The number of computer labs across UCD campus is to be reduced to a “bare minimum” on the direction of President Andrew J. Deeks, according to UCDSU Education Officer Robert Sweeney. The high cost of maintaining desktop computers is seen as the primary reason behind their removal.
Speaking to the University Observer, Sweeney expressed disappointment and concern over the plan, which has already seen computers removed from the fourth floor of the James Joyce Library. The decision to remove the computers was made without consultation with the Students’ Union. The Union was only informed of the plan after enquiring with library staff as to the reason for the removal of desktops. Information of the changes was published on the UCD IT Services’ website on 12th September.
“We see it as a very negative approach,” Sweeney has said. He added that “they’ve also taken away the ability to rent a laptop, so you can now only rent a laptop within the library.”
“Students from engineering or business who require laptops in their programmes can no longer rent them directly from IT Services… which means that students who are financially disadvantaged now have to be forced to buy a laptop when they can’t afford it.”
Areas in the library in which there were previously desktop computers have been replaced with more seating arrangements.
Schemes in which students were able to rent laptops are now confined to those found in the libraries. Students may rent laptops for up to three hours at a time and will no longer be able to rent them for use outside of libraries.
“Contributing to the Student Experience” is an identified key objective of UCD’s IT Strategy 2015-2020. In the IT Strategy document, available online, it is stated that “regular interaction with the UCD student community throughout their relationship with UCD” is necessary to ensure “positive outcomes from [the] use of technology solutions and services”. UCD IT Services also lists “engaging the community in the design and delivery of services” as one of their four values.
Other stated IT Strategic Themes included in the report are supporting research, enhancing educational technology services, and enabling global engagement. IT Services have committed themselves to enhance the “provision of information solutions and services that support the student journey through UCD.”
IT Services currently have over 700 open access PCs and SUAS (Stand up and surf) facilities available for staff and student usage across campus.
Details of changes to the laptop loan service found on the IT Services website state that the service has been ‘streamlined’ across UCD and that 24 extra laptops have been made available, split evenly between the James Joyce library and the Health Sciences library.
The website also contains recommendations on buying new laptops, with discounts available for UCD students on Apple and Dell hardware. Enhancing the services that support a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ culture and reviewing the need for services such as laptop loan schemes, computer labs, and SUAS facilities is a specific actionable goal found in UCD’s IT Service Plan up to 2020, which has been published online.
The 2016 Annual Review of IT Services shows a significant jump in the number of students who own smartphones and tablets. Smartphone ownership among UCD students jumped from 70.2% in 2013 to 96.7% in 2016, while 42% now own a tablet compared to only 19% in 2013.
95% of students linked their academic success to their laptops in 2016, an increase on the 71% who did so in 2013.