Laptop program could help students


Editorial Board

Issue: A mandatory laptop program raises numerous questions. Implementing a system where students are required to purchase a laptop faces as many challenges as the number of majors at SDSU.

Laptops are essential to college life for many students at SDSU. Increasingly, students live constantly attached to their computers. With a constant diet of YouTube culture and Wikipedia knowledge, laptops (or desktops) are owned by a staggering number of students. Services like Desire2Learn have moved the classroom to the Internet without blinking. It didn’t seem too outrageous when members of the Board of Regents proposed the idea of requiring students to purchase laptops as part of their tuition, especially when students at Dakota State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are already members of a mandatory laptop program. SDSU, along with USD, NSU and BHSU, could start using such a program beginning in Fall 2010. If the proposed plan is approved, 50% of SDSU programs on campus could be required to buy mobile computers. We agree there are many positives to this idea. However, we see several caveats that could make this type of program a nightmare.

For the technologically uninformed, this type of system makes the decision easy. Ready access to comprehensive repairs is great for those who don’t know what a motherboard is. The comfort of knowing a big investment is covered by capable technicians is worth the price for some people. Standardization can make a laptop easier; however, some departments could have students that don’t want to buy one of the pre-approved laptops. Other groups, like international students who are only here for a year, could be burdened by the requirement. The same goes for non-traditional and part-time students, who don’t have the same class loads and living situations as traditional students. If the rational is reasonable, there needs to be an opt-out for those that don’t need the assistance and can meet the mobile computer program specifications on their own. If a laptop is needed only for a few classes, students should have access to a temporary rental program.

As stated before, this program could be a boon for South Dakota. Several K-12 schools in the state already use laptops, and furthering that ideal through the entire system may be a good idea. At SDSU, however, there are plenty of programs that could be hindered by arbitrary requirements. This program needs to be a backbone to a change in our classrooms and not a tacked-on waste of money. We feel this could facilitate our education and improve our lives – just guarantee we’ll be able to use it for more than playing Solitaire.

Stance: Providing students with a painless laptop purchasing system sounds like a great idea, but a myriad of circumstances among SDSU students raise many red flags. An extra year to develop the program will help, but the time needs to produce a fool-proof, easy and reliable system to better educate students through technology.