By Graeme Smith
Prepare to get wired — and prepare to pay cash.
Ryerson is considering making laptop computer mandatory for some, perhaps many, programs. Students would get lectures and test online using laptops leased from the school — at a cost of $1,400 a year.
A pilot program, called “Link,” is currently testing the idea and will be evaluated in 1999. Changes might come sooner than that, though. A committee devoted to the subject will submit its report to Dennis Mock, Ryerson’s VP academic, in two months.
Mock supports the idea of students lugging around laptops. “I personally would like to see it happen,” he said. “It’s something that every university in Canada is looking at.
His enthusiasm is echoed by Esther Deutsch, who oversees Link and sits on the advisory committee.
“Other schools have tried it. We’re just keeping up with the competition,” she said.
Fifty-seven first-year business students are renting top-of-the-line IBM ThinkPad notebooks this year for the Link experiment. All their course work is done over the Internet, on the Ryerson website.
Deutsch, who manages the pilot project, said the students have dealt well with the extra cost. “They’ve managed,” she said. “It is voluntary.”
She admits price could become a problem in the future, though. “If we decided to expand the program, it would be mandatory,” she said. “The only problem is the students who might not be able to afford it.”
Zoryana Grod and Steve Ackroyd are first-year Link students. Both of them said they’re enjoying the program.
“We come here to play games,” said Ackroyd, who played Bomber Man on his laptop as he spoke. “A lot of people don’t come to class.”
Grod agrees thee’s less need to be at school with everything online. “It’s like, why bother coming to class? Everything’s set out for you, just click on a lecture. It’s fairly accessible.”
Grod said she would rent the laptop against next year, if possible. “We rely on it a lot,” she said. “And when you get out into the real world, you can say you actually touched a computer.”
Although it’s difficult to finance, Grod also said she’s willing to make sacrifices. “I’ll save my pennies.”
If people can’t afford it? “If it’s not your thing, there are always other universities,” said Grod. “It’s the way of the future. Isn’t it?”