The Benefits Of Laptops And Wireless Cards

The Benefits Of Laptops And Wireless Cards

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The Benefits Of Laptops And Wireless Cards


The CEO of Viacom/Blockbuster was once quoted for saying, “The information superhighway is a dirt road that won’t be paved over until 2025” (The Freeman Institute). Obviously, this was an erroneous quote. The information age is currently at its peak. The use of technology and the Internet are an essential part of higher education. In the past few years, colleges have begun providing laptops to all students. A few colleges have even developed programs that use wireless network cards to access the Internet from anywhere on their campuses. Giving students a laptop and a wireless network card has increased the learning possibilities at schools nationwide. This is a very recent idea being practiced by hundreds of colleges around the United States. However, this idea is one of controversy. Despite the many benefits, these laptops have their flaws. They create problems such as maintenance efforts, depreciation value, classroom misuse, faculty training, and raised tuition (Beebe 2-8). Another issue is whether or not the laptops actually benefit the students or just distract them.
There are many benefits of using laptops over conventional personal computers. Some of the benefits include portability, access, PowerPoint Presentations, slideshows, e-mail, using the Internet, and online notes. All of these advantages are put together to make a very economical and beneficial laptop (Shafer).

One of the biggest advantages is portability. A Minnesota State student Timothy Huebsch says, “On a nice day, we don’t have to be cooped up” (Ojeda-Zapata). One can take his or her laptop to the library, cafeteria, or even to class. The students have all the advantages of a PC without having to sit at a desk working on assignments. Students at Buena Vista University have the capability of accessing the Internet from the residence halls, football stadium, and even the docks on the lake. In other words, it is a major convenience for all the students to have a laptop to write a paper rather than waiting in a line to use a computer lab (Dean). Rick Shafer, who is Buena Vista’s Director of Integrated Technology, summarizes the advantage of portability by saying, “The main purpose of the laptop program was so that student could have access to computers. Prior to this program students had to wait in line often to use a computer.

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eBVyou allows students to use computers anytime, anywhere, anyhow” (Shafer).

Another benefit of the laptops is access. In the past, students had to wait in line or sign up to use a certain computer at Buena Vista University. The students had a time limit on a computer even if they did not finish typing their papers. Their new eBVyou program has annihilated this problem. Ken Blackney, director of core technology at Drexel University, says, “The network comes to you instead of you going to it” (Dean). It gives the students the advantage to work on their paper when they want, and they will not be in a hurry to finish a paper because of a time limit.

Laptops can make classes such as computer applications and programming much easier to teach. The professors can fit many more laptops into the same space than if it were filled with bulky PC. Think about a computer lab filled with twenty large personal computers. Each PC contains a tower, monitor, speakers, keyboard, and mouse. They take up a large amount of the desk. Now, line up twenty laptop computers and see how much space you save. One also does not have to mess around with ten different cords when moving and assembling the personal computers. Overall, the laptops are more conventional and functional.

Another advantage to the laptops are the endless opportunities they create in the classroom. They generate exciting and new ways of teaching. Instead of just giving notes on a blackboard, teachers can now use Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to give notes. The slideshows may be more intriguing than regular notes and keep the students more interested even on boring topics. Professors can add text, sounds, and graphics to spice up their slide shows. One of the advantages includes the ability to print out your slideshow very easily into student handouts. The other way students can get the notes is by posting the PowerPoint presentation either on the Internet or just creating a Web page with the information on it (Maier and Warren 40-46).

Another endless opportunity includes having teachers use the Internet. Students attending a wireless campus can bring laptops to every class they have. This allows the professors to make the students look up information on Webpages during class. It also allows them to use e-mail in the learning environment. The possibilities include e-mailing the class notes, examples, or handouts. It also saves the professors time by not having to make photocopies.

Taking notes on a laptop is a definite advantage. Many people can type much faster than they can write. They do not need to buy as many pens and as much paper as they would if they had taken the notes manually. Notes on computers can be much more legible and easier to read than the conventional paper and pen method of taking notes. With modern word processing programs, students can not only type their notes, but also draw diagrams. They simply have to click on the drawing icon, and they are able to make graphs, diagrams, and other notes that a professor might put on a board.

