Report on Student Computer Access
M. M. Byrne and Tim Leamy
November 12, 1997
The following report provides a brief overview of the current situation
regarding student access to computers. This report also clarifies IT’s
scope of responsibility with respect to other divisions, explains what
IT has done to address student and faculty need for Fall quarter ‘97, identifies
some items requiring immediate action, and others for longer-term consideration.
This report documents how IT uses customer surveys, comparative research,
discussion with clients, and tracking of use trends as part of its efforts
to identify and address a complex and ever-changing set of uses and needs.
Analysis of the data has revealed several trends: student usage is rapidly
rising, computer use is more complex and more difficult to service than
in the past, faculty use of computers in the classroom is growing, and
demand for higher quality instructional environments is increasing.
While IT has initiated a number of pilot projects and has taken a series
of concrete steps to address the diverse and changing needs of our campus
clients, the issue of access must be owned by a group of stakeholders --
not only IT.
IT recommends two immediate actions and several longer-terms actions.
For immediate action, allocate and increase space exclusively
for student access. For longer term action, encourage greater faculty participation
and bring together the various stakeholders to build a multi-year plan
which includes an annual review to accommodate the changing requirements
of faculty and students.
Table of Contents
Appendix A. Modem Access Support Documents
Letter to Carole Barone, Associate Vice -Chancellor of Information
Letter from Doug Hartline, Director of Communication Resources
Appendix B. Network Access Improvement Projects
Report on Student Computer Access
Over the past several years a number of campus committees, including
ISAG (Instructional Space Advisory Group) and JCCIT (Joint Campus Committee
on Information Technology), have voiced a concern regarding students’ access
to computer technology. Currently, there are a number of efforts to address
various parts of the issue. Some of these efforts include: communication
among departmental and divisional computer labs, upgrade of IT computer
labs, increased access in residence halls, a pilot project for "network
access ports," a "wireless access" pilot project, expansion of the modem
pool, solutions to campuswide security/authentication problems, negotiations
with commercial service providers to deliver better connectivity for students
from a variety of locations. All of these approaches have their value;
each one, by itself, is limited.
Clearly then the question of technology access is not only costly but
complex. The issue of access involves various levels of responsibility
within diverse units across campus -- Facilities, Administration, Information
Technology, Planning & Budget, Undergraduate Instruction, Architects
& Engineers, the Office of the Registrar, Vice Provost – Undergraduate
Studies, the Library, ASUCD, Network 21, the Fire Marshall, as well as
individual departments and divisions. In addition, information technology
providers have come to learn that how clients use the technology is neither
simple nor easy. As students and faculty become more sophisticated, they
have needs which are more resource-intensive to service. Clients require
higher-powered hardware, able to run multiple software products faster
with better connectivity. Clients need to perform multiple tasks simultaneously
while plugging into national-level databases of scholarly research.
Given the diversity of needs and uses, there is no single solution.
Nor can there be a single entity responsible and accountable for such a
diverse set of issues. The approach to complex problems requires a balanced
"whole system" set of solutions which address a majority of the stakeholders’
needs. Information Technology can help to identify the concerns, to communicate
the clients’ needs and uses, and to work with campus stakeholders to develop
appropriate and cost-effective solutions.
Purpose of this report
The purpose of the following report is to describe the current situation,
to clarify various scopes of responsibility, to report on what IT has done
to address student and faculty need, and to identify items requiring immediate
action as well as those that deserve longer-term consideration. Specifically,
clarifies IT’s role in the larger campus community,
assesses student and faculty needs, identifies and analyzes key issues,
reports on what has been done and what is left to do for Fall quarter ‘97
makes recommendations for immediate action, and
proposes options for further consideration by the campus.
Scope of Influence
Information Technology (IT), through its Lab Management unit, is the
principal provider of general access computers. As such, IT is responsible
for the selection, purchase, and maintenance of computer hardware and software
as designated for general instructional use of computers for students.
