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The Division of Information Technology
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February 2010

Task Force on a Student Computing Requirement at the University of North Carolina Pembroke

Members: Arjay Quizon, Brian McCormick, Cammie Hunt, Charles Lillie, Christopher H Ziemnowicz, Cynthia Miecznikowski, Cynthia Saylor; Jan M Gane, John D Raacke, John Labadie, Judith Curtis, Larry Arnold, Leah Fiorentino, Ottis Murray, Wade Allen

Charge: Investigate the potential issues associated with the introduction of a Student Computing Requirement at University of North Carolina Pembroke

 

Executive Summary

Student learning has changed dramatically since personal technology devices arrived on the doorstep of higher education environments. The Task Force on Student Computing organized during the fall 2009 semester to explore the rationale for a student networked device requirement in support of student learning. The technological changes which have impacted learning at all levels clarify the premise that technology is an integrated component of literacy. In this dramatically-altered arena of higher education, students are now placed at a significant disadvantage if they do not have ready access to an internet-capable device whenever, and wherever, they wish to study.

Following the justification discussion, the Task Force identified five major areas for investigation: 1) Ethics and the ethical use of the network device by students, 2) Hardware requirements for student devices, 3) Financial considerations for the students and the university, 4) Student security issues when using computer devices, and 5) Technology support for faculty and students. The investigations suggest that restrictions and punitive measures alone cannot ensure the ethical use of technology. While UNCP maintains policies governing academic behavior and appropriate technology use by students, an additional educational focus is needed. Concerning hardware, the network device requirement is closely tied to student learning and so device specifications must support anticipated usage within the general education curriculum. Provisions are needed to determine and accommodate advanced hardware needs if required by a specific field of study. Financial considerations call for keeping the addition of a networked device as cost-neutral as possible for students. Regardless of the cost, the networked device must be a requirement if the cost is to be included in a student’s financial aid award. Students need to be proactive in keeping security software up-to-date and in protecting the physical equipment as well as their electronic data. To enhance security, both software and hardware security measures should be included in the network device hardware and software standard. Finally, an essential element for success of any network device initiative is the support provided for faculty and students. The university will need to provide an all-encompassing support structure as suggested by current strategic planning efforts.

Many campuses have successfully implemented a student networked device requirement. Following information-gathering activities the Student Computing Task Force suggests the University of North Carolina Pembroke ensure each student has the necessary tools to support ubiquitous learning. Members acknowledge that a personal networked device is an essential tool for students. It is recommended that an advisory group be formed to guide efforts for implementing a student computing requirement.
*The report was passed on 3/16/10 by the Academic Services Sub-Committee with the addendum that the implementation Advisory group includes membership to address section 508(c) disability support issues.

 

Student Computing Requirement at UNCP

Requirement report (MS Word)

Purpose Statement: Student learning has changed dramatically since personal technology devices arrived on the doorstep of higher education environments and forced educators to face the reality that university students expect to complete their studies any time and in any location. With that in mind, the University of North Carolina Pembroke will strive to ensure each student has the necessary tools for this sort of ubiquitous learning that foster more productive learning and greater accessibility for all students, as well as address the needs of the local community. To reach this goal, we acknowledge that a personal, networked device will be the essential tool to overcome constraints such as location and time, and thereby support equal learning opportunities and foster individual student success in a competitive global society. The Task Force on Student Computing organized during the fall 2009 semester and continued their work in the spring of 2010. After completing the justification and rationale for a student networked device, the Task Force identified topics associated with implementing an initiative of this nature. To successfully implement a student networked device the Task Force identified five major areas for investigation: 1) Ethics and the ethical use of the network device by students, 2) Hardware requirements for student devices, 3) Financial considerations for the students and the university, 4) Student security issues when using computer devices, and 5) Technology support for faculty and students.

