Good point on the support implication of computers vs textbooks and
you are right that there must be support boundaries. This is
something we struggle with like almost everywhere I presume. In our
case we have drawn the boundaries in a way that works for us. Maybe
because we have a pretty strong base of IT staff (but not a large
staff) fluent with supporting PC's and Mac's the platform issue is
not a major one for us. In fact I couldn't argue that a single
platform would change our support costs.
In our case we have focused efforts on drawing the boundaries at the
application level with emphasis on multiplatform applications. We
promote and support Eudora as our POP/SMTP e-mail client. We don't
support Outlook, Netscape, etc.. Not because they don't work, it is
just because we can't master everything. Same thing with MS Word vs
WordPerfect. So this is similar to what some are talking about doing
at the OS or hardware layer. Actually, on the PC hardware side we
have standardized on Gateway. Not because they are better than DELL,
just we have a support relationship with Gateway that allows us to
support than hardware better than DELL.
Maybe my perspective on this is based upon our school make-up. We
are a liberal arts college with a large School of Music as well as a
School of Education. Both of these areas feel a strong Mac focus is
necessary/desired. However Computer Science as well as Business &
Economics feel that Windows is the predominant tool they should be
using. Throw Linux here in there in some of the sciences. So, we
have tried (far from perfect) to support the OS's and core common
applications with the faculty being self-sufficient for many of the
specific curricular applications.
I think this is a good discussion. I hope that in our challenging
fiscal times we don't make decisions with long-term implications that
*could* hinder the academic mission of faculty, department, or
schools because of trying to save a few bucks now.
Thanks all for your contributions.
>But there is an important difference between a faculty member selecting a
>textbook and a faculty member selecting a desktop or laptop computer. A
>faculty member isn't expecting to be able to call a Textbook Support
>Service unit on campus for complex textbook support after acquisition. A
>faculty member does expect to be able to call the campus IT Support Service
>unit for a variety of complex support issues after acquisition of their
>desktop or laptop computer, from configuring the computer, connecting to
>the network, answering questions on how to use the software, repairing the
>computer when it breaks, and the like. Of course, the faculty member will
>expect that support to be quick and effective. Standardization, whatever
>platform (or platforms) is (or are) supported, does reduce the cost and
>complexity of support and improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of
>service. For that reason, many campuses are struggling to reduce the
>complexity of their computing environment and improve the efficiency of
>their service by standardizing on a few supported platforms. This improves
>the level of support for everyone. Most faculty understand that this is a
>At Seton Hall University our central PC Support Services (PCSS) unit
>supports only one brand (IBM) of desktop and laptop computers (and a fairly
>limited number of models of those) and we are in the process of upgrading
>all our computers to one operating system (MS Windows XP). We have a few
>Mac clusters (in Communication, Music, and Public Relations) and Unix
>clusters (in Chemistry and Computer Science) which are supported largely by
>those departments under a Service Level Agreement with PCSS.
>That's not to say we're not interested in experimentation, however. We are
>a "ubiquitous computing" campus, that is, we issue laptop computers to all
>undergraduate students as part of their tuition and fees. This coming
>fall, in collaboration with our CS department, we are instituting a pilot
>project where all laptops issued to students in the physical and biological
>sciences will have a dual boot that will allow students to use either MS
>Win XP or Linux. Linux will be used in the first year CS courses taken by
>most Math and CS majors and by many Chemistry and Physics majors. But more
>interestingly, the project is attempting to replicate all of the Windows
>functionality (which incudes several discipline specific programs such as
>Maple and SPSS) in the Linux environment. The aim of this pilot project is
>to determine if students in the sciences (typically our most
>computationally demanding as well as our most tech savvy students) can
>achieve the same functionality with Linux as they can with Win XP. For
>this pilot project we have a small group of faculty, administrators, and
>students who are willing to provide Linux support for these pilot students.
>The long term goal here is to see if Linux is a viable alternative to MS
>for our general student population. If anyone is interested in more
>information about this "Linux on laptops" pilot, or in collaborating with
>us on this project, please contact Bert Wachsmuth, Chair of the Math/CS
>Department at Seton Hall University (email: [log in to unmask]).
>Stephen G. Landry, Ph.D.
>Chief Information Officer
>Seton Hall University
>E-Mail: [log in to unmask]
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