The Instructional Computing Dept. is conducting a trial program this quarter that allows students in need to borrow laptop computers for several hours at a time, free of charge.
Called the Laptop Loaner Program, the plan is currently faced with many limitations — not the least of which is a weakened university budget for this type of project — but its sponsors in the IC Dept. say it has the potential to grow into a substantial student service. There are only six laptops available for three-hour loans during the program’s trial period: three PC laptops at Phelps Hall and three at the Student Resource Building. The laptops are available until 6 p.m.
Alx Sanchez, Instructional Computing Training and Consulting Manager, emphasized the importance of accessibility to education tools for students.
“Other schools at the UC level do this already,” Sanchez said. “They have bigger, full-on programs and not only have Windows machines, but also Mac machines. We noticed that at other schools there is a big demand because people lose their laptops. Some people don’t have a laptop, or people do, but don’t want to have it stolen.”
Presently, UCSB’s program remains small so that the IC Dept. can measure the demand from students.
Mark Dotson, lab operations manager, said the creation of an efficient program will depend on information gathered from the trial.
“We don’t want to guess what [students] will use it for and use up resources,” Dotson said. “With the limited funds we have, we want to target what would be most useful. If there is any feedback, positive or negative, we’d love to hear it.”
Despite the program’s modest size and limited budget, Sanchez and Dotson share a vision of having a program similar to what they have seen implemented at UCLA, and perhaps bigger.
“Theoretically, you could also do this on the road,” Dotson said. “Normally, you would go into a traditional computer lab. But instead, imagine rolling out a cart with laptops on it, inside or outside a classroom. Some schools have laptops checked out for an entire quarter; that could also be something we do in the future.”
I am curious to know how they lock down the laptops. It would be easy to install malicious backdoors and keyloggers. I would pray the next person who checks out the same laptop does not access any sensitive information (i.e. Bank account).
I hope they re-image the machine each time it is returned.