Laptop Project faces glitches

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By Emily Yearwood

Three years after it started, a pilot project aimed at making laptops mandatory for some Ryerson students is encountering delays.

The Link program was launched in 1996 and was supposed to be evaluated this fall.

But Esther Deutsch, manager of the Link program, says the project is moving slowly.

The program has been offered to first-year business management students for the past two years. This year, it also includes second-year students. They lease IBM ThinkPad notebook computers from the school and use the computers for all classwork.

But Deutsch wants to see more students involved. “We’re hoping to do it for four years [of a student’s degree],” she said.

Cost is one of the barriers. The business building would have to be rewired to accommodate more users. “We’ve got to look at a lot of things, like going wireless,” Deutsch said. “It’s an expensive thing.”

The Link laptop lease amounts to $175 a month for four months.

That’s more expensive than the rental costs of computers at the Notebook Store, at Sheppard Avenue West and Allen Road, where students could lease exactly the same machines for $155 a month, and own the equipment after 36 months.

The creation of an information technology management degree program has slowed Link’s expansion.

Fewer first-year student are enrolling in Link this year. Deutsch blames ITM got stealing away students from the business management program, who might have otherwise signed up for her project.

Michael DiRezze, a third-year business student, said he didn’t join the program because of the cost. “I was interested, but the $700 a semester was just too much for me,” DiRezze said.

Deutsch acknowledges that students could probably lease the same model from a store at a lower cost, but she says the school price is justified because it includes Internet access, a network card and upgrades.

John Kapalla has been part of Link for two years. He says students get more than they pay for.

“[The cost] is fair if you think about it, but some people can’t afford it,” he said.

Although a few students drop out every semester because the cost is too high, he says the program is necessary: “You pretty much need a computer.”

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