By Sheila Avari
Though class doesn’t start for another 40 minutes, 20 Ryerson Link students are gathered in their classroom, laptops plugged in, surfing the Internet, chatting with friends and eager to begin the day’s lesson.
Link, a pilot laptop program offered to a small group of first-year business management students, costs $700 a semester for a laptop and access to course curriculum, lecture notes, tests and exams by computer.
The program, which began in 1996, has students lease their laptops from Ryerson. This year Ryerson’s Link fee became tax deductible.
Esther Deutsch oversees Link and is evaluating its performance this year.
A report on Link expected this April will outline the program’s progress to date. A committee studying implementing laptop programs in other Ryerson departments is looking at Link as a model.
Fifty first-year business students are enrolled in the fully electronic Link program. Patricia Lakhan enrolled in Link in September and is thankful for the high-tech experience the program gives her.
“The Link program is so helpful. Especially for me since I never had any experience (on a laptop computer). I learned a lot,” Lakhan said.
Link courses are designed to be lecture-free. Students come to class with their laptops, plug them in and get to work.
The fact that there are no lectures stimulates discussion and encourages more participation, Link professors say. The classes are more interactive because students can do the work on their notebooks while the teacher is discussing the assignment.
Teachers are present to discuss class work and answer questions. Assignments are completed online and submitted electronically for marking. Teachers mark them on the computer and send them back to their students.
But in class there are disadvantages, says professor Doug Mckessock.
“High-tech note passing” has been a problem in some Link classes. Students go online during class time, surf the internet and e-mail classmates.
It has become a noticeable distraction and students are not always concentrating. “We’re working on it,” Mckessock said.
But Deutsch says the program is a success and it has great benefits.
“Where can you work without a computer?”