Implementation of a laptop program was the beginning of the simplification and standardization of IT at Grove City College (PA), a common enough move these days as anywhere, anytime computing becomes the campus norm. What makes this program strikingly different from other colleges’ is that it was launched - in partnership with HP - more than a decade ago when laptops were not the sleek, ubiquitous tools they are today.
But Grove City College is conservative only in social outlook, not in its approach to technology and mobile computing. The College fosters intellectual, moral, spiritual and social development consistent with a commitment to Christian truth, morals and freedom - the four-year liberal arts school has been long recognized for its academic quality - and insists its graduates possess a high level of cultural literacy, strong communication skills and specialized knowledge in major or professional fields. Today, 2,300 students attend courses at the College.
Eleven years ago, the College recognized the need for a laptop PC program. “Staff wanted to integrate laptops into the curricula to leverage efficiencies,” says Chief Information Officer Vince DiStasi.
“Additionally, by equipping incoming students with a laptop for the duration of their time with us, the faculty doesn’t have to worry when setting an assignment that the students may not have the right tools available.” Under the laptop program, faculty members eligible for an equipment refresh may elect to receive the new model of mobile PC to ensure that the latest capabilities get leveraged in the classroom as much as possible. Staff also receives a docking station with keyboard, mouse and 17-inch LCD monitor. DiStasi notes, “Each year, we decide on a model with HP in February, then we purchase 640 units in the spring, and image them over the summer so they are ready for use in the fall. At any point in time, we only have four models on campus to support. This last year, we equipped incoming students and teachers with the HP Compaq Tablet PC tc1100, and based on their success during the last semester, we’re planning on bringing in more for subsequent years to fully replace the existing laptops.”
DiStasi has continued to look for ways to increase equipment availability and infuse curricula with appropriate application of technology, while lowering the total cost of ownership for the infrastructure. “We discovered students used the laptops more outside of the classroom than within, and we wanted to enable greater use of technology in the teaching environment,” he adds. “HP Compaq Tablet PCs allow the students to make digital notes in their own handwriting, which are easy and simple to search through at a later date.
In addition, many faculty members use slides for presentation purposes and they permit the students to download and annotate them during the lecture, which has eliminated the need for ‘smart boards’ in the classrooms.
Another example of leveraging the flexibility of the Tablet PC during teaching is in our chemistry lab, where instead of buying expensive standalone equipment, such as pH meters, we have purchased USB probes - at only a fraction of the cost of a meter - and the data is directly input into the laptops.
“HP solutions have enabled us to transform our IT infrastructure into one that facilitates and delivers simple access to an enhanced learning environment while delivering greater support efficiency. This helps Grove City College hold down the overall cost of tuition, making us extremely competitive and attractive to prospective students.”