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Making A Difference

Laptop Partnership Renewed
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In today’s online, real-time, high-speed economy, there is an unprecedented demand for students with the right technological skills — able to collaborate, communicate, and work effectively in teams, capable of applying knowledge and thinking independently. Rensselaer always has prided itself on preparing students with these qualities by providing them a unique environment in which to work and learn. In fact, the Institute was ranked first in a list of the “most connected campuses” in the country, according to a Princeton Review survey released in October.

This pioneering learning environment is most effectively seen in the Mobile Computing Program, where computing is fully integrated into the curriculum. Since the fall of 1999, Rensselaer has required all incoming undergraduates to have a laptop computer. Thanks to a relationship with IBM Corporation, IBM ThinkPads were made available — and fully loaded with software — from Rensselaer for a competitive price. As of 2002, all undergraduates at Rensselaer were participating in the program.

“Technology is a critical aspect of higher education,” says John Kelly III ’78, senior vice president at IBM Corporation. “IBM’s relationship with Rensselaer ensures that students have both world-class instruction and technology as they build the skills and expertise required in today’s economy.”

A survey conducted by Rensselaer’s Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education revealed very positive attitudes among students regarding the educational benefits of owning a laptop: 78 percent of them agreed that the use of laptops in class significantly enhanced their learning, and 88 percent agreed that laptops made learning more enjoyable.

Students can connect their laptop computers to the Rensselaer network in more than 35 classrooms wired for laptops, and at any of the hundreds of laptop jacks in public areas around campus. In addition, every room in the residence halls has a network connection for each student. Wireless access to the network is available in 30 buildings on the main campus and is being extended to the residence halls.

According to Sharon Roy, director of academic and research computing, “an important reason for the success of the program has been the emphasis on integrating the laptop into the curriculum. Given Rensselaer’s expertise in educational technology and interactive learning, our faculty were poised to do so.”

“The biggest advantage is having one universal laptop for students,” says Carlos Perea ’07, an electrical engineering major. “Professors can distribute assignments in a single format and students can get help ‘on the spot’ in class with computer-based assignments. Having all these tools is awesome!” Perea says.

Photo by Mark McCarty

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in March, June, September, and December by the Office of Communications.

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