Justification: The technological changes which have impacted learning at all levels clarify the premise that technology is an integrated component of literacy. UNCP has made a commitment to improve the literacy rates of all students through the QEP initiative Write to the Top focused on improving student writing. In this dramatically-altered arena of higher education, students are now placed at a significant disadvantage if they do not have ready access to an internet-capable device whenever, and wherever, they wish to study. Advancing our support of technology strengthens UNCP’s community of learners through the enhanced capabilities for connecting, collaborating, and communicating. For students, the networked device facilitates learning within and beyond the classroom as this personal productivity tool provides around-the-clock access to rich learning resources, enhances productivity and more satisfying group-work, and supports increased technology literacy which contributes to higher levels of career readiness. Ensuring all students have a networked device with standard software bridges the digital divide by providing equal teaching and learning access for all students. This shift in access may enable classroom meetings to focus more on discussions of issues and content and less on the routine "course management" concerns since electronic delivery can replace many manual, paper-based processes.

With a focus on student learning, the networked device becomes a tool to extend conversations beyond the classroom through the use of discussion groups, blogs, wikis and social networking capabilities. The technology provides potential access for student interactions with local or distance experts and authors, international and intercultural exchanges, as well as serving as a communication vehicle to further engage and promote contributions by alumni and parents. Students involved in learning activities that require teaming and decision-making may utilize the technology for engagement beyond the traditional meeting time through asynchronous group work once they are sure that all group members will have access to the technology. The university learning environment will more closely align with the business world, and the students will be better prepared having developed more effective group management skills and experienced the success associated with building greater team productivity.

The networked device supports UNCP’s focus on improving student writing skills as the device encourages the student to focus on writing skills rather than mechanical writing processes promoting greater access to editing, revising and resubmitting of graded pieces. Student writing skills also benefit from a technology-enhanced environment where the collaborative efforts among students are promoted through the open sharing of individual and group reports and the versioning of these documents.

In various discipline areas across campus, the networked personal device brings new access and capabilities to all students while supporting traditional activities that are the cornerstone of UNCP. For example, the student teaching intern can enter a remote classroom environment carrying familiar resources, learning tools, and supporting materials without having to rely upon the uncertain and ever-changing technology tools associated with various school systems. For a student in The Arts, the personal device can become a portable digital darkroom or recording studio supporting the creation of art galleries or the collection of music compositions where all students, not just the experts, now have the opportunity to become content creators. Within the School of Business, students become participants in a global economy where they can access rich data sets and engage in informed decision-making while the technology undergirds basic business processes such as accounting, marketing, and collaboration.

Technology can become the main tool for innovation and for extending UNCP’s learning environment in a distinctive manner that will enhance our reputation as a personal focused, student-centered learning community. By ensuring all student have access to a personal networked device, UNCP is responding well to high school students who are increasingly computer "fluent" and place greater emphasis on the quality and availability of computing and information resources when making college attendance decisions.

Specifically the following is a listing of tools provided to every student with access to a personal laptop computer with network connectivity.

  • Productivity Tools: 
    • E-Mail                        
    • Word processing                              
    • Spreadsheets                              
    • Presentations                              
    • Website development                   
  • Web-based Intranet Tools                  
    • Student information and business services 
    • Electronic forms                              
    • Calendar and appointment system                        
    • Groupware support systems            
  • Learning Tools                        
    • Primary sources                                    
    • Archival materials                                    
    • Census data                              
    • Secondary Instructor notes      
    • Multimedia Presentations      
    • Media resource materials                        
    • Class integration      
    • Simulations
    • Data analysis
    • Topical website development           

Ethics and ethical use of technology in classrooms: In support of UNCP’s core mission of research, teaching, and service, academic institutions are bastions of open expression and freedom of discovery. The Internet and associated technology have become essential tools in sustaining this core mission; however, the open nature of the Internet, free from content restraints, creates a need for technology users to become self-regulatory to ensure ethical use. This consideration is critical to the use of networked devices by students in the context of teaching and learning at the university. Restrictions and punitive measures alone cannot ensure the ethical use of technology. While UNCP maintains policies governing academic behavior and appropriate technology use, the positive promotion of ethical considerations provides users an additional educational focus rather than a singular focus on punitive measures.

