Report on Student Computer Access






M. M. Byrne and Tim Leamy
Information Technology
November 12, 1997

Executive Summary


The following report provides a brief overview of the current situation regarding student access to computers. This report also clarifies IT’s scope of responsibility with respect to other divisions, explains what IT has done to address student and faculty need for Fall quarter ‘97, identifies some items requiring immediate action, and others for longer-term consideration.

This report documents how IT uses customer surveys, comparative research, discussion with clients, and tracking of use trends as part of its efforts to identify and address a complex and ever-changing set of uses and needs.

Analysis of the data has revealed several trends: student usage is rapidly rising, computer use is more complex and more difficult to service than in the past, faculty use of computers in the classroom is growing, and demand for higher quality instructional environments is increasing.

While IT has initiated a number of pilot projects and has taken a series of concrete steps to address the diverse and changing needs of our campus clients, the issue of access must be owned by a group of stakeholders -- not only IT.

IT recommends two immediate actions and several longer-terms actions. For immediate action, allocate and increase space exclusively for student access. For longer term action, encourage greater faculty participation and bring together the various stakeholders to build a multi-year plan which includes an annual review to accommodate the changing requirements of faculty and students.




Table of Contents
I. Overview
Purpose of this report
Scope of Influence
II. Assessment of Needs
UCD Client Profile
What other public universities are doing
III. Key Issues Analysis
Student usage is rapidly rising
Student need to complete computer-based assignments is increasing
The Issue of Access
Faculty use of computer classrooms is growing
Demand for quality computer teaching environments is increasing
IV. Fall Readiness
Student Need 
Faculty Need
V. Recommendations for Immediate Action
VI. Future Considerations for Campus Action
Student Need/Use 
Faculty Need/Use
VII. Conclusion

Appendix A. Modem Access Support Documents

Letter to Carole Barone, Associate Vice -Chancellor of Information Technology

Letter from Doug Hartline, Director of Communication Resources

Appendix B. Network Access Improvement Projects

Report on Student Computer Access

I. Overview



Purpose of this report  

Scope of Influence


II. Assessment of Needs

UCD Client profile

As part of its academic support efforts, we have identified two client profiles -- that of students and that of faculty.

Based on various tracking mechanisms, surveys, and front-line contact with the client, we operate under the following assumptions regarding student and faculty need:

Student need/use:
Faculty need:
What other public universities are doing In researching how other institutions of higher learning address the same concerns, it appears that there are four basic trends: Notice from the chart below* that UCDavis provides far fewer general access seats than comparable public universities do. To address student need in a manner comparable to such universities UCDavis will need to provide a ratio of 1 general access seat per 60 students.    
    Name of Institution
    Number of Students
    Ratio of Seats: Students
    Separate access, multimedia, instruction
    Pomona Polytechnic
    U. of Michigan
    Media Union -- 500
    U. of Minnesota
    +100 computers/rm
    U. of Texas-- Austin
    including TB114

III. Key Issues Analysis

IT has identified several issues associated with meeting student and faculty need. Some of these issues we can and are addressing. A number of them require participation and commitment by other campus stakeholders.


Student usage is rapidly rising

IT tracks student use of computer labs in a variety of ways. IT tracks number of hours, percent of seats filled, time of day in greatest demand, in-class instruction vs. general academic use, and more. At this time there is, however, no mechanism to separate time spent by students on specific assignments vs. general academic use, such as researching scholarly topics via the web.

The generally accepted rule of thumb tells us that one hour of class time requires three hours of lab time. From discussion lists such as that of American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) and other special interest groups concerned with this topic, we know that the use of technology can increase "time on task." In other words, students are more likely to spend more time on email discussion than they do in a traditional discussion section. Students tend to spend more time on autotutorials, going over the materials repeatedly, whereas in a traditional lab they may have only one opportunity. Here at UCDavis we have not tracked this information, but we are aware that some institutions of higher education have reported ratios as high as one hour of class time to five hours of access time.

IT does track the increase in pages printed. This seems to suggest increased student usage.

