As students, we rely heavily on technology to complete our studies. Whether it’s to research a project, write an essay or prepare a presentation, computers are rather ingrained in the way we pursue our education. Sometimes, that reliance can present a challenge.
Business students are experiencing that challenge now, due to a rather shocking change to “The Common Lab” otherwise known as the basement computer lab in the Business Tower. What used to be a go-to location for printing and research has gone from tech bounty to famine. Thirty computers were removed from the basement lab over the summer, leaving behind empty work stations. These machines were relocated to T-212 for a pilot project being tested for the new CAT building. The pilot project will explore the virtualization of applications in a live environment.
“We are moving to a ‘bring your own device’ model for CAT and are supporting students by demonstrating the initiatives we plan to implement in the future,” said Troy Watson, computer systems support supervisor. Testing the system on existing hardware may reduce technical mishaps once the CAT building opens, but it does leave the fate of “The Common Lab” in limbo.
The removal of computer workstations has effectively turned most of the lab into a new study space on campus. Although study space is always a desired commodity on campus, computers are in high demand and some students are starting to feel the pinch. Third year business student Kyle Duckering says, “I think the last thing they should be doing is taking out computers, I mean at around noon or so, it gets really busy in the HP Centre, you’re struggling to find spots and not everyone has a laptop or brings it with them to school. So a lot of people do go to the basement floor and with half the computers taken out, it’s tough to find a spot. I don’t understand why but maybe they should have said something at least, just to give us an understanding of why [the computers were removed].”
There are currently three computer labs available for general student use on campus. The HP Computer Commons, the Library, and “The Common Lab” in the tower basement. With the removal of the majority of computers in the tower lab, many business students have to trek across campus to access printing services. The recent move to merge the Project Factory with the library has increased the number of available computers in that area of campus to 95, and the HP Centre has 111 workstations available for students. However, the loss of 30 workstations in the tower is being felt by business students.
NAITSA President Justin Nand says, “I’ve had a few students complain to me about the lack of computers in the basement of the business tower. I have studied there a few days ago, and it was nice to have that open space next to my friend using the computer. However, I could have gone to a separate space on campus to use tables, instead of taking away from a computer, which could have helped a student without a laptop.”
Although the move to a “Bring Your Own Device” model can be expected to produce substantial savings for NAIT on the hardware end, it will take some time for students to adjust to the change. A full transition won’t be complete until end of year at earliest, as Watson explains, “A soft launch is up and coming in that area, and should be live before the new year” which includes wireless printing in the basement lab. Until then, students will face fiercer competition for a computer space on campus.