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The Trail Less Travelled: Making Computing Labs More Usable By Removing Barriers


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Title: The Trail Less Travelled: Making Computing Labs More Usable By Removing Barriers

The Trail Less TravelledMaking Computing Labs
More Usable By Removing Barriers
  • Mat Felthousen
  • Assistant Director, University Information
  • Portland, October 20, 2008

  • Rochesters second largest employer with 17,700
  • 4200 graduates (2900ft /1190pt)
  • 4600 full time undergrads
  • 1258 full time faculty

Support Scope
  • Delivery, design, installation, configuration,
    support of technology
  • Classroom support of networking, software,
    hardware, multimedia, integration, pedagogy,
    environmental controls
  • 80 rooms more than an overhead projector, 70
    have touch panel control systems and data/video
  • 160 instructional spaces overall
  • 450 public computers, 25 public printers, some in
    24/7 environment
  • 7 full time staff, 27 student staff (6.8 FTE, if
    we filled all the hours)

Support Scope
  • 19992001 7 support staff
  • 16 smart classrooms
  • 195 public computers
  • 7 printers
  • Classroom support only
  • Today 6 support staff
  • 80 smart rooms
  • 450 public computers
  • 25 pay-printers
  • Streaming/webcasts
  • Video conferencing
  • Room renovations
  • All College requests

  • Three buildings with computing locations (blue)
  • Staff in three locations (yellow)

Yesterdays environment
  • Cell phones not widespread, no wireless
    connectivity of any sort
  • Access constrained to very specific labs
  • No networking in dorms
  • Computing was typically separate from libraries
  • Computing facilities limited
  • Locked down permissions caused functionality
  • End result was learning/computing happened in a
    regimented, fragmented way

Public Lab Commandments
  • No Food and Drink
  • No local administrator rights
  • No changes to lab configuration once semester
    starts at all
  • Specialized software (Photoshop, Dreamweaver,
    etc) restricted to specialized facilities with
    restricted hours
  • No access to removable/recordable media (CD-R,
  • Firewalls, restricted network capability
  • Why?

Why restrictions?
  • IT received no/minimal budget increases
  • Computer costs decreased, but software costs
    increased because theres more to provide
  • Cheaper, but more, computers
  • More bandwidth requirements, higher network costs
  • Because of a perceived threat to resources
  • Because thats the way it has always been

Food and Drink
  • Policy relaxation on the part of the library
  • Revolutionary and controversial to an institution
    concerned with the preservation of documents
  • Immediate and massive groundswell of goodwill
    among students which
  • Seemed to blunt student reaction to also having
    to pay for printing
  • Overall reduction in equipment damage

Todays expectations
  • Be like Starbucks and Borders
  • Computing facilities as social, collaborative
  • Ubiquitous wireless access, high-speed access in
  • All software/functions, everywhere, anytime
  • 24/7 access to information is natural
  • Color printing
  • Food and drink
  • Ability to add software as needed (IM)

Student Feedback, 2005-6
  • We were a couple years into an open model which
    led to
  • Our labs too crowded, overbooked
  • A demand for kiosks in high traffic areas
  • Make department labs more like public labs
  • USB keys didnt work
  • IM clients wouldnt install
  • Headphone ports disabled
  • Remote desktop disabled
  • Areas werent running Windows XP
  • Did not have standard applications
  • Lab changes took weeks or months

Who are we supporting?
  • Millenials, Post-Echo Boomers, Generation Z
  • Helicopter parents (Baby boom/Generation X)
  • Students are digital natives, supported by
    digital immigrants
  • Expanding expectations by all constituents
  • School selection by services offered
  • Wireless
  • Lab experience
  • Student life
  • Academics
  • Teams usually ranks low on the list

  • Selection of a school based on non-academics used
    to be as simple as whether or not they could have
    cable TV, or a good football team
  • December 2007 80 would give up coffee before
  • Now 90 of students polled would give up beer
    before WiFi
  • 3 in 5 would not attend a college that did not
    offer wireless
  • 73 indicated that wireless improved their grades

Helicopter parents
  • Closely involved in life of their child
  • Cell phones typically credited with creating
    the phenomenon
  • See close communication as a way to protect
    educational investment
  • Attend interviews
  • Have even begun to engage in contract
    negotiations with childs employers

Millennials, Gen Y/Z, iGen, etc.
  • Digital Native tech-competent, have always had
    access to technology
  • Group oriented (collaboration)
  • Multitask (even when they shouldnt)
  • Consume 20 hours of media daily, but do it in 7

2007 survey of 7705 college students2
  • 97 own a computer
  • 94 own a cellphone
  • 76 use IM
  • 15 of IM users are on 24/7
  • 34 use websites for their primary source of news
  • 28 have a blog, and 44 read them
  • 49 download music with P2P
  • 75 have a Facebook account
  • 60 own a portable music or video device

Questions to ask of yourself
  • If 97 own a computer, why are labs busier than
  • If 76 use IM, and 15 of IM users are on 24/7,
    do the labs offer that ability?
  • If 75 have a Facebook account, are you using Web
    2.0 effectively for notification?
  • Do laptops really mean that computing labs will
    be used less, therefore easing support burdens?

