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Error 404 Laptops Not Found: Student Need for Laptops Outpaces Supply

The Cannell Library Laptop Loan program is shrinking, despite strong student demand for it.

In 2015 there were 15 laptops available for students. Now there are 11.

It would be difficult to go through the Clark College catalog and find a class that is not web enhanced in some way.

Clark has been moving away from the traditional classroom setting of books, paper and black boards. As it does, it leaves behind students who may not know how to operate or be able to afford the technology needed to succeed for their classes.

Amy Waite, Cannell Library’s access services manager has overseen the laptop program for the library, which loans computers to students for a full quarter.

“As time went on we saw how popular the program was,” Waite said. “We started to work with Tech Fee [a committee which determines how students technology fees are spent] and say we need more, there’s more students that need these then we have.”

According to a grant report from Spring 2018, these laptops averaged 111 loans per year since the program’s inception.

Student Amanda Gillespie has the potential to face technology issues at Clark. Gillespie is in her first quarter after being released from jail in December. She was not in a financial position to buy a laptop while starting her life over at Clark.  

“It was a major concern of mine [getting a laptop],” Gillespie said. “I can’t do my homework on my phone because everything has to be typed and printed.”

Most classes use Canvas in one way or another. Even in classes that do not use Canvas, instructors might use a book code for course material or online quizzes. Some classes are only offered online.

Gillespie’s basic food, employment and training counselor told her about the laptop program at the library. On the first day of the quarter, she was able to borrow a laptop.  

“It was very easy,” Gillespie said. “I just walked up and asked her about the program she said oh yeah and she gave me the computer I signed out and that was it.”

In 2013 with help of a Tech Fee grant, the library started letting students check out laptops for 21 days with 15 laptops available to check out.

In 2017 the loans were extended from 21 days loan to a full quarter.

Last summer, after five years of wear and tear the laptops for the program were retired and replaced with internal use laptops.   

In Winter quarter, the library only had 11 laptops available to check out. Students claimed all 11 before noon on the first day of the quarter. There are 10 students currently on the waiting list to get a laptop.    

For many students who want to check out laptops coming to campus is difficult due to their jobs, a lack of transportation or family issues, Waite said.   

“They would rather be able to take the laptop home and do their homework there,” Waite said.

Even though students can use technology at home and on campus, students may still not know how to access their devices.

Tofik Khan, who works at the tech hub in the library spends lots of time helping students and faculty with a variety of technology issues.

On average the tech hub will see about three to four students an hour, but during the first week of the quarter they will see about 300 to 400 students an hour, Khan said.

“New students enrolled who don’t know their passwords. They don’t know how to go about checking their email. They don’t know how to look for their classes in Canvas,” Khan said. “Usually that’s the point where a lot of technical issues spark up.”

The current tutorial on Clark’s website that teaches students how to access Canvas does not have the correct steps in order to access the site, Khan said.

Gillespie’s situation is far from perfect, she said. Currently she does not have dedicated internet at home, instead relying on roommates and using her phone as mobile wireless hotspot for access.

Despite this, having a laptop at home has been a big relief to her life as a student, she said.

“Having a computer at home I think has made a huge difference on my stress level and my success,” she said.

Waite would like to add more laptops to the program, but the Tech Fee committee is concerned about replacing laptops as some are never returned, she said.

Tech Fee’s solution is to have students prepay for laptops, but the students who really need laptops do not have the resources for that, she said.

“If they had money to buy a laptop they wouldn’t be checking ours out,” Waite said.

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