General Education learning outcomes for technology state the UNCP graduate will understand the role of technology, have the skills necessary to use it, and be able to recognize and adapt to new technologies. Students will demonstrate knowledge of current/modern technologies, use appropriate technology in the evaluation, analysis, and synthesis of information, and collaborate with others using technology tools (University Catalog, General Education section). The ethical use of technology by UNCP students requires them to recognize and self-regulate their technology use based upon established core values. If there are ethical questions for the UNCP students relative to technology usage, they must first recognize that an ethical dilemma is present followed by making an appropriate decision for action, many times without outside influence. Regardless of the virtual or technology context, the following guidelines concerning ethical decision-making remain constant:

  • Respect for the privacy rights of self and others;
  • Respect for ownership of information;
  • Respect network security arrangements;
  • Respect the need to avoid harming others;
  • Respect the freedoms of others;
  • Respect the need to exercise personal responsibility for appropriate action;
  • Respect laws related to IT use; and
  • Respect the values of trustworthiness and truthfulness

(Somerville House, Ethical use of technologies policy. Reflecting and clarifying core values to make judgments section, http://www.somerville.qld.edu.au/curriculum/ethics)
UNCP students, faculty, and staff are guided in their conduct including the use of technology by the Academic Honor Code. This Code sets responsibility for maintaining academic freedom while respecting the rights on each member of the academic community. Instructional faculty members have the ultimate responsibility for maintaining standards of academic honesty and integrity. UNCP students are responsible for upholding basic standards of honesty and are required to know and observe the UNCP Academic Honor Code which forbids cheating, plagiarism, abuse of academic materials, fabrication or falsification of information, and complicity in academic dishonesty. All members of the academic community hold the responsibility to report abuses asallowing academic dishonesty is just as dishonest as committing a dishonest act. (UNCP Faculty Handbook. Academic Honor Code, Section 6.9).

Research suggests that an instructional design that integrates the network device into the lesson plan is beneficial in maintaining a student focus on the instructional activity and serves to keep the network device from becoming a distraction. It should be noted there are class periods where the best and appropriate instructional approach is to ask students to close or put away the network device to participate in other active learning activities. Faculty members have ownership of the instructional activities and should feel comfortable in their choice to integrate or not use the student’s network device in their learning activities.

From a policy perspective, student technology use is governed by the Student Handbook which forbids obstructing or disrupting teaching, research or other university activities and/or other university functions with technology by operating cell phones, pagers, beepers, etc., in classrooms, libraries, and labs. When expanded, this ban would include networked device use as well. (UNCP Student Handbook, Academic Honor Code section, & Code of Conduct sections.) The Appropriate Use Policy sets forth the standards for use of assigned computer systems, peripheral accessories, computer accounts, email services and the shared UNCP university network. General guidelines for appropriate technology use at UNCP are based on the following principles:

  1. Users shall behave responsibly with respect to the UNCP technology infrastructure at all times.
  2. Users shall respect the integrity and the security of the UNCP technology infrastructure.
  3. Users shall behave in a manner consistent with UNCP’s mission and to comply with all applicable laws, regulations, UNCP policies, and policies of The University of North Carolina (“UNC”).
  4. Users shall be considerate of the needs of other Users by making every reasonable effort not to impede the ability of others to use the UNCP technology infrastructure and to show restraint in the consumption of shared resources.
  5. Users shall respect UNCP’s principles regarding freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression.
  6. Users shall respect the rights and property of others, including intellectual property rights.

