Baylor libraries reimagine technology services

Technology

Students study in Moody with the new COVID-19 guidelines in place. Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

Baylor Library and Academic Technology Services has had to rethink some of its computer resources for students in part because of social distancing guidelines and quarantine mandates.

For years, the library has been lending out computers for students to use in the library or to check out for a week. Now, that doesn’t help students who are in isolation housing, self-quarantined for more than a week or those students who are utilizing remote learning.

Andrew Telep, assistant director of experiential learning commons, explained the importance of computers now and the accommodations made for students who cannot benefit from past technology check-out procedures.

“The coronavirus has changed the ball game for what classrooms look like, and technology is a really important component more so than it ever has been, and so laptops are a part of that because of Zoom and Canvas, all the software that is helping deliver the classroom experience, in addition to all that laptops provide the students,” Telep said.

With help from the library, student success initiatives and information technology services (ITS), 200 computers are available for students who have a specific academic need. These teams can use their tools collaboratively so in-need students can have a computer given to them for the semester.

“The fundamental difference for what we’re doing with these from how HelpDesk+ operated before was there was very little vetting done before. We have a reservation tool and if one is available you’re welcome to put your name down. We wanted to make sure these new computers were marked for students specifically who needed an academic need for technology,” Telep said. “Instead of just using a reservation tool, we’ve partnered with student success initiatives. They are partnering with mentors and faculty and other campus populations to help identify students who are at risk of struggling in their classes.”

Whether or not there will be enough computers for these students is still an open question, as they are still being distributed. Telep did say there is a good chance Baylor can get more if need be.

“The library has an annual report that they send out,” Telep said. “This program will be highlighted in the report so alum and other recipients of the report are given the opportunity to contribute to the program. Obviously they are not an insignificant expense, but students who are here are worth our investment in helping them have what they need.”

This fall, one in three computers are not able to be used, and many of the labs are closed to follow social distancing guidelines. There are no plans to relocate these computers, but Telep said they are hoping for the best with test results and a decrease in positivity rates. Once social distancing measures can be lessened, more of the labs and computers can be easily reincorporated on campus.

“If we move them, there is a lot involved: finding a network, finding power, is it a supervised space? If we don’t have the social distancing requirement, we would just have to put them right back. We are trying to eliminate rework and prepare for the best,” Telep said.

For students on campus, HelpDesk+, located in the basement of Moody Memorial Library, is all still open and staffed.

Carl Flynn, director of marketing and communications for information technology and university libraries, said for those needing support on Canvas there is a 24/7 support line. There are also Zoom technicians working on campus who collaborate with Zoom if students or faculty have issues. HelpDesk+ should be contacted to troubleshoot Zoom.

Telep encouraged those who have their own personal computers to use them first.

“Now more than ever, it’s probably better to use one’s own computer so you’re not sharing keyboards with everybody else because cleaning them is also a challenge,” Telep said. “So there’s a lot of benefits this semester for students to bring their own computer with them when they need it, and for students who don’t have that opportunity we’re hoping to settle that.”

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