PALM DESERT – As Cal State San Bernardino was forced to switch to virtual and online offerings due to the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, university officials realized they were facing another serious problem – the use of computers and Internet access for students.
Vivian Arias, a graduate student majoring in English, faced the prospect of having to use her smartphone not only to access her postgraduate courses online, but also to ‘teach my group exercise classes for our center. of leisure and well-being. It would have made my life much more difficult.
For many students, switching to an online format posed a problem because their personal computers or personal laptops had weak signals for connectivity to access the Internet, which could hamper or prevent them from attending classes online. line, to complete their homework and homework. Many students who did not have access to a computer came to campus to use the university’s free computer labs.
Until the pandemic, CSUSB officials weren’t really concerned about students having access to technology in their homes, said Samuel Sudhakar, the university’s chief information officer and vice president of university services. information technology (ITS).
ITS therefore quickly adapted and expanded the John M. Pfau Library’s existing laptop lending program, where library students could borrow laptops, but only for a maximum of four hours.
“We knew there were inequalities, but we didn’t pay much attention to it because we said to our students, ‘Come to campus, we’ll provide you with world-class technology.’ This has always been our mantra, ”Sudhakar said. “And the pandemic is coming and we suddenly realized that not only the students, but also the faculty and the staff do not have access to good computers, laptops as well as connectivity and access to the Internet.”
The newly expanded laptop loan program would now allow students to have the laptops for the entire spring term 2020 and later for an entire semester when the CSUSB moved to a semester system in the fall of 2020.
To go along with laptops, the university also provided students with portable mobile hotspots that would provide internet connectivity from anywhere, Sudhakar said. The department also offered Internet connectivity in the parking lots of the Palm Desert Campus so that students can access the Internet without leaving their vehicles.
Sudhakar said the university purchased the laptops with funding from the Federal Emergency Aid Fund for Higher Education (HEERF). “The purpose of the program is to make the technology available to students who cannot afford it, but we have extended it to all students at CSUSB,” Sudhakar said.
To date, more than 1,100 students from the San Bernardino and Palm Desert campuses have participated in the program, Sudhakar said. Arias, whose goal is to teach English at a community college and earn a doctorate, said the laptops program was a “godsend” for her. “Learning and working remotely had its challenges, but having a reliable laptop to carry out my responsibilities made it a lot easier,” Arias said. “Honestly, I don’t know how I could have gotten away with just my phone, but I’m happy to say I pulled the last trimester of A and the trimester before, all with this laptop. , and I gave excellent lessons, if I mean so myself!
One of the issues ITS encountered in the program was getting the word out to students as there was no direct contact as the campus was closed to day-to-day operations. So they spread the word by working with professors via social media, sending emails, working with student government and especially word of mouth, which has been a big promoter of the program, Sudhakar said. . “In the pandemic environment, you don’t meet a lot of people. It’s more of a formal communication program rather than, you know, if you’re on campus with those brand new laptops and a friend asks you, “Hey, where did you get the laptop?” Or ‘Hey, I went to the library and they gave me a laptop for the whole semester.’ ”
“What we’re proud of about this program is that every student who requested a laptop received one,” Sudhakar said. He thinks laptops work better for students than tablets. “We’ve always believed that laptops are a much better device for student productivity and they’re also cheaper,” Sudhakar said. “The feedback we have received from students for the Laptop Program has been phenomenal. The CSUSB will continue to offer the Laptop Loan Program during the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.
“It’s open to all students – undergraduates and graduate students – as long as they’re currently active students on campus,” Sudhakar said. “They go to the ITS Laptop Loan Program website and press a simple form that they have to fill out and that’s all they do. It’s very, very easy to request a laptop. Arias said she urges her fellow students to use the program. “I would 100% recommend this program to students and would have mentioned it to my peers, letting them know how much I have benefited from it,” Arias said. “I think this service is vital for those of us who need reliable technology, like laptops, to access online courses, and who don’t have the money to go out and buy a new one. laptop.
Summary of the news:
- The CSUSB Laptop Loan Program Has Been Expanded
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