At Seton Hall University, the demand for computer labs is high, even though
we are a "ubiquitous computing" campus (we issue laptop computers to all
full-time undergraduates as part of their tuition and fees). The faculty
demand to book class time in our four "reservable" public computer labs (we
ahve a fifth lab that is an "open" lab, that is, it cannot be reserved for
classes) comes mainly from our graduate programs, mainly Business and
Education. During early evenings the four of the public computer labs that
can be reserved by faculty are fully booked for courses.
To address this issue, we have two "mobile computer labs" that can be
reserved by faculty in addition to the four fixed computer labs. Each
mobile lab consists of a cart equipped with thirty five wireless laptop
computers. All classrooms at Seton Hall University have wireless network
access, but an additional wireless access point is placed in each cart to
supplement the campus wireless network (using a channel not used by our
fixed wireless access points); this ensures excellent connectivity and
throughput for students using the mobile computer lab. The carts are
stored in two of our academic buildings, in a secure media closet (each
academic building has a secure media closet that is alarmed). Like our
fixed computer labs, the mobile computer labs are reserved by faculty using
an online form. Like other media equipment, they are only available in the
two academic buildings in which they are housed (we do not typically
transport these between buildings, but do so occasionally for special
functions). The mobile computing lab is supported by a Student Technology
Assistant (STA) who is responsible for distributing the laptops, supporting
their use in the classroom, and collecting them after the class (the STA
collects student ID's when the laptops are distributed and returns the ID's
when the laptops are returned).
The laptops in the mobile computing lab will typically hold a charge for
about two and a half hours, just enough for a typical evening graduate
class. When the laptops are returned they are connected to their
individual chargers and they typically charge in about three hours. One of
the academic buildings where a mobile computing lab is located has conduit
with power along the sides and back of each classroom. When we deployed
the campus wireless network and the mobile computer labs we added
additional power outlets in each classroom in the other academic building
(typically a couple of quads along the side and back walls), and we include
a batch of power strips in the cart, just in case there are battery / power
problems in the classroom. One of the academic buildings in which the
mobile computing lab is located has classrooms that support multiple kinds
of teaching and learning, e.g., movable tables on wheels, etc. These
classrooms are excellent locations to use the mobile computing lab. The
second location is a more traditional academic building, with tablet
chairs. While less than ideal, our faculty report that students are able
to make use of the laptop in this environment.
Like our fixed computer labs, the laptops in the mobile labs have a "locked
down" Windows 2000 image that limits the students ability to change
configurations. The down side of this is that faculty and students will
not be able to install their own software; like software for our fixed
computer labs, specialty software must be requested by faculty well in
advance and installed by PC Support Services. The laptops are supported by
PC Support Services, like those in the fixed labs (using the same trouble
ticket process initiated by the STA when they find a disabled computer).
We have had a lively campus discussion regarding the questions surrounding
classroom management in a ubiquitous computing environment. The classroom
management issues surrounding a mobile computer lab are similar to those in
a fixed computer lab, and require that faculty find exercises and
assignments that engage the students in learning using the computer. To
assist faculty, we have implemented a software package called Software
Secure that facilitates classroom management in a computing environment.
This is a client that is installed on the laptops that allow faculty to,
with a little effort in setting up the software, restrict students to using
"faculty approved" software and Web sites during class time. Software
Secure also provides other classroom management features, e.g., it allows
faculty to view what is on each student's computer, or "lock" the laptops
if the faculty wants the students undivided attention for a portion of the
Additional information about Seton Hall University's experience with mobile
computer labs, you can contact Paul Fisher, Associate Director of the
Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center (email: [log in to unmask]); he
manages the two mobile computer labs for Seton Hall.
Seton Hall University is a mid-sized (7,500 FTE students, 350 full-time
faculty) private, Catholic affiliated university in suburban NJ.
Stephen G. Landry, Ph.D.
Chief Information Officer
Seton Hall University
E-Mail: [log in to unmask]
<[log in to unmask] To: [log in to unmask]
Sent by: The Subject: Re: [CIO] Laptops for classroom use
<[log in to unmask]
Please respond to
We look at this option occasionally, but don't see it working very well
on our campus. Hurdles for us:
1. Where is the cart kept? Who handles the check out? Is the area
used for storing the cart secure?
2. Who keeps the software working on the laptops? (We actually solved
this with DeepFreeze). We never found a good solution for keeping
the OS patched.
3. How many laptops should we buy initially? Some of our classes
are large. How many spare laptops should we have?
4. Will the charge hold for our longest class?
5. How will access to the net be handled? Wireless is an option,
but there are the usual security and performance issues.
While all of our classrooms have wired net access, re-wiring for
a large number of laptops is expensive.
6. Most of our classrooms have desks. Where will the students put
the laptops? Handicapped access was also a concern.
7. If the laptops are used for exams, how do you prevent cheating
(looking up answer on Internet, using IM to contact a friend,
8. Who handles tech support when things go wrong?
9. Who will buy the software initially, and the upgrades later? Is there
a plan to replace the computers in a timely fashion?
10. How do you make students pay attention to the instructor and not play
on the Internet, check email, use instant messaging, etc.? (one of
our professors asked this question).
Good luck and please let us know other issues you discover.
Mike Honeycutt UNC Asheville University Computing [log in to unmask]
From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ouska, Julie
Sent: Friday, March 14, 2003 9:30 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [CIO] Laptops for classroom use
Does anyone have any experience using the clustered laptops for classroom
labs? These laptops are stored in a separate unit and then passed out to
students for the duration of the class. The units may even recharge the
laptops when not in use. I know these are used in K-12 environments and
they keep being suggested as possible solutions for periodic or temporary
needs in the classroom. I do have concerns about the maintenance and the
effort required to check out and check in these devices.
Anyone with any experience or insight?
CIO/VP of Information Technology
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(914) 674-7679 fax (914) 674-7514
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