Laptops required beginning this fall


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Iowa State will close computer labs in the fall and students are required to have a laptop or other mobile device in order to meet their learning needs.

Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said in an email students need to have a laptop, computer or other mobile device for the benefit of improved access to online course content as well as health and safety.

“Personal laptops provide more consistent access to course content and sets up students for success in online and blended learning environments,” Wintersteen said. “In addition, if the current course delivery plan needs to be adjusted due to student or faculty illness, or significantly increased levels of COVID-19 activity in the city or state, the contingency will be in place for students to quickly pivot to greater online instruction.”

The new requirement provides two main benefits for students, according to the Information Technology Services (ITS) website.

The first is improved access to online course content. The website said personal laptops provide more consistent access to course content and sets students up for success in the blended learning environment. 

The second is health, sanitation and safety. The website said the risk to students’ health is increased by accidental exposure during the use of shared computing resources and use of personal laptops reduces this risk, resulting in higher levels of student safety.

The website said ITS does not recommend students use tablets, mobile phones or netbooks as their primary computing device. ITS did say these devices may help supplement their computing needs.

ITS listed the reasons for this as:

  • Many courses rely on video and interactive content to deliver essential course materials. Not all video and interactive content formats are supported by these devices.
  • The primary learning management system at Iowa State is Canvas, which can be used with iPad or Android devices. However, some critical features may require additional applications to function that are not available on all devices.
  • Some majors require software that will not run on iOS or Android devices.
  • Netbook computers are likely insufficient for students’ use throughout the duration of their college experience and may not be able to run specific software needed for certain courses.

While some students bring their own laptop device to campus, not all students currently have access to a laptop. In response, Iowa State has created two options to support students who may be in this situation: funding available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; and a Laptop Loaner Program.

A limited amount of funding through the CARES Act is available for students with documented financial need. To access these funds, students should complete the Laptop Loaner Program request form on the ITS website; all requests will be reviewed by the Office of Student Financial Aid. 

Through the Laptop Loaner Program, laptops will be lent to current students through the University Library. Requests for participation in the Laptop Loaner Program will be accepted through 5:00 p.m. Central Standard Time on Aug. 29.

Full-time, degree-seeking students with the greatest financial need and those who have exhausted other options for financial aid will receive priority as laptop requests are processed.

While many computer labs are not available for in-person use, ITS is working with colleges across the university to build out the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in campus computer labs.

“This means, students with access to these labs can use their personal device to access the lab computers and most of the software available on them,” according to the ITS website. “ITS and college IT staff are actively working to get more computers online using this VDI software. Students can browse their college website for details or contact college IT staff to find out more about virtually accessing computer labs available to them.”