Why have a student laptop program?

To achieve the University’s vision of being a high value place-based learning institution, distinguished from distance education, it needs to optimise the in-class learning experience. While UQ instructors now have access to a range of in-class active learning technologies, UQ students now need support services and policies to complete the vision. Although pure distance education is possible with static in-place computers (e.g. desktops at home or in labs or in library), modern active learning technology in the classroom depends on students having a smart device (e.g. laptop/tablet) in class, and depends on instructors knowing students have uninhibited access to a device.

The University is starting to make use of a wide range of technologies that enhance the face to face experience in the class including: audience response systems to gauge student understanding of topics; live in-class discussions boards; live co-editing systems for brainstorming and collaboration; e-exams; and the new UQ course evaluation system, which students currently have to answer predominantly on their own devices in class. UQ instructors are making use of in-class tools such as: ExamSoft, Responseware, WordCloud, UQPoll, Padlet and Active Learning Platform.  Furthermore, the applications previously provided only on lab computers, are now available on the university’s virtual desktop (VDI) environment, which means lab software can be run by students on their own computer via a browser.

Therefore with an adjustment to our student computer support services, with a move away from the desktops towards student owned portable devices, we have an opportunity to enable in-class active learning on campus. This adjustment may  improve the value and attractiveness of the UQ in-class learning experience, help low SES students, and save many millions of dollars in lab and library fleet maintenance.

Business Case

Strategic Fit: The University Strategic plan states UQ aspires to be a place based university that leverages blended learning.

Strategic Fit – Student Equity: The current library based PC strategy is a serious equity problem for low SES students because they cannot take them to class to participate in active learning activities.

Cost: Financial support for low SES students to acquire a laptop is  exponentially cheaper than maintaining large fleets of desktop PCs in labs and libraries.

Cost: A working BYOD system would enable computer based exams, in many cases replacing MCQ exams which cost the University $80,000/year in marking alone.

Marketing: A BYOD laptop in-class policy and equity program is an attractive image and fits very well with the agenda of the UQ Advantage

Agility: BOYD allows the university to adapt much more quickly to changing technology. New applications can be deployed and made available to thousands of computers much more quickly and cheaply than we can deploy new hardware (e.g. electronic whiteboards, desktop computers) to 100’s of lecture theatres.

Sustainability – Cost of Desktops: Its not sustainable to provide a computer for each student in every lab and library space they use. Its much cheaper and more sustainable to provide a single laptop they can use in any of these locations AS WELL AS in the class. The funds allocated to labs and libraries can be progressively redirected to an equity program.

Sustainability – Cost of Refurbishments: A BYOD program would significantly enable active learning in every classroom, even tiered theatres, negating the need for expensive refurbishments saving many $Ms. In tiered spaces students can interact and collaborate online.

Work Ready Students: BYOD simulates the real work environment. People don’t work without computers any more so why should students be doing active learning without computers.

Benefits to student learning: The most powerful argument for a BYOD program is the way it enables deeper learning for students through new technologies that facilitate application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of raw knowledge.

Enabling: BYOD enables the University to enhance the in class experience with active learning tools that are not possible when too many students can't use a smart device in-class.

Enabling: BYOD enables invigilated on campus e-exams with more padagogically elaborate question types that are not possible with MCQ tests. Out of 3,500 courses over a year at UQ 1000 of the exams are MCQ. 

Enabling: BYOD enables modern 21st century student learning with access to the modern learning tools from any place any time.

Enabling: BYOD enables UQ lab applications to be used and taught in classrooms using our proven VDI technology, overcoming small and expensive lab room constraints.

Achievability: The 2012 Student IT Survey found that 90% of UQ students owned a laptop. While some of those laptops may not be suitable for carrying around campus, ownership rates have no doubt increased in the years since 2012. Furthermore with an enrolment requirement to bring a laptop to campus the ownership rate would no doubt increase, and an equity program may therefore only have to cover around 5% of the student population.

Convenience and Flexibility: Students are currently dependant on the availability of Library and Lab computers which are often unavailable and can never be taken to class, home, into collaborative environments.  With a one-to-one laptop program all students will be able to study anywhere.

What do we need to make it happen?

Enrolment requirements need to be adjusted from 'students need access to a computer' (e.g. at home) to 'students need a computer they can bring to class' (meeting a published minimum spec). This has been tested successfully in Medcicine and at other universities.

