why do we still have computer labs?

Building on the EDUCAUSE Review regular feature on IT Myths, in particular “The Myth about the Need for Public Computer Labs,” have you wondered whether colleges still need to devote precious campus space to computer labs? Don’t all students have their own computers today? Don’t most of them have laptops that they can tote to the library or wherever?

Well, I don’t know the data about student computers on our campus, although I do suspect that our students might have better access than is reported nationwide at large public institutions. The EDUCAUSE article cites a 2005 survey that only 72% “of all college and university students own their own computers.” I’d be surprised if our numbers are that low, but I’m also sure that some of our students fall into the gap of not having a computer. But even if all our students owned computers, I would argue that we still need to offer computer labs, in the library and elsewhere on campus. Here are some of the points I agree with from the article and one of my own:

  1. computer labs offer computers with the speed and graphics capabilities required by some course software
  2. computer labs ensure that a class is all working with the same advantages for in-class exams or exercises
  3. computer labs mean students don’t have to lug their laptops around looking for outlets or network connections
  4. computer labs offer spaces for “collaboration, socialization, and computational research.”
  5. computer labs can provide the best software for special projects, such as animation or special document creation, music editing, or 3D experiences
  6. computer labs can provide access to instructional assistance

The article does suggest that each campus asks the right questions, though. What questions should we be asking? What would you like students to be able to do in our computer labs?

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Categories: computers, education, software, technology

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