For college students, being plugged in is a way of life. But statistics show it’s not always about “snapping” and posing for Instagram. According to a recent survey conducted by polling giant Harris, 81 percent of college students admit that without their laptops, tablets, and smartphones, they would likely struggle in the classroom. In fact, a laptop is a student’s “most cherished piece of technology,” used in almost every aspect of their collegiate life, the data reveals.
But for many students, it can be difficult to access vital academic resources such as a laptop or iPad. As a result, Montgomery College (MC) launched a new program this fall that allows students to apply to receive laptops and tablets on loan, free of charge, for an entire semester. The Laptop Loaner Program, which is partially grant funded and supported by MC’s Office of Information Technology, came at the request of Montgomery College faculty who know firsthand the struggles facing their students.
“It’s a well-known fact that lack of technology is a barrier to student success,” says English Professor Samantha Veneruso, the chair of the College’s general education program. “With the Laptop Loaner Program, we are trying to reduce costs and avoid putting students at an immediate disadvantage.”
The General Studies Z-Degree Program and OERs
To get the program running, the College identified students from some classes in the Z-degree program to receive the first loaner laptops. For all Z-courses, there is no required purchase of a textbook and materials are provided electronically. The College currently offers Open Education Resources, or OERs, so the resource model was essentially in place. OERs are teaching and learning materials freely available online for instructors, students, or self-learners.
Veneruso, however, acknowledges that when MC started the OER program, it became apparent many students didn’t have access to a laptop or the ability to view the materials from home if they weren’t connected to the internet.
“We wanted to make sure that our OER materials were not just web-based,” she says. “For the students using OERs, there is a need to download materials and access them without Wi-Fi.”
“I love that Montgomery College takes the needs of our students and works to fulfill those needs,”
says Veneruso. “Being able to help students be more successful in their journey is a highlight of my career.”
Achieving the Promise Academy Students Take Advantage of Loaner Program
When she emigrated from Germany five years ago, Awa Cherghali had a plan. Today, as a student enrolled in the College’s Achieving the Promise Academy (ATPA), the Iranian-born Cherghali’s plans are taking shape, and the Laptop Loaner Program is an important cog.
“I am an architecture major and would like to transfer to a four-year school and eventually create my own company designing new houses for people all over the world,” said Cherghali, who also works part-time in the College’s student affairs office.
But for many students like Cherghali, work, life, and academic balance are difficult to navigate. The ATPA was created to ease some of that burden. A collegewide academic program, the ATPA guides students on a path to timely degree completion, graduation, or transfer to a four-year institution. It’s also become another partner in the Laptop Loaner Program.
“My academic success coach uses different strategies like helping me find better resources,” Cherghali says. “I think the laptop loaner program is very useful for students’ success by giving access to finishing up their homework or studying wherever we are throughout the day.”
Ja’Bette Lozupone, director of the Achieving the Promise Academy, reiterates the importance of laptops as significant resources for students who otherwise would not have access to a computer or even the internet.
“Many students are unable to take advantage of computers and labs on campus due to transportation or schedule challenges,” says Lozupone. “And there may only be one computer in a home shared by all family members. Alleviating some stress for a student by removing this barrier is just one of several critical ways we will knock down all of the barriers to student success. This program has been a perfect convergence of Montgomery College faculty and staff.”