Western Michigan University has removed the second floor University Computing Center (UCC) adjacent to Waldo Library in the transition away from campus communal technology. The space is being reimagined as a general technology support center for students and faculty.
The UCC was formerly a large computer lab, the use of which has declined in recent years.
“The overall need for a huge number of students to go in and physically sit at a computer lab to do their work has declined a lot as students have more laptops and tablets and can do more print on demand,” said Ed Martini, Associate Provost for WMU.
Many students had no need for the UCC devices.
“As a computer science major I’m required to have a nice computer, so my computers are all better than what was offered so I never needed to use it (UCC),” said Michael Capps, a junior computer science student.
Some expressed wishes to keep the computer lab.
“It’s less convenient because more people will come into the library to use computers when instead some could be in the library and some in the lab,” said Computer Information System Junior, Andy.
Specialized equipment and software as well as several gaming stations were the main draw to the space. COVID-19 solidified the transition to individual access to such technology.
“There were elements of that lab, and even most labs on campus, that had specialized software that was available to students where a license was not available for personal use. With the pandemic we made a huge transition to allow remote access to those specialized services and applications so now students and faculty can get those tools remotely from wherever they are,” said Andrew Holmes, Interim Chief Information Officer for the Office of Information Technology.
Students noted the need created for personal devices with capabilities for specialized applications.
“A lot of computers that were here (UCC) are now being used as online computers so people can remote in to use engineering software, but that requires a person to have a computer that can do the remote connection. That can be hit or miss because some people don’t have that kind of technology to be able to run that,” Capps said.
Going forward, the space will lean toward technology support in the center, combining the Technology Help Desk, the Office of Faculty Development and the Faculty Technology Center.
“We wanted to bring all these units together that support and enhance the core mission of teaching and learning at the university into a space where we could congregate,” Martini said.
The space will be available for all members of the WMU community to receive assistance.
“What we envision is that this becomes the centralized place for all forms of support whether it’s instructional technology or informational technology,” Holmes said.
He continued: “We really want it to be a one stop shop where a faculty member, a student, a staff member can walk in the door and regardless of the type of support they need everybody and everything is located in one place.”
The new technology support center is tentatively expected to launch in Fall of 2022, with a prototype space for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Communal computer centers will still be available on campus. Many of the UCC engineering computer units have moved to Waldo Library; other computing centers are located on the lower level of the Bernhard Center and within individual colleges or instructional computer labs.