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New specialized computer labs will
offer resources for students, faculty

Students will have access to specialized computing technology that is specific to their discipline, thanks to a new initiative that is being launched this year at five sites across the University.

"The application of technology is often discipline-specific," says Fred Maryanski, vice chancellor for academic administration. "We want to provide students the best possible experience with computing in their discipline. The goal is to ensure that they are fluent in the computing of their discipline when they graduate."

The School of Education, the departments of psychology and computer science and engineering, and the Avery Point campus will each receive specialized hardware and software for their computer labs. A fifth site is the Culpeper microcomputing lab in Homer Babbidge Library.

The sites were selected on the basis of need and the potential impact on the student population, after a survey of the existing computing equipment in departments, schools and colleges.

The $1 million initiative will replace outdated computer equipment at each site with the latest technology in each field, for use in student projects, research, instruction, and training in using technology. It also includes funding for renovating the labs, including new paint and carpeting. "Chancellor Emmert's idea is to provide not only the latest technology, but also an attractive and stimulating environment for students," Maryanski says.

Francis Archambault, associate dean in the School of Education, says training in the use of technology is essential for students preparing to be teachers. "This will go a long way toward improving our ability to meet the needs of both undergraduate and graduate students as they prepare for the teaching profession. Technology is now considered a basic skill for teachers, as for all professionals."

The School of Education's upgraded lab will include the capability of collaborative notetaking, building-wide file sharing, and virtual reality viewing, as well as desktop multimedia connected to classrooms and seminar rooms at Storrs and the regional campuses

Renovations and installation of the new computers are slated to take place at each of the five sites this semester. The labs are expected to be ready for use in the spring semester.

Maryanski says the initiative will be an ongoing effort. "We will continue to do this every year," he says. "We are trying to keep all the labs up to date."

He points out that the initiative represents just one part of the computing resources the University provides for students. "In the course of everyday business, we are refreshing equipment," he says.

The University's investment in computer technology in recent years earned UConn a ranking of 17th among universities nationwide in a survey published earlier this year in Wired magazine.

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu