Staff report

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University says it’s making preparations to become a “laptop campus” by August, which would require every student to have a laptop for the 2022-23 school year.

The school says it’s making upgrades to its Wi-Fi system in residence halls and academic buildings and the Winthrop Bookstore will begin selling laptops, which meet the university’s specifications.

The move comes after the school’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to make the transition from campus-wide desktop computers to laptops, at a quarterly meeting Oct. 29.

Interim President George Hynd said, in a press release, that students’ access to technology can contribute to a successful experience.

“This is where we need to move as a campus. We take student success seriously, and we saw during the pandemic that it was a challenge for some students to complete assignments due to technology at hand,” said Hynd. “This requirement will help all Winthrop students as well as faculty.”

“I think it is an important change. I think where we’re going as a society is towards this type of setup,” said Andrew Besmer, an associate professor of computer science who was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast.

He said the transition will create some new teaching opportunities.

“Some of the things you couldn’t do before, you can now do in the classroom. Everyone having access to a laptop means I can have them get on and do an assignment on there,” said Besmer. “From a campus perspective, by opening up the ability for students to have access to that technology, they can start to work from when and where they want.”

Students will be required to purchase their own laptops and Winthrop has already held two laptop fairs this month at the bookstore, which were intended to educate students about the transition.

“My desktop is completely sufficient for all my needs as a computer science student, as far as I understand,” said Michael Rego, who was also a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast.

“The requirement for me to get a laptop seems a little bit redundant, my desktop is completely functional. Anything I need a laptop for could be satisfied by me going to the computer lab,” Rego said.

The university says laptops can be ordered using financial aid and the school has agreements with Dell and Apple to offer students discounted educational prices.

However, students who are unable to purchase a laptop may borrow one from the Dacus Library through its “laptop loaner program,” but the supply is limited and students may only check out a laptop for one semester at a time.

“We have been building a supply of laptops to where I think we will be able to serve 2% to 3% of the student body,” said Besmer. “It’s a semester-based loan system we can utilize for students who really need to get access to a laptop that is totally free.”

Employees in the Computing and Information Technology department say they’ve been working to make preparations for the transition.

“We’re already issuing laptops to all the faculty and staff. Most of the desktops, as I’m sure you’ve probably seen, are pretty much getting taken out of most locations, with the exception of some of the labs,” said Jack Boggs, a technician with the Computing and Information Technology department.

He estimated that more than 300 desktop computers, across campus, have already been removed or upgraded.

“I think it has pros and cons, but I think it’s definitely more pros than cons, especially because trying to move around desktops for any reason gets very cumbersome, very quickly,” he said.

Boggs, who is a Winthrop graduate, said it’s unclear how much technical support the school will provide for students using their own laptops.

“When I was a student, (the Technology Services Office) actually did quite a good bit…more student support for their technologies. A lot more than they currently do now. So it would be interesting to see whether or how much exactly we decide to support (students), because I know we’re going to get tons of questions and calls about it,” he said.

“I would be very surprised if in the next three to four years, if we’re not just entirely a laptop campus.”

* Jackson Houston, Marley Jenkins, Hunter Lowery and KJ Vaughn contributed to this report.