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Above, students set up their new Northwest laptops as the campus opened in August for the 2020-21 academic year. The University's long-standing laptop rental program helps students save on tuition costs compared to their peers at other universities and it has provided them with an advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Above, students set up their new Northwest laptops as the campus opened in August for the 2020-21 academic year. The University's long-standing laptop rental program helps students save on tuition costs compared to their peers at other universities and it has provided them with an advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Dec. 9, 2020

Laptop program, technology resources help students, faculty, staff continue learning, teaching during pandemic

By Edidiong Idong-Bassey, communication assistant


Northwest Missouri State University moved its courses online abruptly last spring as a result of the global pandemic, but the University’s embrace of online technology decades ago and its laptop rental program have ensured teaching and connectivity among students, faculty and staff are not interrupted.

“When we went completely online, I saw my friends in other universities reaching out to communities to ask for spare laptops to lend to their students because they had students who don’t have access to online learning and don’t have access to laptops at home,” Dr. Joy Daggs, a professor of communication in the School of Communication and Mass Media, said. “It’s very helpful to know, as an instructor, that every student has access to the same software. They have access to similar software, and I don’t have to keep adjusting my course or figure out how I can make it different.”

In fact, technology has been embedded in the academic landscape at Northwest since 1987 when the University flipped the switch on its “Electronic Campus” and became the first public institution in the nation with networked computers in all residence hall rooms and faculty offices.

A decade later with the advent of the internet, Northwest upgraded its network to support student, faculty and staff use of multimedia and web-based applications while further enhancing learning at the University. In 1999, the University also established its Center for Information Technology in Education, or CITE, with state-provided mission enhancement funding to support the instructional technology needs and launched Northwest Online as a platform to offer online coursework.

Northwest students participate in a class session this fall with the assistance of their University-issued laptops.

Northwest students participate in a class session this fall with the assistance of their University-issued laptops.

As technology has advanced, so has Northwest. In 2005, Northwest began providing fully loaded notebook computers, and technical support, to all enrolled students. Bundled with the University’s textbook rental program, which provides undergraduate students with all of their primary textbooks at the start of each semester, Northwest estimates students save about $7,200 during the course of a four-year academic career compared to their peers at other universities.

The program has eased the minds of students who don’t have resources to purchase laptops and software.

“I absolutely love the program,” Christian Dixon, a junior social science education major from Hamilton, Missouri, said. “When I came out of high school, I didn’t have a laptop, and I knew I’d have to spend $1,500 on a laptop if I didn’t attend Northwest.”

 

Anna Swink, a junior multimedia journalism major from Maryville, Missouri, said she’s grateful for Northwest’s technology support because she doesn’t need to worry about maintenance costs.

If anything breaks, I can take it to them, which is nice,” Swink said. “It’s been great, especially taking summer classes each summer. I’d recommend Northwest to anyone looking for a college to go to because you don’t have to spend your graduation money on a new computer.

Additionally, Northwest’s emphasis on using technology helps students improve their digital literacy skills.

“It has definitely given me the opportunity to excel and connect better with my professors and other students,” Leah Newell, a senior marketing major from Omaha, Nebraska, said. “It’s helped my typing skills, communication skills and all my communication capabilities.”

Psychology instructor Cris Jacobson speaks with students on Zoom during a hybrid class session where some of her students also were attending inside the classroom. A variety of technology resources are helping Northwest faculty continue teaching through the pandemic.

Psychology instructor Cris Jacobson speaks with students on Zoom during a hybrid class session where some of her students also were attending inside the classroom. A variety of technology resources are helping Northwest faculty continue teaching through the pandemic.

While Northwest’s decision to maintain its laptop program places it ahead of many universities throughout the country – especially during the pandemic – its Learning and Teaching Center, an offshoot of CITE, also supports faculty by developing and sharing pedagogical and content-specific knowledge The Learning and Teaching Center also provides access to professional development support and resources.

“Prior to the pandemic, we purchased a video software for all faculty to use to record information delivered in course sites,” Dr. Darla Runyon, the director of the Learning and Teaching Center, said. “Just having these in place and faculty familiar with how to design their courses is a huge advantage for our University. I think perhaps our biggest advantage is our faculty and staff – everyone wants our students to succeed.”

As the pandemic continued through the fall semester and some Northwest faculty taught hybrid courses that mixed online sessions with in-person classes, instructors found creative ways to engage students with those resources.

Dr. Ben Blackford says the University's laptop program allows Northwest faculty to provide learning opportunities that might not happen without the technology.

Dr. Ben Blackford says the University's laptop program allows Northwest faculty to provide learning opportunities that might not happen without the technology.

“Knowing that everyone has a laptop opens up what I can do in class and have students engaged even though they can’t be in person,” Dr. Ben Blackford, the director of the Melvin D. And Valorie G. Booth School of Business, said. “That’s one of the biggest benefits. For example, we did a scavenger hunt of Coca-Cola’s annual report and that wouldn’t have been possible if everyone didn’t have a laptop.”  

Blackford created the scavenger hunt on Northwest’s online platform that involved his students reviewing Coca-Cola’s annual report to finding specific sections and identify information, such as the brands Coca-Cola owns or top management team, and calculate financial information.

Added Dr. Kurt Haberyan, a professor of biology, “We couldn’t be teaching without the laptops. It’s a tremendous asset to have the laptops provided by the University. 


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704