One of West Liberty University President Robin C. Capehart’s first initiatives upon taking office in 2007 was to put mobile technology in the hands of every incoming freshman. Now in its fourth year, the student laptop program has proven to be a success.
Jim Clark, WLU’s chief technology officer for information technology services, explained that WLU is distinctive among laptop-providing institutions. “Our IT department provides software and repair services to students for their entire academic career, from freshman year to graduation if they elect to participate in the program.”
Only about 2.5% of U.S. institutions of higher education provide laptop computers to their students.
One of the unique aspects of WLU’s initiative is the support offered by the IT department, Clark said. The team of specialists provides support not only in terms of repair and software, but in “aiding faculty in using technology as a teaching tool to synergize, infuse and create an active learning environment,” he explained.
First-time full-time freshmen registered for 12 or more credit hours are eligible to participate in the program. Students entering communications and graphic design, including the digital media design concentration, must bring their own computer but will receive Adobe’s top-of-the-line Creative Suite Master Collection software, a $2,400 value, Clark said. Students in art education, music education or music performance majors will receive an iPad2. Details of the program are available on the university website, westliberty.edu/it/student-technology-serv/student-laptop/.
“The options are tailored to the particular needs of the students, depending on their academic pursuits,” Clark said. “The needs of business majors are different from those studying graphic design, for example.”
He added that students constantly provide feedback on their laptop needs, which is why this year the university is providing an Acer model with the large screen WLU students have said they want.
University employees are prepared to distribute computers on Aug. 22, when over 500 new freshmen arrive on the hilltop campus for the fall semester. Today’s high school graduate arrives on a college campus already immersed in mobile technology, so the WLU laptop program is a natural next step in that experience. “We know it’s a tool students need for research, writing and social interaction,” Clark said.