In the midst of the tumult and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are positive outcomes that show Cougar spirit is still strong.
The University made the decision to conduct online classes through the end of the spring semester on March 11. Recognizing that not all students would have adequate technology to access online content, WSU worked quickly to launch a computer loan program for students on March 18.
Within two weeks, 116 Chromebooks have been sent to students who hail from every WSU campus and live throughout the U.S.
For some students, inadequate computers made it difficult to stream video courses. Others who had relied on campus computer labs for online access were scrambling to come up with the means necessary to take online courses.
“I am really relieved and grateful for this program,” says Hillary Zhang, a junior computer science major. “My computer broke down right at the start of online classes and most laptop repair shops are closed or delayed right now. This loaner laptop gave me the chance to still do everything I need to do.”
The Office of the Provost partnered with Information Technology Services to bring the program to life, purchasing 200 Acer Chromebooks with funds set aside for COVID-19-related expenditures. The Controller’s Office promptly produced tags for the machines and Central Receiving and Delivery shipped the packages to students.
Sasi Pillay, WSU’s vice president for Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer, has wanted to implement a computer loan program for several years, but the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus outbreak made it a top priority.
“Providing the Chromebooks to students at this time is important as it allows the students to access all the needed online content they need without having to figure out all these on their own,” Pillay says. “The students can better focus on learning as opposed to having to deal with technology issues. I would like this to be a service that we continue to offer to students who need it.”
Under the current arrangement, students fill out a simple form and are loaned the Chromebook, with an option to purchase the machine for $300, or return it prior to August 1 at no cost to them. The machines are being sold at cost.
Juan Acevedo-Alcala, a junior majoring in Business, had been using on an older computer that was unreliable, but he says the Chromebook he is using now has been a difference maker.
“I used to have to go to the library to use a computer,” Acevedo-Alcala says. “The courses I’m taking this semester are already hard by themselves and not having the resources to access them quickly made it even harder. This has saved me a lot of time and I feel like it will help me do better in my classes.”
Interim provost Bryan Slinker was eager to get the program started to meet a pressing need for students.
“We recognize that moving to online courses caused challenges for students, and particularly for those without access to adequate devices,” Slinker said. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer the computer loan program for these students and we appreciate the perseverance and adaptability our students, faculty and staff continue to display in these difficult circumstances.”
The University is also exploring ways to offer adequate WiFi access to all students and is gauging interest in the potential program. Students with a need for improved WiFi access are encouraged to fill out the interest form.