Students gather to study and use their laptop computers in the wireless lounge in Jacobs Hall.
The soft glow of lamps, comfortable chairs, original artists works on the walls and the steady stream of hot coffee make this large, split-level room look like a neighborhood coffee shop. Look more closely and youll see this cozy nest at New Mexico State University is the new face of the computer lab.
In fall 2011, Jacobs Hall received the first conversion of a computer lab to a wireless lounge at NMSU, serving WiFi and coffee both free for students who have their own laptops and want a different kind of environment in which to study. A second wireless lounge soon followed at Petes Place in Corbett Center.
Shaun Cooper, NMSU associate vice president and chief information officer, says the idea for the lounges evolved organically as he was looking for opportunities to reduce costs. Cooper says those savings add up to about $50,000 annually after eliminating computers. The move also saves hundreds of hours of staff time, which was spent supporting those machines.
The cost for us to run a better environment for the students is less than the thousands of dollars we spent maintaining hard tops in a sterile environment, and the students are happier, Cooper says.
NMSU is part of a growing trend among universities to replace computer labs with more comfortable lounges that provide wireless access. A survey by the Campus Computing Project two years ago showed 11 percent of universities and colleges across the country were phasing out computer labs and another 20 percent reviewing the possibility.