Although 75-80% of students own computers, the 1997 ASUCD survey (details at showed that 90% use the computer labs. Why? In Spring ‘97 IT conducted a customer satisfaction survey of students who use the computer labs in order to discover the reason in the apparent discrepancy. IT found that the major reasons were a demand for: 1) access to the network,

2) access to printers, and

3) access to class software.

By comparison note that a recent survey conducted by University of Texas Austin revealed that although 80% of students provide their own private access to a computer, 68% of students still use a computer lab on campus; 28% use a campus computer daily and 48% use a computer weekly. Again, although 70% of students’ private systems include a modem and printer, the main uses of campus computers are printing, email, and other internet applications. (For a copy of "The University of Texas at Austin Student Computer Survey" please contact Gilda Garcia at

Access to the network, to printers, and to class software is difficult, costly, or impossible from student-owned computers for a variety of reasons. (For a more detailed explanation refer to Computer Access Report:

Student need to complete computer-based assignments is increasing Although IT has no mechanism in place to measure exactly the extent of student assignments requiring computer access, we are aware of several trends based on the research of the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE), the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), and the Flashlight Project. Funded in part by Anneburg/CPB, the Flashlight Project studies educational outcomes, shifts in types of learners, increases in the time on task, and changes in total patterns of educational costs. (

Based on the work of these national organizations we believe that:

Although we do not have hard numbers, we do know from messages from students and concerns voiced by faculty that there is a growing need by students to complete computer assignments. See appendix A. The rise in pages printed as noted above, also supports this premise. From observation, we know that students print out homework, research papers, web-based course materials, and lists of scholarly internet resources.
The Issue of Access A definition of "access" must include more than access to hardware; it must also include access to printers, to discipline-specific software, to study aids, and to network resources.

We have employed four approaches to address this issue:

Beginning with the basement of Olson, Lab Management has worked closely with faculty to redesign spaces so as to accommodate instructional needs. Lab Management has already moved towards separation of instructional use of space vs. general access needs. The overhaul and reconfiguration of TB114 as an open access only computer lab in summer 1997 completed this effort.

While there has been progress in these several areas, demand is increasing at a much higher rate than current resources can meet. Furthermore, the changing nature of software and hardware makes reliability an ongoing challenge, both for technical systems and for ongoing service support.

Faculty use of computer classrooms is growing To promote student computer literacy, faculty are using more and more technology in their instruction. The scheduling of computer classrooms for faculty/instruction has increased from 13.6% of the time available M-F 8-6 in Fall 1992 to 58.2% in Spring 1997. This represents an increase from a total of 901 hours to 2619 hours per quarter.




Demand for quality computer teaching environments is increasing

In Spring ’97, as part of an ISAG workgroup, several recommendations were put forth. One of the recommendations concerned a need for higher quality space designed specifically for different types of instructional use, ranging from space which encourages collaboration and teamwork to hands-on demonstration.


IT attempts to track quality to the extent it is realistically possible. Currently, we define quality in several ways:


IV. Fall ‘97 Readiness

Student Need

To address the student access problem, for the near term, we have: No classes. Because TB114 is a centrally-located stand-alone building, this should relieve some of the crowd management issues occurring in Shields Library and the basement of Olson. In addition, we: However, as useful as these practices are they will not address an exponentially growing need. With an increase in student population and an increase in complex use of technology, a proportional increase in facilities is needed. IT has decided to staff and service designated labs the last several weeks of each quarter in order to increase access for students. IT has decided to open the computer rooms at least two days to as much as a week in advance of the beginning of classes in order to ease the first "rush" of Fall quarter.


IT has been working with the Library, who in early 1997 implemented the use of access ports on the main floor. Students will need retraining in making use of the access ports. We have already identified volunteers willing to work with students and offer demonstrations in how network access ports are convenient and time-saving.

If the pilot project proves successful, IT will seek to expand the use of network access in other locations on campus and in the Library.

IT is beginning plans, following consultation with the building occupants, for installation of access ports in the common area reading room. The Vice Provost – Undergraduate Studies has approved funds for installation of networking and configuration in the Library’s 24-hour reading room. We will work with the Library to establish the additional access space. We will provide the necessary hardware. This should provide another 12-15 terminals and a similar number of network access ports.