However, the establishment of computer labs and classrooms involves more
than hardware and software management. Space needs to be allocated. Codes
and regulations need to be addressed. How space can be best designed for
instructional use needs to be considered. Campus protocols involving planning
and budget, facilities, A&E, accounting, and various committees need
to be respected -- and much more.
In an effort to provide academic support, IT coordinates with staff
responsible for departmental and divisional labs (Language labs, etc.).
Similarly, IT works closely with the Office of the Registrar providing
technical support in the design and set up of general instructional space.
IT fully recognizes the Registrar’s role as principal provider of classrooms,
computer equipped or otherwise. Furthermore, IT proceeds on the basis of
recommendations made by various stakeholders and campus committees, including
the Joint Campus Committee on Information Technologies and the Instructional
Space Advisory Group. It is important to note that IT has funded the computer
equipment and provided ongoing technical management of general assignment
computer classrooms in the Registrar’s inventory in addition to funding
all aspects of general access computer labs assigned to IT.
While we are eager to address academic needs, we also acknowledge that
long-term solutions require the cooperation of numerous units and divisions
II. Assessment of Needs
As part of its academic support efforts, we have identified two client
profiles -- that of students and that of faculty.
UCD Client profile
Based on various tracking mechanisms, surveys, and front-line contact
with the client, we operate under the following assumptions regarding student
and faculty need:
instructional experience which will provide skills, knowledge, and critical
thinking ability (competitive with other universities)
tools and access to be able to complete specific assignments (including
software, high-end hardware, network access, and printing capability)
general access as a necessary adjunct to schoolwork
access to quality, computer teaching environments
ability to schedule whole or parts of courses easily and conveniently
assurance that their students will have access (e.g. via labs, wireless
modems, residence halls, etc.) to complete assignments
What other public universities are doing
In researching how other institutions of higher learning address the
same concerns, it appears that there are four basic trends:
Notice from the chart below* that UCDavis provides far fewer general
access seats than comparable public universities do. To address student
need in a manner comparable to such universities UCDavis will need to provide
a ratio of 1 general access seat per 60 students.
General access environments are designed differently and are operated separately
from space used specifically for instruction. Multimedia environments are
also operated separately.
Computer classroom environments are designed differently for different
kinds of instruction (e.g. presentation, collaboration, teamwork, small-group
Cost recovery is used for a number of services related to computer access
facilities (e.g. printing, high-end hardware).
Software is site licensed for the entire campus, thus reducing students’
need to come to a computer lab exclusively for access to software.
Separate access, multimedia, instruction
* Numbers do not necessarily represent a true comparison
with UCDavis since there is little consistency among public universities
regarding how they track "seats"; some include all platforms (Unix and
X terminals as well as microcomputers); some include multimedia workstations
as well as low-end machines; some double count facilities which are designed
both for purposes of instruction and general access; some double count
facilities which are time-shared between general access and an individual
dept. In an effort to create accurate comparisons, all divisional and departmental
labs were factored out; only the equivalent of "general access" numbers
were considered. At UCDavis only TB114 (30 seats) is designated for general
access. Since the computer classrooms are open for general access roughly
half the time, half the number of computer classrooms seats was added to
III. Key Issues Analysis
IT has identified several issues associated with meeting student and
faculty need. Some of these issues we can and are addressing. A number
of them require participation and commitment by other campus stakeholders.
IT tracks student use of computer labs in a variety of ways. IT tracks
number of hours, percent of seats filled, time of day in greatest demand,
in-class instruction vs. general academic use, and more. At this time there
is, however, no mechanism to separate time spent by students on specific
assignments vs. general academic use, such as researching scholarly topics
via the web.
Student usage is rapidly rising
The generally accepted rule of thumb tells us that one hour of class
time requires three hours of lab time. From discussion lists such as that
of American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) and other special interest
groups concerned with this topic, we know that the use of technology can
increase "time on task." In other words, students are more likely to spend
more time on email discussion than they do in a traditional discussion
section. Students tend to spend more time on autotutorials, going over
the materials repeatedly, whereas in a traditional lab they may have only
one opportunity. Here at UCDavis we have not tracked this information,
but we are aware that some institutions of higher education have reported
ratios as high as one hour of class time to five hours of access time.