(UNCP Appropriate Use Policy, http://www.uncp.edu/doit/policies/policy0103.html)

Hardware Requirements for student devices: Because the network device requirement is tied closely to student learning, it is imperative that the device specifications support the student’s anticipated usage within the general education curriculum. Students entering specific majors may need equipment configurations more advanced than the standard student device. For example, digital media creation in the arts, music and some sciences may require advanced graphic capabilities, additional memory, and increased storage capacity. Graphic capabilities are important to users in Communication and Education respectively because of the engagement in the Internet-based Second Life. A faculty and staff committee should be convened annually to review and establish the standard configuration meeting the general education requirements. In addition, the disciplines need to be engaged annually by the committee to set standards for their specific programs if those standards vary from the general standard specification. The importance of communication to prospective students cannot be overstated. Students should be aware of the general standard and informed that specific programs may have a different requirement. Students must be fully informed of the requirement so they may take proactive steps to avoid confusion or misunderstanding as they engage their chosen field of study.

The general standard for the networked laptop device is consistent with industry standards and the following configurations are offered as examples:

Criteria Recommendation -
PC
Recommendation -
Mac Book
Weight 2 – 4 lbs
Battery Life 4 – 7 hours 4 – 7 hours
Processor 1.5GH or faster, 32-bit
or 64-bit
2.26 GH or faster
Memory 1GB or greater 2 GB
Screen Size 14” to 17” 15” to 17”
Screen Resolution 1024 x 768 pixels or higher 1440 x 900 pixels
Graphics Card NVIDA 7000 series or higher or equivalent (GeForce Go Series 7600, ATI X1600) NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 256MB
Connectivity WiFi and Ethernet WiFi and Ethernet
External Ports 4 or more USB ports  
Hard Drive 150 GB or greater 250GB
Webcam Recommended Recommended
DVD 8X CD / DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive) SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Price $400 - up $899 - up
Maintenance $200 for 2 to 3 years or higher $183 for 3 years

 

As example of a program specific network device specification, for a student in a Digital Arts Major the following configuration is suggested:

Recommendation – Mac Book Pro

 
4 - 7 hours
2.5 GH or faster
4 GB
15” to 17”
1440 x 900 pixels
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 256MB
WiFi and Ethernet
 
250GB
Webcam Recommended
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
$1,600 - $2,499
$188 for 3 years

 

Software for the student network device should also be a standard slate of products chosen through a collaborative process. For reliability and security, the student device should have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed. There may be software requirements for different shareware utility-type programs for accessing services and for accomplishing certain tasks such as SFTP or to use Virtual Private Networks. Microsoft Office would also be a required standard for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and database software. Just as for setting hardware standards, the setting of software standards requires input from the disciplines with standards set through a committee process. Two considerations for success are recommended. First, efforts are needed to engage academic departments in building agreement in choosing standard software packages for specific functionality. For example, Dreamweaver is the Web editor of choice. Another program may be the graphics program of choice. Other examples are plentiful. Secondly, engaging open source products could offer the potential for advanced functionality while setting software standards and importantly, reducing cost. A consideration is if the student learning is focused on using a specific software package or more broadly, the student learning focus is in understanding the concept supported by multiple software packages.

Financial considerations for the students and the university: Based upon the institutional values of UNCP, which include quality education at a low cost, any consideration of a student-owned networked device must carefully weigh the cost of that device for the student. Additional cost to the institution must be carefully examined to ensure a workable implementation and a simultaneous consideration to reduce the overall cost of higher education for the UNCP student community. There are two considerations to be examined when considering the increased cost of a networked device for students. First, ECAR survey data indicates that over 84% of new freshmen who enter the campus community report they own a mobile networked computer. For that group of freshmen, there will be no additional cost; however, conversation needs to focus on how these existing expenditures can be funneled into a planned approach for common networked devices. The second consideration deals with the creation of a more efficient approach to re-purposing existing costs/student expenditures for those students attending UNCP. In essence, the Task Force endorses keeping the addition of a networked device as cost-neutral as possible for our students. Regardless of the cost, our research indicates that to include the cost of the device in the student’s financial aid award, ownership of the networked device must be a requirement for the UNCP student. A final consideration is that financial aid will only increase once to cover the cost of the networked device during the student’s undergraduate studies at the institution.