Equity support: Low SES students need help with acquiring a suitable device. Funding support could be managed by the Office of Prospective Students and Student Equity (OPSSE). A program would need to be designed and advertised with the enrolment requirement.

Budget Refocus: The exclusive focus on desktop computers could be changed to include a laptop equity office program, and to learning space upgrades (e.g. power sockets and wireless)

Technical support: IT support should publish purchasing advice along with minimum specs (which would require large screen format, not phone size devices).

Power and WiFi improvements: Lecture spaces would need to be progressively upgraded with more power and wireless.

Training for staff on active learning in class using technology.

Example Policies and Programs

RMIT builds a desktop-free university

In recent times RMIT has placed significant emphasis on the transformation of its physical on-campus built form to accommodate the affordances of mobile and digital technologies. A key component of this change has been the introduction of a University-wide Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) platform that has been deployed as the cornerstone of student mobile support services.  (Source: http://www.acode.edu.au/pluginfile.php/679/mod_resource/content/1/Workshop%20Agenda.pdf )

Princeton University - The Student Computer Initiative (SCI)

Princeton University’s “The Student Computer Initiative (SCI)”… is a program that offers laptop computers that are specially configured for academic use at Princeton University, specially priced for Princeton students, and expertly supported by Office of Information Technology staff.”  More information at: http://www.princeton.edu/sci/models/

Deakin University Participation & Partnerships Program (DUPPP)

Deakin runs the Deakin University Participation & Partnerships Program (DUPPP) to meet the Australian Government goal of 20% undergraduate enrolments coming from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. The Government provides funding to help universities achieve this target, through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP). They use this fund to deliver the Laptop Scheme offering a <brandremoved> laptop to students who are eligible for financial assistance. Student complete an application form justifying their need. The Equity and Diversity Unit coordinates the allocation of DUPPP funds and oversees the reporting on funded activities. Programs funded by the HEPPP are expected to be targeted, evidence-based, collaborative, and evaluated against clear Government quantitative targets. There are currently 29 projects being funded for 2012.

University of Texas

All students enrolling in ARCH 3343 and INTD 3343 and all graduate students enrolled in the PATH B course sequence will be required to have a properly configured laptop for these and all subsequent courses taken http://hms.harvard.edu/departments/hms-information-technology/it-service-catalog/computers-software All GSD students are expected to bring to school a laptop.

Swinburne University Low SES support

To be eligible a student must meet all the following criteria: Local students who are enrolled in an undergraduate or associate degree course of study; Full time. (Exceptional circumstances for studying part-time will be considered);  Demonstrate a low socio-economic background or experience of significant financial disadvantage; Previous recipients are ineligible to apply. Value: <brandremoved> laptop available worth $2,000 each; <brandremoved> 14" or 13.3" laptop available worth approximately $800 each -http://www.swinburne.edu.au/study/courses/scholarships/88/laptop-grants-2012


MIT recommends certain laptops for students: https://ist.mit.edu/hardware/laptops and has a laptop loan program at one academic semester at a time.

University of Florida - Mandatory Laptop Requirement

Levin College of Law requires that all entering J.D. students own a laptop computer that is in good working order with the latest software and anti-virus updates. http://www.law.ufl.edu/about/services/technology-services/mandatory-laptop-requirement

Seton Hall University

All students are given a laptop “you will be distributed a SHU issued laptop.” http://www.shu.edu/offices/policies-procedures/pcss-student-mc-policies.cfm

Charles Sturt Uni Students

All students are expected to have a laptop. http://www.csu.edu.au/courses/dental-science

Cincinnati University

A laptop computer is required “ http://ceas.uc.edu/about/CollegeComputing/ComputingPolicies/StudentOwnedComputerRequirement.html and they document minimum requirements http://ceas.uc.edu/about/CollegeComputing/ComputingPolicies/minimum_computerrequirementbyyear.html

Harrisburg University

Students enrolled in Harrisburg University of Science and Technology's degree program are required to have a laptop computer in order to complete specific course requirements.”.. You are free to purchase the laptop of your choice (as long it meets the minimum requirements above. Financial aid. Contact the Office of Financial Aid Services

Howard University

All pharmacy students are required to own a laptop that meets minimum specifications set by the program.


Clayton State University

Each CSU student is required to have ready access throughout the semester to a notebook computer that meets the ITP Choice requirements for the student's academic program” http://www.clayton.edu/hub/ITP-Choice/Notebook-Computer-Policy

Last update May 10th 2017