New Computers in Ciruti!

New Computers in Ciruti!

As you return to campus, you'll see that our new computers have been installed throughout Ciruti classrooms and the LRC. We hope that it will be a pleasure to teach with these fast, powerful machines! You'll recall that last spring, we collected faculty feedback through a survey and through focus group sessions in order to determine the teaching needs and the type of computer system that should be installed. Based on the input gathered, it was clear that the preferred option at this time is to continue using dual-boot iMac computers.

In addition to new computers, we also are beginning to get region-free Blu-ray players in Ciruti. Ciruti locations that now have Blu-ray players are: LRC Lounge and classrooms 113, 209 and 211. These players should be able to play any Blu-ray disc from anywhere around the world.

The feedback from faculty included a number of good questions and comments regarding the classroom computers and media equipment that we wanted to address in more detail. (The feedback also included a lot of useful comments about the classroom spaces, furniture, etc., which have been shared with the Registrar and the Classroom Committee, to help the college continue to improve the quality of teaching spaces across campus.)

Optical drives may become obsolete eventually, but it's preposterous to pretend that they aren't still used by many teachers in many educational contexts. Why can't optical drives be part of the equipment setup in all classrooms?

There are a couple of reasons why we are not able to install an external optical drive in every Ciruti classroom:

  • We do not have the funding to purchase that many drives, and it’s difficult to make a case for the expense, as the need is fairly limited and will continue to decrease over time.
  • External optical drives are not designed to stand up to the rigors of use in a public space (as we know, the classrooms are heavily used by students outside of class hours). If we installed drives in the classrooms, they would likely be damaged and need to be replaced regularly, increasing the costs.

For most faculty, optical drives won’t be needed, as alternative storage methods will be more effective than DVD or CD media (such as USB drives or external hard drives, which offer greater storage capacity and greater flexibility to save, edit and erase files).

For those cases in which an optical drive is needed, there are drives available for check out from the LRC and from the main library. Checking out a drive as needed should be a quick and easy process, and it will guarantee that you have a drive that works, available when and where you need it.

I show DVDs all the time using the DVD players. But the players often fail, so having a computer with a DVD drive as a backup has been important.

If you should have any difficulty with the classroom DVD player, please contact the LRC right away so that we can assist. It may be a minor problem that can be resolved immediately, or we can bring a spare DVD player or external optical drive to the classroom.

(Keep in mind that the computers and external optical drives are only able to play Region 1 DVDs, so using an optical drive connected to the computer as a backup would not be an option for DVDs from other parts of the world. The multiregion DVD players enable playback of DVDs from anywhere in the world.)

Previously, we have tested each DVD player prior to the start of each semester and then relied upon user reports to alert us of malfunctions. Having received this feedback that the players are failing frequently, we’ll try testing on a weekly basis during fall semester to see if this alleviates the problem.

Responding to what they find effective about the current classroom setup, faculty comments included: Straightforward and user-friendly setup. Easy to figure out. Efficient and reliable. Very few problems. Please be careful about any changes.

Beginning with the previous computer upgrade in Ciruti four years ago, we have actively sought input from the faculty, as the major stakeholders, to direct updates and changes. Decisions are based on faculty feedback, balanced with information about the technical possibilities and limitations. We are very careful about making changes, and we’re very happy to hear the positive feedback -- straightforward, user-friendly, efficient and reliable are our goals for the teaching equipment in Ciruti classrooms!

Why don’t we keep the current computers? They are not old and they work well.

It is great to hear that the classroom computers have been working well overall for teaching and learning. However, behind the scenes, it has not been easy to maintain the computers in good working condition. Each summer, LITS and LRC staff spend a significant amount of time testing and updating the computers, and each year, the amount of staff time required to keep these systems in working order has increased considerably, reaching a level that was not sustainable. And, despite our best efforts, there were growing difficulties with incompatibility of the system hardware with current software.

For example, you may have noticed that up until now, the Ciruti classroom computers continued to have the older XP version of Windows. We were not able to install a newer version of the Windows operating system, as the hardware in the old computers was not compatible. Not only does running an outdated operating system cause issues with newer software, but it leaves the computers and the college network open to security risks. It also creates complications for users who are accustomed to the newer operating systems in other locations on campus.

In addition, not everyone has had such a positive experience, especially in recent years as the systems have aged. Some faculty have experienced significant problems with using the computers, which is another reason why an upgrade was needed.

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