Fall 2006
  • 250 public machines
  • 396,723 hours of use
  • 1586 hrs/machine

UR Tech Survey, 2007-8
Computer Demographics
  • Eight buildings with computing locations (blue)
  • Nine buildings with public kiosks (red)
  • Eight buildings with instructor stations
  • Staff in one location (yellow)

Recap Fall 2006
  • 250 public machines
  • 396,723 hours of use
  • 1586 hrs/machine

Fall 2007
  • 450 public machines (56 increase)
  • 697,453 hours of use (57 increase)
  • 1549 hrs/machine (-3)

What happened?
  • Students have laptops, but dont carry them
  • Labs have specialized software, printing
  • Labs more conducive to collaborative work than
  • Labs close to classrooms, more convenient

  • Students wanted stand-up kiosks to ensure that
    machines would be available for quick email
  • Average usage across the kiosks was 1760 hours
    per machine, compared to 2500 for a sit down
    machine in a busy facility
  • Immediate positive response, low cost

So more labs, not less
  • Even after nearly doubling the number of machines
    in one year, and no public machine is older than
    3 years, were clearly not off the hook
  • Feedback form results on Monday, March 31, 2008
    at 004842
  • comments Suggestions
  • Computer lab in the Gym!
  • Add wireless in the Gym!
  • Other colleges have a computer lab in the gym and
    wireless was comprehensive.
  • Please initiate this as soon as possible or by
    the end of this semester!
  • In addition, add a couple more computer labs and
    make wireless comprehensive in all dorms etc.
  • Meliora!

Remember the feedback?
  • Make department labs more like public labs
  • More computers
  • More wireless
  • More places
  • More software
  • More, more, more
  • The mandate make the machines flexible, and not
    barriers to modern study habits. And, put them in
    good spots.

  • The more we locked down, the more things were
  • Lost large portion of work week fixing down
  • Could not fulfill requests for special needs
  • Many complaints could be addressed by making
    software ubiquitously available to maximize lab
  • Laptops would not solve our lab or staff crunches
  • Who were we to dictate which IM package would be
    the standard?

Letting go
  • Default account has local admin privileges
    eliminated most software problems
  • No profile restrictions on allowed software
  • All standard options/controls panels available
  • Hardware still secured no thefts or damage in
    several years
  • Constituents are thrilled machines behave
    exactly the way their personal machines do, and
    their personal learning process is unimpeded

Standards maintained
  • Via Centurion Cornerstone CompuGuard Center,
    machines heal immediately after reboot
  • Machines can be remotely unlocked, updated,
  • Securing of machines can be scripted, facilitates
    Windows Update (no SMS yet)
  • And coming soon single-sign-on

  • PC Applications
  • Adobe Director MX
  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS3
  • Adobe Extension Manager CS3
  • Adobe Fireworks CS3
  • Adobe Flash CS3
  • Adobe Image Ready CS3
  • Adobe Illustrator CS3
  • Adobe InDesign CS3
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3
  • Adobe Reader
  • BlueJ 2.0.5
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • JMP 7
  • Kurzweil 3000
  • MathCAD Professional 2001
  • Mathematica 5.2
  • Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2007
  • Minitab 14
  • Macintosh Applications
  • Adobe Bridge
  • Adobe After Effects CS3
  • Adobe Director MX
  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS3
  • Adobe Extension Manager CS3
  • Adobe Fireworks CS3
  • Adobe Flash CS3
  • Adobe Image Ready CS3
  • Adobe Illustrator CS3
  • Adobe InDesign CS3
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3
  • Adobe Reader
  • Audacity
  • Capty MPEG Edit
  • CyberDuck
  • iTunes 7
  • Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2004
  • Mono DVD

  • Available time for in-depth work after-hours

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Timely software installs
  • Create installation package
  • Identify time when lab is available (usually
    after midnight)
  • Remotely unlock machine(s)
  • Remotely push out software update(s)
  • Remotely lock machines(s)
  • Result- immediate response to change requests

Doubled our support scope in one year with no
additional staff Faculty response (same-day
installs) Expanded support role in formerly
siloed areas Students happy, therefore parents
are happy
  • Mediaweek, John Consoli, Millenials Big for
    Media Biz. http//
  • Reynol Junco and Jeanna Mastrodicasa Connecting
    to the Net.Generation What higher education
    professionals need to know about todays
    students, NASPA First edition (March 29, 2007)
  • http//
  • http//
  • http//
  • Additional reading Claudia Wallis The
    Multitasking Generation Time, March 19, 2006

Meliora, and thank you