IT does track the increase in pages printed. This seems to suggest increased
Although 75-80% of students own computers, the 1997 ASUCD
survey (details at http://lm.ucdavis.edu/pubs/survey/asucd_w97/) showed
that 90% use the computer labs. Why? In Spring ‘97 IT conducted a customer
satisfaction survey of students who use the computer labs in order to discover
the reason in the apparent discrepancy. IT found that the major reasons
were a demand for:
1) access to the network,
2) access to printers, and
3) access to class software.
By comparison note that a recent survey conducted by University
of Texas Austin revealed that although 80% of students provide their own
private access to a computer, 68% of students still use a computer lab
on campus; 28% use a campus computer daily and 48% use a computer weekly.
Again, although 70% of students’ private systems include a modem and printer,
the main uses of campus computers are printing, email, and other internet
applications. (For a copy of "The University of Texas at Austin Student
Computer Survey" please contact Gilda Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Access to the network, to printers, and to class software
is difficult, costly, or impossible from student-owned computers for a
variety of reasons. (For a more detailed explanation refer to Computer
Access Report: http://lm.ucdavis.edu/pubs/access/.)
Student need to complete computer-based assignments
Although IT has no mechanism in place to measure exactly
the extent of student assignments requiring computer access, we are aware
of several trends based on the research of the American Association of
Higher Education (AAHE), the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
(WICHE), and the Flashlight Project. Funded in part by Anneburg/CPB, the
Flashlight Project studies educational outcomes, shifts in types of learners,
increases in the time on task, and changes in total patterns of educational
Based on the work of these national organizations we believe
Although we do not have hard numbers, we do know from
messages from students and concerns voiced by faculty that there is a growing
need by students to complete computer assignments. See appendix A. The
rise in pages printed as noted above, also supports this premise. From
observation, we know that students print out homework, research papers,
web-based course materials, and lists of scholarly internet resources.
the more faculty work with technology appropriate to instruction
and research, the more they want to continue to work with it;
the more faculty work with technology appropriate to instruction
and research, the more likely they are to require computer-based assignments;
the more students use computers to complete assignments,
to participate in discussion lists, to do research, and to write papers,
the more students use computers in innovative and exploratory ways; in
other words, technology encourages discovery.
The Issue of Access
A definition of "access" must include more than access
to hardware; it must also include access to printers, to discipline-specific
software, to study aids, and to network resources.
We have employed four approaches to address this issue:
Beginning with the basement of Olson, Lab Management
has worked closely with faculty to redesign spaces so as to accommodate
instructional needs. Lab Management has already moved towards separation
of instructional use of space vs. general access needs. The overhaul and
reconfiguration of TB114 as an open access only computer lab in summer
1997 completed this effort.
advocate for more space so as to increase access though an
increase in number of seats;
dedicate more space specifically for general access;
test pilot projects (such as network access ports and wireless)
to divert certain types of traffic (email use) and,
increase the reliability of the hardware/software systems
so they can better support mult-tasking and scholarly software.
While there has been progress in these several areas,
demand is increasing at a much higher rate than current resources can meet.
Furthermore, the changing nature of software and hardware makes reliability
an ongoing challenge, both for technical systems and for ongoing service
Faculty use of computer classrooms is growing
To promote student computer literacy, faculty are using
more and more technology in their instruction. The scheduling of computer
classrooms for faculty/instruction has increased from 13.6% of the time
available M-F 8-6 in Fall 1992 to 58.2% in Spring 1997. This represents
an increase from a total of 901 hours to 2619 hours per quarter.
