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ThinkPad U.

When graduates of the University of Minnesofa, Crookston (UMC) leave the campus to compete in the job market, they're not only literate in their chosen career fields, they're also guaranteed to be computer literate.

Donald Sargeant, UMC chancellor, says today's employers "expect graduates to be computer literate, and students desire to use the computer as part of their educational experience." To meet these expectations and desires, UMC became the nation's first university to provide all full-time students and faculty with notebook computers and use them in a campus networking infrastructure that changed the university's learning and academic culture.

As a result, UMC is known as "ThinkPad U," named after the notebook computer used, the IBM 701CS ThinkPad.

The college is taking another step to link students and faculty to resources. It is joining 25 other colleges and universities to collaborate with IBM in forming the IBM Global Campus.

The network provides a combination of advanced technologies, network computing solutions, applications, consulting, and services. Through it, UMC will be able to expand its offerings to students outside its geographic area.

With all full-time students and faculty equipped with the same model ThinkPad and software, computer technology can be incorporated into all courses at UMC. Students have cyberspace access to their course instructors and academic advisors, to academic and student support offices, to other students, to the library, and to all the on-line information sources of the Internet. They don't have to go to a classroom to turn in an assignment or to administrative offices to get answers to questions. Students, faculty, and administration staff can communicate by e-mail through the LAN or the Internet, so there's less telephone tag and less waiting in offices.

The computer is the student's to use as long as that student remains enrolled full-time at UMC. The ThinkPads are leased from IBM and, under terms of the lease, UMC is able to replace them when newer, upgraded models come out.

Each full-time student pays a $300 quarterly technology-access fee that covers the cost of the computer, its pre-installed software, and extended warranty and insurance coverage. The fee also gives the student access to laser printers, the campus LAN via connection sites throughout the campus, the Internet, local and global e-mail, and services of the UMC computer help desk.

The university provides computer training for faculty and students. An Instructional Technology Center supports faculty development, teaching, research, and services. Students are required to complete an introductory computer course in their first quarter of enrollment.

The results have been impressive. One accounting instructor says he's able to teach more accounting and less math because the students are much more interested when they do accounting problems on the computer than when they listen to a lecture and then try to do problems in a book.

For courses in natural resources, students use the computers to simulate and model changes in wildlife populations as determined by food, water, and climate factors. They record bird counts and monitor water quality. Some classes have developed a database of woody plants to use in landscape planning.

Hotel, restaurant, and institutional management students use computer programs that promote learning by using "what if" scenarios to resize menus based on cost and nutritional analysis, and to modify shopping lists accordingly.

In each case, the computers readily accommodate individual learning differences, providing for more-personalized learning and more opportunities for collaborative projects.

"The moral of the story," says Chancellor Sargeant, is that "UMC students are utilizing technology to learn more as they prepare for their careers. UMC faculty and staff are working smarter and becoming more effective. Mobile computers do reduce the barriers of time and space, and they do enhance teaching, learning, and campus support services."
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Title Annotation:Product Information; University of Minnesota at Crookston uses IBM ThinkPads
Author:Morken, Cal
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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