To understand the range of options available for the requirement to be implemented, we suggest discussions by the larger campus community related to the following possibilities:

Option 1. Campus STRONGLY suggests that students arrive on campus with a networked device that matches the posted configurations and compatibility needs for success. Students bring their networked device to DoIT to certify that it meets the listed criteria for student devices. University provides reduced cost to purchase devices within the Bookstore (current policy). This option does not ensure that all students will have a network-enabled device. Because of the flexibility in this option, unified support for the students is a more difficult challenge.

Option 2. Campus REQUIRES a network device consistent with strict standards as outlined in previous section. The student may bring a computer that meets the standards and is certified by DoIT staff, but the majority of students will purchase a pre-configured device from the Bookstore. The advantage is that the volume of purchases will decrease the cost to the students. This option ensures that all students have a networked-enabled device, takes advantage of volume discounts for lower costs, while permitting some student choice in their network device. Creating a unified support approach, while somewhat easier than Option 1, still remains problematic due to the potential variety of network devices.

Option 3. Campus MANDATES the purchase of a network device that conforms to the university standards with no flexibility in purchase options to the students. Dual platform devices will be identified for the various disciplinary programs on campus. This offers the greatest opportunity for cost savings due to the large volume discount. It provides greater confidence for student group work when they are able to trust that their peers have adequate access to compatible hardware. It is by far, the easiest option to support; however, it offers the least flexibility to students. And if a purchase of a specific unit is required, this could lead to additional cost to the student who may already own another device.

The Task Force recommends that the university community consider a variation of Options 2 and 3. Option 2 requires a network device with standards set by the institution. The student may bring a networked device, but their device must meet the required standards as set by the University. Students may also take advantage of lower costs by purchasing the recommended configurations from the University Bookstore. The success of this approach is contingent upon an active and comprehensive communication campaign engaging all incoming students. In addition, the variation on Option 3 is that some students may choose not to own the device using a University-owned device instead. The student has the option to pay a fee for the use of the device each semester for the first two years. At the end of the sophomore year, the student may purchase that device for a small additional charge and use that device for the remainder of the time at UNCP. Or the student may continue paying the technology fee each semester and receive a new device for their junior and senior year. At the conclusion of the program at UNCP, the student can purchase the device and continue to use it after graduation. However, option 3 would require a yearly commitment on the part of the student.

As noted in the opening comments, the desire to contain additional costs to the student is paramount for the Task Force. With that in mind, the following suggestion could balance the cost of the device. The adoption of e-textbooks for use in a select number of courses could off-set the additional charge for the networked device. Students could access a secure site in BraveWeb to purchase and download necessary e-textbooks each semester.

Student security issues when using computer devices: A number of critical security issues emerge when student computing initiatives are deployed on university campuses. Students need to be proactive not only in keeping security software up-to-date, but also in protecting the physical equipment as well as their electronic data. Should users not be vigilant in providing protection, both the students’ data and the institution’s network could be at risk for security breaches. The university should provide students with a subscription to virus detection software. UNCP currently provides McAfee software along with the latest virus definition files to faculty, staff, and students. This subscription needs to continue; however, there should be opportunities to increase student awareness regarding software availability and the need to practice safe computing. The awareness effort should also include university policies and practices concerning the security of personal files through the use of appropriate passwords and by adhering to industry standards for successful practices.

To enhance hardware security, it is recommended that anti-theft capabilities be incorporated into the devices when they are purchased. Systems such as Lo-Jac, a theft deterrent software, will automatically locate stolen network devices when re-connected to a network. In addition, expanded capabilities include being able to remotely delete all content on the device if stolen once it is re-connected to a network. These software deterrents have a strong record of assisting in the recovery of stolen hardware and are a proven deterrent to computer theft. Another potential deterrent could be the option to engrave the university logo on the cover of the university-owned device. This would ensure that any stolen university device would be identifiable by the engraved logo.