Demand for quality computer teaching environments
In Spring ’97, as part of an ISAG workgroup, several recommendations
were put forth. One of the recommendations concerned a need for higher
quality space designed specifically for different types of instructional
use, ranging from space which encourages collaboration and teamwork to
IT attempts to track quality to the extent it is realistically
possible. Currently, we define quality in several ways:
reliability and diversity of appropriate software applications;
reliability, age, speed, and power of hardware;
reliability, type, and configuration of networking;
appropriateness of room layout design for designated function;
room tools, such as scanners, white boards, projection systems,
IV. Fall ‘97 Readiness
To address the student access problem, for the near
term, we have:
No classes. Because TB114 is a centrally-located stand-alone
building, this should relieve some of the crowd management issues occurring
in Shields Library and the basement of Olson. In addition, we:
Designated TB114 exclusively as a general access computer
lab with 15 Macs and 15 PCs.
advertised TB114 and are re-training students to go to TB114
for general access;
However, as useful as these practices are they will
not address an exponentially growing need. With an increase in student
population and an increase in complex use of technology, a proportional
increase in facilities is needed.
Implemented several practices to ensure that the frontline
site attendants are better prepared to direct/redirect students to accessible
computer stations. We:
posted signs to direct traffic better. The current "Do not
enter" signs have been updated and color-coded with stop (red), yield (yellow
-- at the instructor’s discretion), and go (green) signs. This is helping
with the problem of students wanting to use "empty" seats during class.
included as part of its customer service training for site
attendants how to deal with angry and unruly students;
implemented web information at http://lm.ucdavis.edu/rooms/available/
so that site attendants know where seats are available and can direct students
accordingly (status of each computer room -- class in session, number of
seats available, next class time, etc.).
IT has decided to staff and service designated labs
the last several weeks of each quarter in order to increase access for
Determined to keep designated labs open extended hours
IT has decided to open the computer rooms at least two
days to as much as a week in advance of the beginning of classes in order
to ease the first "rush" of Fall quarter.
Decided to open the labs to students before the beginning
of Fall quarter.
IT has been working with the Library, who in early 1997
implemented the use of access ports on the main floor. Students will need
retraining in making use of the access ports. We have already identified
volunteers willing to work with students and offer demonstrations in how
network access ports are convenient and time-saving.
Installed network access ports in the basement of Olson
lounge as part of a pilot project.
If the pilot project proves successful, IT will seek to
expand the use of network access in other locations on campus and in the
IT is beginning plans, following consultation with the
building occupants, for installation of access ports in the common area
Begun the planning and construction of access ports in
the common area in Meyer Hall.
Agreed to work with and support, in as many ways as realistically
possible, computer access in the MU. IT staff are already meeting with
ASUCD decision makers to understand their strategy and offer support, as
appropriate, which leverages all resources to the best possible campus
Made a commitment to work with and to test other "access"
technologies such as "wireless access." IT staff are conducting a pilot
project to test the viability of wireless access both for site-specific
(the Library) use and for general campus and City of Davis use. A list
of access initiatives can be found at http://dcas.ucdavis.edu/access/ (see
The Vice Provost – Undergraduate Studies has approved
funds for installation of networking and configuration in the Library’s
24-hour reading room. We will work with the Library to establish the additional
access space. We will provide the necessary hardware. This should provide
another 12-15 terminals and a similar number of network access ports.
Begun to work with Shields library to provide terminals
in Extended Hours Reading Room.
To address the demand for higher quality teaching environments,
IT has done the following:
reconfigured layout so it accommodates teaching needs
upgraded the projection system
for 1131 Meyer
upgraded the projection system
for 307 Surge IV
upgraded from powerbooks to desktops.
Allocate and increase space exclusively for student
V. Recommendations for Immediate Action
It is IT’s understanding that the Vice Provost – Undergraduate
Studies has authorized construction of a general access space in the basement
of Olson. This space will provide 90 new seats to be used exclusively for
student access. For completion by Fall or Winter of 1998, it is essential
that work begin immediately.
