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Office of Information Technology's Role in
Supporting the Student Computer Ownership Program

20 December, 1995

The Student Computer Ownership Committee was formed in October and charged to identify the issues associated with a policy of mandatory student computer ownership and to recommend the necessary actions to implement the policy, if the Institute were to elect to pursue one. After considerable study and discussion, the committee ultimately turned to an examination of the intended use of a student owned computer to develop its final recommendations. These recommendations are based on the view that, for now, a student- owned platform would be used primarily as a personal productivity tool, with perhaps a few additional applications supportive of the undergraduate curriculum.

The issue of student computer ownership must be considered as only one element of a broader strategy, and must be considered within the context of that strategy and in relation to the initiatives associated with those elements. This broader context is discussed at length in this report. The committee feels that it is crucial for any student computer ownership policy to be presented to the campus community as a part of a broader plan, so that it is not seen as simply a way to transfer costs from Georgia Tech to its students. Indeed, given the increased support, training and networking requirements implied by an ownership policy, most members of the committee are not convinced that any cost savings at all will result.

Data for the current freshman class show that over 50% of new students own their own computers. It is reasonable to expect this percentage to grow during the years a class spends at Georgia Tech. However, a significant percentage of the students do not own computers, including two-thirds of our minority students. Students who do not own a computer thus have considerably less access to computing resources, an obviously valuable tool in today's learning environment. Thus the committee feels that equity of access to computing resources is one of the most compelling reasons for adopting a mandatory ownership policy, presuming that it is coupled with appropriate consideration for financially disadvantaged students.

The committee believes that an acceptable student personal productivity platform could be provided for a purchase price of under $2000. This represents a Pentium (or equivalent) based machine with 16M memory, 1.2G hard drive, 14 inch monitor, and network connectivity hardware. Personal productivity and network software can be accommodated within this pricing. Despite this relatively modest price, the financial impact of a mandatory ownership policy on a large segment of the student body is a significant issue. The committee strongly recommends no mandatory ownership policy be implemented until an adequate program is established to assist financially disadvantaged students.

The following issues must be resolved prior to notifying an initial cadre of students of the need to purchase a computer:

  • specific platform recommendations
  • application software recommendation
  • lease/purchase program agreement in place
  • purchasing vehicle or agent
  • financial aid/loan program in place (application)

Other issues to be resolved before students arrive:

  • receiving point identified (if purchased through campus bookstore)
  • software distribution mechanism identified, implemented
  • staging, configuration, distribution point identified
  • repair facility/capability identified and staffed (as necessary)
  • student seminars/training identified

While some of these issues can be resolved relatively quickly, others may take months, and the committee feels it is unlikely that all planning can be completed in time for the arrival of the freshman class of Fall '96. Thus, if the Institute elects to implement this policy, the committee's recommendation is to implement it coincident with the arrival of the Freshman Class of '97.

Finally, the committee strongly recommends that the appropriate components of the faculty governance system be engaged in the discussion of strategies for implementing this technology more fully into the curriculum, and for overseeing the evolution of this policy.

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Last Modified: September 11, 1998 5:00pm
Approved by External Affairs 10/23/97