FUNDING has been recently approved to allow a redesign of computer labs in the main Computer Science building, which will see the layout of the rooms altered to accommodate their use by smaller tutorial classes and teaching groups.

Head of Computer Science and Informatics, Dr Joe Carthy explained that concurrent with this refurbishment is a new requirement which has made the ownership of laptop computers mandatory for all Computer Science students.

The computer labs will be refurbished over the winter break. PHOTO: Dairine Quille
The computer labs will be refurbished over the winter break. PHOTO: Dairine Quille

Stressing that large numbers of students now work from laptops, Dr Carthy said that “the students were voting with their feet by bringing in their laptops”. He highlighted the results of a recent survey conducted by the IT Services, which revealed that around 80 per cent of college students currently own laptops.

Dr Carthy explained that the computer labs needed a refurbishment in order to facilitate smaller tutorial classes instead of traditional larger classes, adding that “we had machines that were idle or were left switched on and consuming power”.

Explaining that the high level of usage of laptops encouraged the mandatory ownership policy, Dr Carthy also spoke of the fall in prices of laptops. He explained, “arguably, we should even have done it two or three years earlier and followed Quinn. We felt that [around] €360 wouldn’t break the bank for a machine that would last three or four years.”

Provisions have been made by the School of Computer Science and Informatics to ensure that any students who may not be in a position to afford a new machine can obtain financial assistance but according to Dr Carthy, no students have as of yet availed of this assistance.

“Nobody has approached us to tell us that they can’t afford it but the arrangements are there,” Dr Carthy commented. “If someone’s doing one of our modules who is a non-Computer Science student, who wouldn’t have a laptop, we have a couple of desktop computers in the lab to cater for that and we also have a batch of laptops which we lend out.”

Dr Carthy emphasised that any scheduled refurbishment work is planned to coincide with the Christmas break so that disruption to academic activities in the school will be minimal.

Any computer hardware made surplus by the rearrangement will either be redistributed amongst various lab facilities around the Computer Science building or else donated to Camara, an Irish charity that overhauls old computers and provides them for the use of educational projects in Africa.

In recent years, laptop ownership has been made mandatory in the Quinn School of Business. UCD has also made a deal with Dell and Apple to offer laptops to students at discounted prices.