Winona State unveils new technology

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Nathaniel Nelson / Winonan

The upgrades to Winona State University’s laptop program for the 2017-2018 school year were officially announced last week, simplifying the program to one choice for Mac and one for PC.

In the fall, when new and returning students receive either their new or upgraded laptops, they will now be able to choose between a HP Elitebook X360 G2 and a MacBook Pro, a shift from last year’s default HP Elitebook 840 G3 and MacBook Air or the higher end choices of those options, the MacBook Pro or the updated HP Elitebook 840 G3. In addition, the iPad program is getting completely reworked to allow students who do not require an iPad access to a better laptop, according to Kenneth Janz, associate vice president for academic affairs and chief information officer at Winona State.

Janz said the change will have a positive impact on student life.

“I think we tried our absolute best to meet everyone’s needs as we could,” Janz said.

The new MacBook option will be the entry level MacBook Pro, with a solid-state drive, a

faster processor, disk drive and Apple’s high definition retina screen.

“I don’t know if [students] need it for necessarily for their academic needs, but they wanted the MacBook Pro. They didn’t want the Air,” Janz said. “It does have more ports, it is more powerful, and it is a better machine.”

As for the PC choice, the HP Elitebook X360 G3, the university decided to go with a flippable two-in-one laptop.

Last year, Winona State began offering choices for laptops instead of one PC and one Mac. Students could either take a MacBook Air or an HP laptop and an iPad Mini, or forgo the iPad and receive a MacBook Pro or a higher end HP laptop. To receive the more powerful laptops, students needed to request the change by a predetermined date.

According to Janz, they had around 20 percent of the students requesting stronger machines, but many students missed the deadline and requested them later on.

In response, the department decided to look at making the stronger machines the default while choosing new models.

Each year, the IT department hosts a tech showcase to get student opinions on new technology. This helps the department determine which laptop students would prefer to use, so the school can continue to meet student expectations.

When comparing the MacBook Airs and the new MacBook Pros, Janz said the interest in the Pros was almost unanimous.

“It was in the high 80 percentile of students that wanted this as their option,” Janz said, adding that to meet this demand, they needed to make changes in the iPad program as well.

The current MacBook Airs are purchased by the university for around $1,000, and the iPad Minis are purchased for close to $300, according to Janz. The new Macbook Pros cost a little more than $1,400, so the only way the school could afford it was to take another look at how the iPads are used.

This year, according to Janz, the department surveyed all of the departments on campus to see how they used the iPads. They discovered iPads are primarily used in junior and senior level nursing and education, and then the computer science program in Rochester.

“Those departments say, ‘Yes, we use them. We need them for our curriculum,’” Janz said. “Almost everyone else says, ‘Well we have a faculty member using it in a course,’ or not using it at all.”

While there are students who use the iPads for things other than coursework, Janz said, most students said they would still prefer the stronger computer.

Instead of giving out iPad Minis to each student, Winona State will now be purchasing iPad Minis and rotating them through the juniors and seniors who need them for their curriculum.

These will be bought and owned by the school instead of leased, so students will not be able to buy them out, Janz said.

He added students who already have iPad Minis will still be able to keep them when they graduate.

“I think we’ll end up with happier students, and it will meet their academic needs. Yet we are not cutting out the students that need the iPads for their academic stuff, so I think it’s win-win,” Janz said.

The IT Department will be ordering the new laptops sometime this week, followed by a message to students on campus detailing the final specifications of the devices and more information on the changes.

By Nathaniel Nelson

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