Campus Computer Access

By Tim Leamy, Lab Management (


Supporting Arguments

Executive Summary

Computer rooms are a common sight in higher education. However, due to budget constraints and escalating demand there has been a lot of discussion concerning the future of computer rooms. The last IT Strategic Plan (see appendix) made the assumption that the need for computer rooms would decrease as student computer ownership increased. However, the demand for the computer rooms has continually increased to the point where faculty and students are complaining that they cannot get the access they need.

The first step is to identify the campus' computer needs. It is important to note that computer needs are changing due to the rapid evolution of technology, so this document will need to be revisited every few years. The most prominent needs are:

Second, the various means to deliver computer access need to be identified. Analysis shows there are many options. The following is a list of the most common means to deliver computer access, listed in rough order of cost to the University.

  1. Computer classroom
  2. Computer lab
  3. Mediated classroom
  4. Network access ports
  5. Student owned computer

The third step is to determine the most cost effective way to meet the campus' computer needs. All computer access needs can be met by the most expensive option, computer classrooms. However, there is neither enough money nor space on campus to build the required number of rooms. Therefore, this is obviously not the most cost effective solution. Ideally each need would be matched with the least expensive type of access which can appropriately meet that need.

Need Most cost effective delivery method
Classrooms or lecture halls with network and projection capabilities Mediated classrooms
Teaching environment with computers for instructor and students. Computer classrooms
Network access Network access ports combined with student owned laptops OR Computer labs
Printing access Students owned printers OR Computer labs
Access to class software Computer classrooms OR Computer labs
Access to specialized hardware and software Computer labs
General productivity software Students owned desktops or laptops

Computer labs are also listed in some cases along with student owned hardware to help resolve the equity issue between students from different economic backgrounds.


The computer access problem cannot be solved by one means only. It will take a multi-pronged approach of student ownership and targeted computer rooms on campus to provide the needed computer access in the most cost effective way.

Student ownership, currently around 75%, should be encouraged. Although student ownership will not solve all computer access needs, laptops will help address the network and general productivity software needs. However, only about 8% of students own laptops. Since network access and general productivity are the most time intensive needs student notebook ownership should greatly alleviate the current crowding in the computer rooms. A program to assist students to won laptops is needed,

Campus computer rooms should be divided into computer classrooms which are specifically designed for instruction and computer labs which are designed to meet the remaining needs, which are most cost effectively met by central computer ownership (access to class software, access to specialized hardware and software, and general access for students who do not own computers).

Identifying the Campus' Computer Access Needs

In order to identify more easily the campus' computer access needs, it is useful to look at the problem from the point of view of faculty and students.

Faculty Computer Access Needs

Drawing from discussions of the Instructional Space Advisory Group, the Joint Campus Committee on Information Technology, the FIAT email list, and the Summer Institute on Technology in Teaching it appears that faculty are interested in ways of integrating technology in their teaching. The major areas in which technology is used in teaching: demonstration, collaboration, and student assignments.

Student Computer Access Needs

Lab Management conducted a survey in March 1997 to determine why over 90 percent of students use the campus computer rooms when over 70 percent own computers. The full survey and results can be found at Student Survey - Winter 1997 ( A summary can be found in the appendix.

The survey revealed that there were three main reasons why students use the computer classrooms.

From the survey and discussions with students and faculty Lab Management developed the following list of types computer access needed by students.


Meeting the Campus' Computer Access Needs

Since the identification of needs was broken down into faculty and student needs, the discussion on the most appropriate way to meet those needs is similarly divided.

Meeting Faculty Computer Access Needs

Mediated Classrooms
ISAG and IT Media Engineering are addressing this issue. It appears that mediated classrooms address the projection and network needs of the faculty.

Computer Classrooms
There has been much discussion on how best to create a teaching environment with computers for the instructor and students. Some of the main issues are:


Therefore, the only appropriate solution for this type of instruction is the computer classroom. Faculty have been enthusiastic in using this type of instructional setting causing the scheduled time in IT computer room to increase from 901 hours in Fall 1992 to 2619 hours in Spring 1997.

Meeting Student Computer Access Needs

There are several issues that affect many of the student computer access needs.

While student owned machines can provide access to general productivity software, access to the network is problematic and access to printers is often too expensive. Laptops will improve the access to network situation, but most students will not be able to take advantage of this method of access since they do not own laptops. Access to specialized hardware and

The following chart summarizes the types of computer access that students need identifies the appropriate ways to meet those needs.