Overall, the laptop has many advantages to back up the college and universities that have adopted the laptop and wireless communities. We see the benefits of portability, access, classroom size, PowerPoint presentations, e-mail, use of the Internet, and taking notes. With all of these positive advantages, students should be able to enhance their learning with the use of a laptop.

These ideal wireless campuses seem almost too good to be true. Why isn’t every college in America switching to wireless laptops? Despite the many benefits, these laptops have their flaws. They create problems such as maintenance efforts, depreciation value, classroom misuse, faculty training, and raised tuition (Beebe 2-8).

These little laptops can create nightmares for college technicians. Maintenance becomes a big predicament for all colleges and universities with laptop programs. Students have various problems of all sorts concerning software and hardware. There are not enough computer technicians to satisfy the number of tribulations that occur. Laptops are more easily broken because they are constantly being moved and are more apt to being dropped. These broken computers cannot be easily fixed and must be sent into the manufacturer to be repaired (Beebe 2).

Mayville State University’s Keith Stenehejm, who is chief information director, has a different sort of setback. His college has issued laptops to all the students, but lacks the wireless campus. All of the classrooms come equipped with Internet ready desks, which allow the students to plug their laptops into an Ethernet jack. He has troubles with the wear and tear on the Ethernet hubs and cables. They need to be replaced quite often. “This is a relatively simple but time-consuming task,” says Stenehejm (Beebe 4).

A third issue that occurs is the depreciation of the computers. A computer is outdated and worthless within a couple of years. Northwest Missouri State University’s Jon Rickman, the director of computing services, says, “Students and parents were seriously disappointed that computers were worth so little after only two years. Basically, folks ended up owing more than a unit was worth after only two years” (Beebe 2-3).

Another dilemma is created when students misuse their laptops. Computer programs such as AIM, MSN, ICQ, and Yahoo Messenger are called Instant Messaging programs. They are used to chat instantly with friends. These programs allow students to chat back and forth to each other during class, which has become a problem in colleges using the laptops. Once again Rick Shafer from Buena Vista University has a better insight on the problem. Shafer says,

Is using MSN a misuse? If I don’t understand what the professor has just said and IM someone two seats away to see if they understood it, is this a bad thing? Is using MSN in class any different than playing tetris on a fancy calculator, or drawing pictures on a notebook, or daydreaming about Nebraska kicking Oklahoma’s butt this weekend? The laptops have made it more obvious when students are not paying attention. If instructors think this is a problem, then it is up to them to control the classroom environment (Shafer).

Shafer makes brilliant comments concluding that the decision whether to use the laptops wisely or not lies in the eyes of the beholder. The student must decide whether he or she wants to learn the material for the day. They are paying the tuition and cost to lease the laptop, so it is their choice whether to use it to their advantage.
Another conflict is that faculty training becomes a setback. It is expensive to make the entire faculty take computer classes in order to learn how to use their laptops. Who has the time to take classes to learn how to use their laptop and use it in the classroom to benefit students? This is another key problem facing universities. The University of Minnesota-Crookston campus says that they have had trouble with faculty training (Beebe 5). The professors simply refuse to use it because they didn’t need it in the past. The difficulty of trying to alter their style of teaching has caused many of the professors just to ignore the laptop given to them. It also increased work for some teachers to come up with ways of incorporating laptops into their teaching. University of Minnesota-Crookston’s David DeMuth is a professor of physics and mathematics. He concludes that the laptops generate nearly twenty hours of extra workload to his ever-busy schedule of teaching three courses and several labs. DeMuth also says, “It’s hard to get things ‘in a can’ and make them work” (Olsen). Another person that has had a similar problem is Jennifer Bolt, the director of The Institute for Teaching and Technology at Acadia University in Canada. Her university expects the professors to use the multimedia devices such as televisions, laptops, and PowerPoint presentations. Bolt replies, “And that’s an unrealistic expectation” (Olsen).

