Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Laptop Loans Revisited

I can’t believe it’s the fourth week of the project already; time has flown since I originally posted ‘Laptop Loans’ and I finally have some useful information to update you all…

The general consensus with this element of mobile learning is it is regarded by students as an extremely beneficial service; it allows for greater flexibility, portability and privacy. A study at Colorado State University even found that students preferred to wait and queue for a laptop loan, even when desktop PCs were available, proving how popular such a service can become and really re-enforcing the importance of providing flexible working environments for the 21st century student.

Previous laptop loan studies (namely by Browning and Cunningham in 2006) have found that implementing such a scheme is a cost effective way of providing greater access to computers without any major redevelopment of the physical space within libraries/LRCs. Obviously in some cases a certain amount of savings will be counter-balanced by inadvertent damage due to the high usage of such a scheme and the vast numbers of students handling the laptops in any given week, and this comes through in a study that Holden and Hseih conducted in 2007. Interestingly 30% of participant’s surveyed highlighted anticipated costs as a deterrent for implementing a laptop loan scheme, whereas 21% had figured cost as a favourable factor to implementing a laptop loan scheme.

Here at LJMU, a laptop loan scheme runs at our IM Marsh campus. Supply regularly does not meet demand, reinforcing how valued the laptop loan scheme is for students based there. So far the laptop loan scheme has not produced any casualties as of yet (in loss or damage to the laptops) which I think once again reinforces how valued the scheme is by the students. At the moment wireless printing has not been put into practice but the facility to do so has been trialled and will be starting imminently which will greater enhance the flexibility to the students.

A key them can came through in the literature and is also a factor here at LJMU is that of laptop loans supporting group work and social learning. This notion will be even greater enhanced through the Aldham Refurbishment Project and the plans to allow students to display work from their given multimedia through small screens provided in open plan group areas. Also a point for consideration is Colorado State University’s presentation kit loans, allowing students to loan a laptop, projector and portable screen.

A topical point to finish on: is a laptop really a mobile device? Considering the term ‘mobile’ in its truest form, exploiting ‘mobile’ technologies is about the exploitation of ‘anytime, anywhere’ access, through devices that are carried day to day i.e. mobile phones, MP3s, PDAs. These devices are carried in the same sense that someone carries their wallet or keys, it is picked up when leaving the house without a second thought…do people really just carry their laptop around ‘without a second thought’? Or is it a pre-determined action to pick up your laptop when leaving the house?

It’s food for thought for the current ‘on-the-go’ lifestyles of not only students, but people in general today.

(See: CLAUDILL, Jason. G. (2007) The growth of m-learning and the growth of mobile computing: parallel developments. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol 8 (2) pp 1- 13, for further discussion).


  1. One benefit of laptops that became evident at Marsh but does not seem to be covered in the literature is the usefulness of laptops for teaching. When we began trialling the use of laptops at Marsh it occurred to us that we could use the laptops for hands-on sessions for class sets of up to 20 in our seminar room. Previously, these sessions would have consisted of a demonstration of search techniques because we did not have 20 hardwired computers in the seminar room. The students were very impressed upon being handed a laptop to work with and the sessions were very successful.

    Staff use of the laptops in this way did not disadvantage the students as all these sessions were booked for 9am when lots of PCs were available in the LRC.

  2. That's an interesting point...along similar lines I have come across some literature focused on the theme of 'ownership' especially within schools...it has been proven that pupils learned better when they had individually been given a mobile device (a PDA in this case) to use in the classsroom as they felt 'responsible' for the device and therfore engaged with it more intensely.

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