Type of Access Student Owned Laptop Student Owned Desktop Computer Lab Computer Classroom
Access to class software No No In most cases Yes
Access to specialized hardware and software Expensive Expensive Yes Yes
Access to network Yes, via Net Access Ports Speed and access limitations Yes Yes
Access to printer Expensive Expensive Yes Yes
General Productivity software Yes Yes Yes Yes



A Brief History of Computer Classrooms

In the late 1980's the Office of the Registrar, the English department, Computing Services (the precursor of Information Technology) and faculty created computer classrooms with a vision of designing a new teaching environment. These classrooms were controlled by the Registrar and as such were scheduled for academic classes in the same way as "normal" classrooms.
The English department started teaching normally offered English classes in these rooms. Instead of teaching about computers, the instructors used the computers as a tool to teach English. The focus was not so much on the computer, but rather on how the computer could improve the learning experience. A "computer classroom offers different kinds of communication opportunities for writing instructors, including real-time demonstrations, electronic essay pick-up and drop-off, on-line conferencing, and screen sharing."
Other disciplines began to see the value of computer classrooms, and now many (including Psychology, Spanish, Linguistics, Nutrition, Chinese, Plant Biology, Chemistry, Animal Science, and others) are scheduling classes in the computer classrooms.
For a discussion on the use of computer classrooms please look at The Computers in Composition Program ( It describes some of the tools that computer classrooms provide instructors.

Student Survey

In a survey conducted in March 1997 Lab Management attempted to determine why over 90 percent of students use the campus computer rooms when over 70 percent own computers. The full survey and results can be found at Student Survey - Winter 1997 (

There were 421 total responses and multiple reasons were allowed.

Reason Responses Percentage
Need to access the network 310 75%
Need to print 278 67%
Need to access class software or information 223 54%
Don't own a computer 123 30%
Campus computers are more convenient than mine 120 29%
Campus computers work better than mine 109 26%
Other 101 24%

The top reasons for using the computer rooms are access the network (75%), access printers (67%), and access class software (54%). The percentage of students who own computer, which shows in students using the computers since they don't own their own, is roughly 70%, the same as in other surveys. It is interesting to look at the reasons comparing computer owners vs. non-owners. The don't own, campus computer are more convenient, and campus computer are better responses were removed since they don't make sense in this comparison.

  Computer owners (293) Non-owners (128)
Access the network 67.6% 91.9%
Access to printers 59.0% 86.3%
Access class software 52.1% 58.1%

Non-computer owners used the computer rooms to access the network and printers in greater percentages than computer owners. However, computer users still relied on the computer rooms heavily for network and printer access.

IT Strategic Plan of 1992

Information Technology's Strategic Plan in 1992 states:
"Strategic Outcome: A majority of students and faculty will have access to their own personal workstations, and the campus will begin a corresponding transition from investment in large numbers of open access sites with low-end software and hardware, to emphasis on investments which provide network and services access for personally-owned workstations, e.g., docking-stations, and to shared campus instructional facilities with high-end equipment and software which individuals cannot typically afford."

Planers assumed that the need for access to campus computers would decrease as student ownership increased. However, in the years that followed this assumption has proved to be false. In reality lab usage has increased over the past few years. The increase can be seen in Computer Classroom Report - Spring 1997 ( Time reserved for classes between M-F 8-6 for classes has increased from 13% in Fall 1992 to 51% in Winter 1997.

Summary of DHCP

DHCP stands for "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol". DHCP's purpose is to enable individual computers on an IP network to extract their configurations from a server (the 'DHCP server') or servers, in particular, servers that have no exact information about the individual computers until they request the information. The overall purpose of this is to reduce the work necessary to administer a large IP network. The most significant piece of information distributed in this manner is the IP address. A more complete description can be found at

There are several reasons to use DHCP. DHCP allows your to move a computer, such as a laptop, among various locations without reconfiguring the TCP/IP setting. For example, if a faculty member had a laptop which he wanted to take from his office to a networked classroom to present in class DHCP will allow the laptop to hook to the network in both locations without reconfiguring the computer. Or if a student has a laptop she wishes to use to access the network in various locations around campus DHCP will handle the TCP/IP configuration.

Last reviewed: Thu, 22-Apr-2004
Last updated: June 17, 1997