The last disadvantage is the fact that the lease of the computer raises the student’s tuition by more than several hundred dollars. Tuition has risen faster than the rate of inflation for the past thirty years (Ehrenberg). Add to this an extra thousand dollars for a laptop computer that a student has to lease (Dean). This makes for an expensive tuition that requires students to get outside help to pay for tuition. This financial assistance may come in many ways including loans, scholarships, and work-study.
After reading many published articles and visiting many Webpages concerning the laptops, it is apparent that the laptops with the wireless campus will only work at certain campuses. Many universities drop their laptop programs because they go into debt as a result of the cost of the program. The University of Georgia is one of the most recent colleges that have decided to drop its laptop program. The college is taking a 1.5 million dollar debt along with it. University executive director of Office of Information Technologies and Service Ronald Barden says, "We learned that it's not financially feasible for a public institution to buy laptop computers and issue them to students and charge them a fee” (“Georgia System”). The use of laptops was meant for and will work at smaller, private schools (Beebe 2). These colleges have more money to spend on technology. It has also proven to improve enrollment at the smaller private schools. It is another incentive for high school seniors to visit and attend the college. University of Minnesota-Crookston has reported that enrollment in the past five years has increased by over 40 percent (Beebe 5).

The use of laptops has many advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantages of the laptop are its portability and access. Other advantages include classroom size, PowerPoint presentations, e-mail, use of the Internet, and taking notes. However, laptops have several disadvantages, such as maintenance, depreciation value, classroom misuse, faculty training, raised tuition, and college size. The maintenance problem is not really something one can fix because accidents will happen. All colleges have maintenance problems with either laptop computers or larger PC’s. The problem is that normally a laptop is more expensive to fix than a PC. Depreciation value is really not something that one can fix, either. However, a student can choose to buy their computer upon graduation at many of the colleges. This will seem to make the investment of a laptop more valuable. The decision of the students to use their laptops to be beneficiary or not will lie with the student. The students need enough self-motivation to not abuse their laptops in class. Faculty training will always be an issue with laptops. Sending professors to technology workshops can help them cheaply incorporate the technology of the laptops into the classroom. The raised tuition of colleges and universities with laptops usually is not a problem. The majority of institutions that have developed laptop programs and wireless campuses are smaller, private schools. Normally, these institutions are able to provide more financial aid to students than a larger public university.

Overall, the many benefits of laptops outweigh the disadvantages. This is a new technology that is still being developed and improved. Many more colleges have begun to plan on issuing laptops to all of their students, realizing that they need to do this to keep up with the growth of technology. The future may bring even more advantages to laptops and wireless campuses.

Works Cited

Beebe, Richard. NETLEARN. Buena Vista University, 1998.

Dean, Katie. “College With No Wires Attached.” Wired 16 April 2000: Accessed through the Online database LEXIS-NEXIS.

Ehrenberg, Ronald G. Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

The Freeman Institute. “Quotable Quotes.” 11 Oct. 2001 <http://www.freemaninstitute.com/quotes.htm>.

“Georgia System Ends Laptop Program With Debt and Claims of Success.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 1 June 2001.

Maier, Pat, and Adam Warren. Integrating Technology In Learning & Teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publication Inc, 2000.

Ojeda-Zapata, Julio. “Graduating to Wireless.” St. Paul Pioneer Press 16 Oct. 2000.

Olsen, Florence. “Colleges differ on costs and benefits of ubiquitous computing.” The Chronicle of High Education. 26 Jan. 2001: Accessed through the Online database LEXIS-NEXIS .

Shafer, Rick. “Questions About Buena Vista.” E-mail from Rick Shafer. 24 Oct. 2001.

Works Consulted

Bennett, Frederick. Computers as Tutors: Solving the Crisis in Education. Sarasota, FL: Faben, Inc., 1999.

Cole, Robert A. Issues in Web-Based Pedagogy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Dominick, Jay. “Wireless at Wake Forest.” 13 Oct. 1997. 11 Oct. 2001 <http://www.wfu.edu/~jld/wireless/>.

Ryan, Steve, et al. The Virtual University. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing Inc.: 2000.
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