to have little assistance (with Macs) through the COB, although Mac help is available at the LTS Helpdesk.”

Drum also said that students should continue to use Windows XP as their operating system, though using the Windows Vista operating system will work as well. The College of Business website also lists specific computing requirements such as hardware and basic software under the Technology web pages.

The Information Systems department will pilot test the requirement in spring 2009 and by fall semester the rest of the College will join in. By this time, Drum said the College will provide computing assistance for students, including installing software and connecting to the wireless network.

As for the requirement benefiting COB students, Drum said that requiring laptops in courses gives students hands-on experience with proper computer care.

“By having their own computer, students learn about the care and maintenance of computers,” she said.

Vaughan also hopes that integrating needed laptop computer use into courses will alleviate constraints that currently prevent it from being part of the curriculum.

“Naturally there are places where you would use technology, and places where you would not,” he said. “Our plan is simply to eliminate constraints in places where laptop use would be natural.”

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Choosing the Best Laptop

As purchasing a new laptop means having a high quality machine that meets course requirements Drum mentioned these other aspects to consider when purchasing one:

Consider Weight. While laptops now come in a wide variety of sizes and have numerous add-on options, consider the extra weight you may have to carry, along your textbooks. Drum recommends buying a laptop that weighs less than 5 lbs.

Power. Schneider Hall and the rest of the UW-Eau Claire campus has made laptop use more convenient, with electrical outlets found in almost all classrooms and common areas. However, Drum said that it is beneficial to have a laptop with longer battery life, especially if an outlet is not available.

High Quality with Best Deals. When looking for a high quality laptop, it may come with a high price tag. Looking for deals on quality machines on the Internet can be helpful. Drum suggests technology website www.CNET.com. The site gives reviews on the latest computer models, which Drum said are very reputable and impartial.

Futher questions or comments can be directed to Dawna Drum

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