Regents eventually will require laptops for every state university student

Julie Frank

Julie Frank

Future SDSU students will be required to have a laptop under a program implemented by the Board of Regents.

“The goal is to integrate technology and use it as a tool in teaching,” said Students’ Association (SA) Vice President Eric Hanson.

The Mobile Computing Initiative involves all six state universities, according to Paul Truman, the BOR director of academic assessment. Currently, Dakota State University in Madison is in its fourth year of a similar program and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is in its second year. The program will be installed at SDSU within four to five years.

The SA, the South Dakota Student Federation and the Department of Student Affairs were against the Mobile Computing Initiative last fall, according to former SA President Alex Brown. He said each individual university should decide whether to implement the program or not.

However, according Hanson, the SA and the Student Federation are working with the task force – which includes university technical personnel and faculty members – to successfully develop the program.

“I think it is a good idea, but as we go on in time, it needs to be done correctly,” Hanson said. “It has great potential for students, but we should not rush into it.”

Hanson said the program does not affect current students, and a date will be set for incoming freshmen who will use the program.

SDSU faces different challenges than smaller state universities because of the number of majors and students. The initiative will gradually be implemented program by program, and all programs may not have the same computer or software.

Currently five departments at SDSU mandate laptops, including interior design, nursing, biology and microbiology, visual arts and journalism.

Although nothing has been made official, Hanson said SDSU will probably follow DSU and the School of Mines and Technology’s lease-to-own program. Students will pay a semester fee between $300 and $400 and have the opportunity to purchase the laptop when finished with school. Students will also receive a new computer during their junior and senior year. Hanson said in the end, students do pay more for the laptop but leave with an upgraded computer and get to keep the software. The lease-to-own program also allows students who change majors to exchange computers or software.

Hanson added that he hopes the program will not increase student fees too much, which could turn away future students.

Truman said the Mobile Computing Initiative faces three issues.

One is campus infrastructure, meaning classrooms need to be equipped to handle the program. Hanson said this would include wireless technology everywhere, smart classrooms, power sources for all student computers and desks designed to fit computers.

The South Dakota State Legislature denied funding for updating the infrastructure this past session. The request was attached to a bill that included the Department of Education’s Classroom Connection Project, which provides laptops for high school students, according to Truman. He said the BOR will try again next year and show the legislature the impact the program has on students’ education.

Another issue the program faces is training and development. Truman said that both students and faculty need to understand the technology in order for it to be effective. In addition, technical support will also need to be trained to solve troubleshooting issues.

The last issue is integrating the program into students’ learning and encouraging instructors to use the technology available.

Truman said three groups are currently studying the issues and will make recommendations to address them.

The Mobile Computing Initiative will not eliminate computer labs on campus, Hanson said. Labs will be maintained for research, serve as a backup for students and more.

Truman said that meetings will be held throughout the summer to better outline the project.