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Student Computing Survey Shows High Level of Satisfaction

By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager

The complete results of the Student Computing Services Survey conducted during Fall 2003 and early Spring 2004 are now posted online at www.unt.edu/cbt/scsurvey/. Answers are clearly posted in easy-to-read charts and all student prose comments are also published. Over 850 confirmed complete responses were received from the UNT Student Body. This was under the 1,000 - student goal desired by the Student Computing Planning Group of the IRC but it is our hope that future surveys will gain even more responses. All survey results have been distributed to the individual computing areas and also to other administration officials within the university.

The Student Computing Services Survey covered the areas of the General Access Labs, Datacom, ResNet and other dorm computing facilities, WebCT, EagleMail and other digital services used by the UNT student community. The good news for all service personnel was that overall the student body seems very positive about computing at UNT. Items receiving particularly high marks included library electronic resources and the new Eaglenet wireless network. Generally, students also indicated a great attitude about their use of ResNet, the Computing Center Helpdesk, their online learning experiences and the General Access Lab facilities.

Areas of Concern

There were areas of concern among students, several of which pointed to issues that may simply be solved by more education and instruction about university computing policies and the reasons for them. The issue of highest concern seemed to be confusion and discontent about printing in the General Access Labs.

Printing issues

The University of North Texas is the only major state institution to offer free printing to its student body (well, 'free' as in not charging an additional price over the technology fee already paid by students in their tuition bill). With this extra service comes responsibilities on both the side of the student body, the labs, and the UNT educational community.

Currently the General Access Lab policies, published at www.gal.unt.edu/PnP/ clearly state, "Only work which falls under the university guidelines for meeting the degree requirements for all courses taken may be printed in General Access Computer Labs. Students will be allowed to make one printout per document. " The policy further explains,

  • Printing will be provided ONLY to UNT students as it relates to their course work.
  • Internet printing counts only as course work if the Lab Manager is made aware of the nature of the course from which the print job has been assigned.
  • Students are responsible for knowing how many pages an Internet document contains BEFORE the print job is executed.
  • Students are not allowed to make flyers or signs unless they are directly related to UNT course work. Proof is required.
  • A user is not allowed to make more than 20 pages of laser print per print job.
  • Printing should be limited to draft quality for document revisions.
  • Multiple copies of the same print job are not allowed. Print jobs are considered the same if most of the original printed page is intact.
  • Large print jobs (i.e. thesis or dissertation) must be cleared with the Lab Manager and must be limited to one final copy.
  • Lab Managers will document printing policy abusers and share that information with other Lab Managers.
  • Large print jobs should be printed during off-peak hours, evenings, or weekends.
  • Users are encouraged to use double-sided printing when available and appropriate.
  • Lab Managers have the authority to restrict printing and/or lab access from any user who abuses printing policies.
  • Lab Managers have the authority to grant special printing requests

These printing issues have become particularly sensitive as more instructors are putting their notes and other materials online. Often these materials have not been optimized for printing and consist of poorly formatted PDFs which translate into 20+MB documents that clog printer memory and slow down printing for everyone in the lab; PowerPoint presentations which contain dark backgrounds (uses up toner) and large graphics that have been poorly reduced for digital production; and online notes in large fonts and with many illustrations.

The Student Computing Planning Group is especially concerned about these printer issues and will be working with instructors, the lab managers and students to help mediate these items. The lab managers have already revised and revisited the policies posted on their Website and provided a much more detailed accounting of printer policies. They continue to educate their employees on these issues so that the policies are adhered to across the lab system. Additionally, the lab managers regularly (about every 18 months) visit the issue of charging for printing. So far printing services have not demanded the students be charged for them; the cost of actually metering student printing and accounting for extra monies paid is MUCH MORE than our current system costs. However, in many ways, printing at UNT is an honor system and a privilege and should not be abused. Other strategies to be adopted by members of the Student Computing Planning Group to help with this problem include the education of instructors on how to properly prepare materials for digital distribution to students eliminating many of the issues with oversized PDFs and unwieldy PowerPoint presentations.

General Access Lab hours and facilities

Students also expressed concern with General Access Lab hours and facility numbers. Interestingly, many students think that there are only one or two General Access Labs! There are actually 14 labs. Students are strongly encouraged to look at the lab maps (available in all of the labs) and the lab Website to check out other locations. Window stickers indicating the presence of labs in a building are also under consideration. To see what labs are busy and what their machine offerings are, students should see checkinstats.acs.unt.edu where current lab occupancy is shown and a complete layout of each lab is given. In regards to hours, the lab managers are hopeful that with the shuffling of departments on the main campus and the research park and the many new building projects commencing on campus, that additional late- and 24- hour facilities may be available in the future.

EagleMail

Students had mixed reactions to EagleMail. Interestingly, the biggest complaint was about the official message folder that keeps blinking until one reads the official university messages! But one is SUPPOSED to read the official university messages, so we guess that the blinking works! Everyone is reminded that EagleMail is the official communication device between the university administration and the students. Students can easily forward their EagleMail, however, to their favorite email account if they are more used to a provider like AOL or Yahoo. To forward EagleMail and perform other digital changes, students should go to the Account Management System Homepage for links to these tasks. Students seemed to like the EagleMail interface, however, and find it a reliable resource.

ResNet

ResNet received generally high marks with the largest complaint being the 'throttling' of ResNet bandwidth during peak business hours. It has been found that this control must be activated, however, in order allow university employees to do their work. The Ethernet bandwidth enjoyed in the dorms still far exceeds services provided by commercial entities via phone modem, DSL or cable modem. Students have been quite pleased with Eaglenet wireless and many indicated that they would take advantage of this service in the future. Several others, however, did express frustration with the shutting down of the free phone modem access previously provided by the university to off-campus residents.

Conclusion

In general most negative remarks can be answered by more communication from the computing service areas and more education about the public nature of UNT computing services and the rights and responsibilities of all regarding their use. The survey has been very helpful to the different computing areas and all student respondents are thanked for their participation. This survey will be issued regularly in the future and, of course, student feedback is always welcome at anytime. If you have questions or comments regarding the survey, please E-mail Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner - chair of the Student Computing Planning Group of the IRC.