Computer labs neglected

By R. Paul Dyck

At a time when on-campus computer systems are faster than ever, students wonder whether it’s worth the time spent lining up for them.

Some University of Calgary students express concerns regarding accessibility to Information Commons computers, as demand for the new systems increases beyond the number available.

"Sometimes I get on a computer right away, sometimes it’s up to 10 minutes," said third-year management student Chris Carolan. "Sometimes I get tired of waiting, and get up and leave."

The Information Commons contains approximately 240 computers, with research resources, Internet and e-mail access. However, it is common to wait 10 or more minutes for a computer.

"I like the computers a lot better, but I find it hard to get one sometimes," said second-year Anthropology student Jason Rip. "I’ve had to wait up to about 20 minutes for a computer."

This response reflects the choice of the Information Commons administration to increase the hours of operation, which now allows student access to a computer 24 hours a day.

"One area we have concerns for is the wait time for computers," said Information Commons Project Manager Lori Van Rooijen. "Twenty four hour access has helped take off some of the heat."
Van Rooijen said they are trying to meet student demands.
"We’ve set up an area at the front for library research use only," said Van Rooijen. "There’s no productivity or e-mail done on it, so that’s helped a lot."

However, talk about the new Information Commons overshadows the presence of other computer labs around campus, many of which house systems comparable to those in the Information Commons.

"We’ve doubled our capacity this year–half our machines are older, and half are newer," said Social Sciences lab supervisor Corey Fehr. "We’ve got more software as far as math and statistics, but [the Information Commons] has a nicer setup for students who want to retrieve their e-mail."

Students indicate that they still use the other campus labs, but note that factors such as location and printing costs draw them to the Information Commons facilities.

"I use the Scurfield labs a fair amount, but it’s lots more expensive," said second year pre-management student Trista Wenzel.

Van Rooijen also acknowledges the other labs on campus, but notes that the services available through the Information Commons make it more attractive to students.

"It doesn’t seem to be just a computer that students are looking for," said Van Rooijen. "It’s the help that you get when you use the computer–it’s the service component."

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