In a review of how other campuses have successfully addressed
the issue of student access, five consistent characteristics emerge:
IT is working towards these same practices. IT needs
campus engagement and cooperation to implement them.
the spaces are large (100+ computers) requiring a minimal
number of student attendants;
the labs are geographically dispersed but still centrally
they are multi-platform with peripherals such as scanners
and zip/jazz drives;
printing is not free of charge;
networking is appropriate for the load (extent and degree
they have extended hours (some 24-hour; some 24-hour only
VI. Future Considerations for Campus Action
Allocate additional space for computer access.
The assumption is that there will be a growth of 1700
additional students to a total population of 21,400 by 2002-2003. Assuming
a conservative ratio of 60 students to 1 seat, this means that with a population
of 21,400, UCDavis will need a total of approximately 360 seats. With the
exception of the 30 seats in TB114 which are exclusively general access,
the remaining 240 seats available are split between instruction and access,
with access primarily during the non primetime. In other words, UCDavis
has 30 seats plus the 240 seats multiplied by 0.5, or 150 seats for access.
As part of the construction of the 90-seat general access space, IT will
turn over two classrooms in the basement of Olson to the Registrar. Assuming
these spaces could still be used in the evenings for general access, this
will result in a total of 240 available general access seats by academic
year 1998/1999. To meet the ratio which currently exists at comparable
public universities today UCDavis needs to add 120 seats by 2002/2003.
IT has been pursuing the possibility of space off campus
in the University Mall. Preliminary research reveals that the costs are
prohibitive. A separate report with costs and a comparative cost benefit
analysis will be made available by 1998. IT will also continue to investigate
other options involving cost-sharing with the City of Davis.
Encourage increased student access to higher quality
JCCIT has recommended that computers be mandatory for
students. Mandatory computers will not necessarily address the underlying
student need for access to high quality machines which support current
software, highspeed connections, and discipline-specific research. To ensure
that student demand for computer lab access does not increase too quickly,
it is critical that students can run campus and discipline specific software
on there own machines.
To encourage student ownership of appropriate technology
mechanisms must be developed to ensure acquisition of computers which meet
IT "recommended solutions" criteria. Leasing programs, available through
aggressive vendors such as Dell, administered by the bookstore, should
be considered. Other universities (University of Texas at Austin) have
successfully negotiated cost-savings using this option.
As stated above, the issue of access is complex and
requires broad campus involvement. IT is taking action to address a number
of concerns. IT works closely both with faculty and with students. We have
a number of recommendations which we believe merit consideration.
Diversify kinds of teaching environments
IT urges the campus to consider at least three kinds of
instructional spaces currently in use at other institutions of higher learning;
these are spaces designed for functions such as:
The campus might look into the computer classroom modeled
after one built at Cal Poly Pomona. This classroom was constructed as a
collaborative/teamwork classroom and has proven very effective for those
purposes. To serve a class of 15-20 students would involve four tables,
a junction box, and five computers. The raw costs are therefore relatively
collaborative/team-based work, and
highly interactive experiences.
Improve support to and training of faculty who use
technology in instruction
There are a number of pilot projects in progress to test
ways to improve faculty support. These include the laptop pilot project
and technology training/roundtables for faculty at the Arbor as well as
the Summer Institute (SITT). IT actively participates in such efforts.
Another area of concern to IT is the increase in course
web pages. LM needs to work with faculty support staff to encourage faculty
to distribute static class materials on CD-ROM or through other delivery
To address the complex uses and needs of both students
and faculty, the campus will need to agree to initiate a variety of strategies.
A report is currently in process to identify issues and support needs.
Technology service providers have come to expect an
environment of constant change. What is often difficult to anticipate is
how faculty and students will use technologies to enhance and to transform
instruction. In order to anticipate needs more effectively, greater involvement
by more faculty is needed. By the time it is clear what faculty and students
need, the technology has moved through several cycles. The process to implement
current technology is out of sync with demand.
The next step is for the various stakeholders to build
a multi-year plan to include a consistent and regular review (annual) of
the needs of faculty and students related to computer general access and
classrooms designed for various instructional and learning styles.