Technology support for faculty and students: An essential element for the overall success of any network device initiative is the support provided by the institution for implementation on the campus. Faculty and students need to be provided an all-encompassing support structure. For faculty, one could look at the last Strategic Planning effort which suggests the necessary types of support that faculty require to be successful. Faculty should have access to Instructional Technologists to assist in the creation of materials and technology-enhanced learning activities to fully capitalize on the student network device. As proposed in the Strategic Planning documents, an Instructional Technology Center is needed to provide faculty access to centralized resources. This Center, along with existing support resources within DoIT, the Teaching and Learning Center, the Mary Livermore Library, the Digital Academy, and other college and school resources all contribute to a seamless support infrastructure.

For students, similar to faculty, they also need a Student Technology Assistance Center to fully support their use of technology-enhanced learning. The Center could assist with software issues, training, and group-related activities (i.e., introduction to software, facilitate the use of technology in connection with course assignments, and provide sessions on safe computing and the ethical use of technology). The STAC can also provide individualized assistance for specific software and hardware issues (the resolution of hardware issues can only be addressed if the hardware is university-owned or purchased through the university Bookstore). Consistent with existing practices, STAC must continue the policy of providing warranty repairs for student purchases from the Bookstore. Specifically to address the variation on Option 3, the university would provide “loaner” units for students experiencing issues with a university-owned device. One key element to student support is to set appropriate expectations for both service and support. This should be followed by meeting those expectations based upon short turnaround times for device repairs. This is consistent with the basic premise that the student needs the networked device to complete their learning activities.

Conclusion: Many campuses have successfully implemented a student networked device requirement. There are numerous successful practice models UNCP may engage to ensure enhanced student learning as a result of a network device implementation. In addition to individual research, Task Force members engaged vendors who facilitated several presentations sharing the current status of student networked device requirements at UNC sister campuses. In addition, Task Force member participated in video conferences with campuses beyond North Carolina to learn about their successful initiatives. Following these information-gathering activities, members of the Student Computing Task Force suggest the University of North Carolina Pembroke ensure each student has the necessary tools to support ubiquitous learning while creating greater access to learning opportunities. Members acknowledge that a personal networked device is an essential tool supporting equal learning opportunities and fostering individual student success. It is recommended that an advisory group be formed with appropriate membership to guide efforts for implementing a student computing requirement.

Respectfully submitted, Arjay Quizon, Brian McCormick, Cammie Hunt, Charles Lillie, Christopher H Ziemnowicz, Cynthia Miecznikowski, Cynthia Saylor; Jan M Gane, John D Raacke, John Labadie, Judith Curtis, Larry Arnold, Leah Fiorentino, Ottis Murray, Wade Allen

*The report was passed on 3/16/10 by the Academic Services Sub-Committee with the addendum that the implementation Advisory Group includes membership to address section 508(c) disability support issues.

 

Resources

Ethical Use of Computer Technologies Policy, ( 2009). Summerville House. Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://www.somerville.qld.edu.au/curriculum/ethics
MacDonald, C., (2002). A guide to moral decision making. Retrieve January 6, 2010 from http://www.ethicsweb.ca/guide/index.html
Mayenn, A., (2001). A proposed methodology for the teaching of information technology
ethics in schools. Education Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology, Vol 1. Retrieved January 7, 2010 http://crpit.com/confpapers/CRPITV1Meyenn.pdf

UC Davis 2001 http://www.cnc.ucr.edu/avc/computer_ownership.pdf

UNCP Faculty Handbook. (2009-10) http://www.uncp.edu/aa/handbook/

UNCP Student Handbook. (2009-10) http://www.uncp.edu/sa/handbook/

University of Dayton 1998 http://campus.udayton.edu/~notebook/future%202.htm

 

 

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