Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Developing a Comprehensive Microcomputer Lab for Small- to Medium-Sized Campuses

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Developing a Comprehensive Microcomputer Lab for Small- to Medium-Sized Campuses

Article excerpt

Developing a Comprehensive Microcomputer Lab for Small- To Medium-Sized Campuses

The development of a comprehensive computer lab for a small- to a medium-sized campus is challenging. This paper is designed to give those starting out on such a project a look into the things that I have learned in developing a microcomputer lab at Loma Linda University.

It is not my intention to present myself as a master of the subject, but simply as who who has experienced it, and wishes to share. Most campuses a have a real need for centralized computing facilities; the campus administration probably perceives the need, but campus bugets are difficult to stretch and trained personnel are problematical as well. These issues, and others, will be addressed.

Staffing and Administration

The computer lab administrator (CLA) is the person directly responsible for overall operation of the computer lab. The CLA does not necessarily have to be the top administrator in the computing department. However, he or she should have a degree in a computer-related field and management experience, preferably in a comparable field. Most importantly, the CLA must have goof verbal and written communiocation skills.

The CLA's responsibilities generally include overseeing the daily tasks of lab staff, consulting with faculty about software and the use of computers in their classes, and purchasing hardware and software for the lab. A good deal of the CLA's time should also be spent planning and creating training classes and seminars.

In my experience I have found that management skills come in handy more than certain technical skills, primarily because we have a microcomputer services department on campus that takes care of all of the university's microcomputer repair work.

A computer committee is needed to insure that the decision of the CLA are in accordance with campus needs. All entities of the campus who will be using the computer lab should be represented in this committee. In addition, individuals with specific computer expertise should be included. CLAs should consult with this computer committee on any decision that might have profound or lasting effects on the campus.

On our campus, the computer committee comprises a director and associate director of computing, the CLA, the campus business manager, and the dean and one faculty member from each of the five schools on our campus. Other members include the dean of students, the campus development director and the library administrator. Five additional faculty members were chosen by the provost for their particular expertise or experience with computers. The provost also appointed the chair of the committee, selected from a list of candidates elected by committee members. The chair's term is two years. In general, since the committee is represented by such a diverse group of people, final decisions on most policies should be left to the CLA and his or her supervisor. This approach has worked well for us at Loma Linda University.

The lab cannot be run by the CLA alone; assistants are needed for the actual day-to-day operations. Contrary to popular thinking, lab assistants need not be computer majors. In reality, lab assistants should be almost as diverse as the students using the lab. Assistants should, however, have significant experience in working on computers. Clerical work that involved computers extensively, working on a home computer, or having attended a computer camp are all good training for this position.

Lab assistants need six qualities: cordiality, an aptitude for computers, friendliness, a willingness to learn more about computers, amiability, and patience in teaching others. Be wary of filing the positions with "computer jocks." They are often a poor choice because some have intimidating, elitist attitudes that may cause other students to be hesitant in approaching them.

Lab assistants are responsible for maintenance of the lab, the equipment and the software. …

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