The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday January 29th

Computing Initiatives Successful

Dartmouth College and Virginia Tech have adopted initiatives similar to UNC that require all students to purchase personal computers, hoping to enhance student education through the electronic expansion of the classroom.

And some students and administrators at these schools, aside from technological glitches, say they are pleased with the requirement.

"The program has been successful for several years now and has been a significant tool in helping students to complete assignments," said Heather McElrath, Virginia Tech spokeswoman.

The faculty at Dartmouth and Virginia Tech decided to require students to own computers to maximize the schools' computing networks.

"By 1991, it was the feeling of the faculty that you couldn't be an effective part of the community without a computer," William Brawley, spokesman for Dartmouth's computing group, said. "So now everyone here has a computer."

Student complaint at Dartmouth is limited to frequent network shutdowns, but the school is able to fix the problem with little time lost. Dartmouth, a member of the Ivy League, has required students to own computers since 1991.

Unlike UNC, Dartmouth students are allowed to use the computer type of their choice and can even bring a personal computer from home instead of purchasing one from the school. Only students at Dartmouth's business school must own IBM Think Pad laptops.

Brawley said that Dartmouth's size -- about 4,000 undergraduate students and about 1,000 graduate students -- has made the transition over the past 10 years very manageable.

In four years there will be about16,000 undergraduate students at UNC, all with their own laptops.

Since 1998, Virginia Tech -- a university slightly larger than UNC in size -- has required its incoming students to purchase personal computers. McElrath said the university has had no problems with implementing its program.

But students at Virginia Tech criticize the school's ability to meet incoming students' computer demands.

"Eight weeks into the first term of my freshman year I still didn't have the Mac I ordered from the school," said Virginia Tech junior Chris Young. "I then canceled my order and instead ordered a Dell computer online."

Young also criticized the school for its slow off-campus connection but said that his Ethernet connection was still faster and cheaper than using a modem.

Each year Virginia Tech establishes specifications for the new class and provides students with three or four models for school-acceptable computers.

The price of personal computers is not included in the school's tuition, but many of the school's scholarship packages also include grants for computers.

"The bonus of making the computer a requirement is the school's ability to include it in the financial aid package," McElrath said.

McElrath said the transition to student laptops has been smooth because of the technical aspect of the Virginia Tech curriculum. "Virginia Tech realizes that technology is part of the future and is making a conscious effort to focus on computers."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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