In the middle of a review of our services at the moment. Dr John Bielec, CIO at Drexel University has been over a couple of times before, and is here again for a 3 day visit. He's spent a lot of time talking to us and our major customers, and will produce a report of our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. It's always been very helpful in the past and is a good "health check" of what we're doing.
One of the areas we've spent some time discussing today is whether we should continue to provide student computing rooms and PCs in the Information Commons. Given that we know that about 90% of students are arriving at University with a PC, (mainly laptops), why are we still not only providing them but are increasing their numbers? Despite opening the Information Commons two years ago with 550 PCs available 24*7, plus another 1000 across campus, why is "increase the number of PCs" the most requested improvement to our services in our student satisfaction survey? The University of Virginia has announced that it will phase out most of its student computing rooms over the next 2 years.
Walking round the IC today, nearly all of the PCs were in use, and there were many students with laptops. The wireless network is fairly pervasive over the campus, so why is there such a demand on our PCs? One answer is that the managed service gives access to the specialist teaching applications - but we know that these aren't widely used. Most of our services - mail, VLE etc - are web based and could just as easily be accessed from laptops. So, what would happen if instead of increasing the number of PCs we started to reduce it? Would more students bring their laptops onto campus? It would certainly save a huge chunk of my budget which could be put into improving other services. What are the barriers to students using their own machines - their weight, security, battery life, easily damaged? If there's any students reading this I'd love to know the answer!