We have elected to go the opposite direction. We re-
evaluated our general purpose labs this spring, and
essentially eliminated all of them. Prior to this change we
had 188 computers, with a student enrollment of 16,000.
1) We were faced with another round of significant budget
cut requirements, and we took a "zero base" approach to all
2) Usage patterns showed that the lab usage trends were
falling off, from capacity all the time 5 years ago, to peak
of 30% last fall.
3) Activity in the labs change, which we followed through
our limited software tracking system. Five years ago much of
the work was statistics, math, engineering or word
processor. Last fall, the top three software packages were a
web browser, email and a word processor - and these three far
outdistanced everything else. We suspect a lot of IM too.
4) Discussions about usage showed an attitude change.
Students we interviewed felt that their primary general
purpose computing took place at home or in the residence
halls (where this is a 15 computer lab limited to residence
hall residents). The students we interviewed used our labs
because they wanted to fill time between classes with
browsing (either recreational or limited research with faster
network access than they had at home), access email or
instant messaging, or to do a last minute fix and print of
5) We found that the growth of specialized computing "labs"
tightly tied to the curriculum and doubling as classrooms,
run by the academic units, were much more utilized and
utilized more in connection with teaching and learning.
Why? Long history of central IT leadership not having a
vision to create a larger media center, probably a lack of a
central facility, maybe the disconnect with the library, not
keeping a strong variety of software, culture change with
computer home purchases and IT not rethinking the vision.
With budget cuts, there was no money to "catch up" now.
SO - we turned over the remaining centralized "general
purpose" labs to the School of Engineering and Computer
Science and two rooms to the classroom group. Eng. is
redoing the labs to match their curriculum. The classroom
group is making one room a proctored lab for online
learning. The last room they will support primarily as a
classroom, but with some open lab hours as we transition.
We in central IT are out of the lab business, except as
consultant on PC repair, network connectivity, etc.
Assistant Vice President
University Technology Services
www.oakland.edu/uts - the latest news from University Technology Services
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