Faculty Need To address the demand for higher quality teaching environments, IT has done the following: reconfigured layout so it accommodates teaching needs better upgraded the projection system


V. Recommendations for Immediate Action

Allocate and increase space exclusively for student access

It is IT’s understanding that the Vice Provost – Undergraduate Studies has authorized construction of a general access space in the basement of Olson. This space will provide 90 new seats to be used exclusively for student access. For completion by Fall or Winter of 1998, it is essential that work begin immediately.

In a review of how other campuses have successfully addressed the issue of student access, five consistent characteristics emerge:

IT is working towards these same practices. IT needs campus engagement and cooperation to implement them.  
VI. Future Considerations for Campus Action

student need/use--

Allocate additional space for computer access.

The assumption is that there will be a growth of 1700 additional students to a total population of 21,400 by 2002-2003. Assuming a conservative ratio of 60 students to 1 seat, this means that with a population of 21,400, UCDavis will need a total of approximately 360 seats. With the exception of the 30 seats in TB114 which are exclusively general access, the remaining 240 seats available are split between instruction and access, with access primarily during the non primetime. In other words, UCDavis has 30 seats plus the 240 seats multiplied by 0.5, or 150 seats for access. As part of the construction of the 90-seat general access space, IT will turn over two classrooms in the basement of Olson to the Registrar. Assuming these spaces could still be used in the evenings for general access, this will result in a total of 240 available general access seats by academic year 1998/1999. To meet the ratio which currently exists at comparable public universities today UCDavis needs to add 120 seats by 2002/2003.

IT has been pursuing the possibility of space off campus in the University Mall. Preliminary research reveals that the costs are prohibitive. A separate report with costs and a comparative cost benefit analysis will be made available by 1998. IT will also continue to investigate other options involving cost-sharing with the City of Davis.


Encourage increased student access to higher quality machines.

JCCIT has recommended that computers be mandatory for students. Mandatory computers will not necessarily address the underlying student need for access to high quality machines which support current software, highspeed connections, and discipline-specific research. To ensure that student demand for computer lab access does not increase too quickly, it is critical that students can run campus and discipline specific software on there own machines.

To encourage student ownership of appropriate technology mechanisms must be developed to ensure acquisition of computers which meet IT "recommended solutions" criteria. Leasing programs, available through aggressive vendors such as Dell, administered by the bookstore, should be considered. Other universities (University of Texas at Austin) have successfully negotiated cost-savings using this option.

faculty need/use-- As stated above, the issue of access is complex and requires broad campus involvement. IT is taking action to address a number of concerns. IT works closely both with faculty and with students. We have a number of recommendations which we believe merit consideration.

Diversify kinds of teaching environments

IT urges the campus to consider at least three kinds of instructional spaces currently in use at other institutions of higher learning; these are spaces designed for functions such as:

The campus might look into the computer classroom modeled after one built at Cal Poly Pomona. This classroom was constructed as a collaborative/teamwork classroom and has proven very effective for those purposes. To serve a class of 15-20 students would involve four tables, a junction box, and five computers. The raw costs are therefore relatively small (<$50,000).

Improve support to and training of faculty who use technology in instruction

There are a number of pilot projects in progress to test ways to improve faculty support. These include the laptop pilot project and technology training/roundtables for faculty at the Arbor as well as the Summer Institute (SITT). IT actively participates in such efforts.

Another area of concern to IT is the increase in course web pages. LM needs to work with faculty support staff to encourage faculty to distribute static class materials on CD-ROM or through other delivery mechanisms.

To address the complex uses and needs of both students and faculty, the campus will need to agree to initiate a variety of strategies. A report is currently in process to identify issues and support needs.


Conclusion Technology service providers have come to expect an environment of constant change. What is often difficult to anticipate is how faculty and students will use technologies to enhance and to transform instruction. In order to anticipate needs more effectively, greater involvement by more faculty is needed. By the time it is clear what faculty and students need, the technology has moved through several cycles. The process to implement current technology is out of sync with demand.

The next step is for the various stakeholders to build a multi-year plan to include a consistent and regular review (annual) of the needs of faculty and students related to computer general access and classrooms designed for various instructional and learning styles.