Campus Computer Lab Updates Offer New Technological Conveniences

By Jambar Contributor

Tre Mastran

Discussions have begun with Youngstown State University’s Information Technology Steering Committee (ITSC) to convert some of the campus computer labs to “bring your own device” labs.

The IT department at YSU is close to implementing a new pilot program where a number of computer labs on campus may be partially or fully converted to allow students to bring their own laptops, tablets or other devices and use them in the same capacity as the current desktop computers.

Ernie Barkett, YSU’s Student Government Association executive vice-president, outlined the basic objectives of the project.

“Students can expect to see improvements in all technology across campus in the coming years with upgrades to computer labs, blackboard, and charging station being installed around campus,” Barkett said.

YSU’s Chief Information Officer Jim Yukech said this new initiative is still in the preliminary stages, but it may allow for the introduction of new and more convenient technologies to students across campus if fully implemented.

“Right now, the computer labs are set up for, in many instances, degree specific or class specific software which needs to be loaded onto a server or onto those desktops,” Yukech said. “So, by thinning those applications out, hosting them in the data center and layering in application virtualization, those applications could be accessed by any device anywhere.”

Yukech said, according to a Doodle survey, between 92 and 95 percent of YSU students have their own devices. Applying the BYOD conversion would serve to further benefit these students as well as reducing the university’s tech costs.

There are somewhere around 2,400 computers on campus. Software needs to be refreshed every five to seven years at a price of between $850 to $1,000 per unit.

With the conversion initiative in developmental stages and the overall goal being ambitious and extensive in respect to costs and required time, the conversion will not be implemented quickly or all at once, Yukech said.

“We want to extend the offering to the student to access everything they need any place, anywhere and then, at the same time, get a cost benefit of reducing the number of workstations that we have in computer labs,” Yukech said. “I don’t see us, in the near term, closing or altering our computer labs. This project’s going to probably take a good part of two to three years, and that’s if we work out the total cost of ownership to where there’s a benefit.”

In addition to the cost of application virtualization technology, there is also the need for physical servers from which the software can be hosted, YSU’s Director of Infrastructure Services Ryan Geilhard said.

“The other half of it is deploying infrastructure in the data center that actually houses all these applications in a centralized place,” Geilhard said. “So, we’re essentially publishing the application to both the lab computers as they stand, but also to the BYOD devices of the student.”

Despite upgrade costs and a long rollout, the benefits provided for students would be significant.

“What we envision is most applications are installed across all the labs on campus or available on an online portal on any student laptop, tablet [or] even smartphone,” Geilhard said. “You could do all your YSU work on campus, at home, at Starbucks — really wherever you are, remotely.”