TLC Laptop Initiative

Vision of the Initiative

(NOTE: Please see Academic Computing's website for up-to-the-minute information on NMU's technology program.)

Northern Michigan University's vision for education in the 21st century is a learning environment that embraces technology to enhance student access, promote the development of independent learners and encourage greater student-faculty communication and collaboration. To help achieve this vision, the university has implemented a mobile device program that ensures students and faculty have a standard set of tools (hardware and software) that meet a majority of their computing and telecommunications needs, promotes communication and enables quality support. NMU is the first public university in Michigan--but one of many nationwide--to pursue the idea of a "mobile" campus.


In fall 2000, full-time NMU undergraduate (registered for 12 or more credit hours) and graduate students (registered for 8 or more credit hours) were supplied with a general purpose, mobile device with a standard set of applications and convenient, 24-hour access to the campus network (including the Internet). Classrooms in new/remodeled buildings were designed to facilitate mobile device/network use by faculty and students; some older classrooms were retrofitted. Not all classrooms have a port at every seat because student in-class use is not always appropriate. Network ports are available in lounges, study rooms and laboratories. Campus residence hall rooms, faculty and staff offices, and many classrooms already had network ports. University apartments have improved network access. Although electronic documents are encouraged, networked printers are installed in various campus locations for hard copy documents.

The university has a help desk and walk-in service center to handle device maintenance problems.

Cost To Students

NMU leases the mobile devices and issues them to students on a replacement cycle. Students or their parents may contact their insurance provider about adding the mobile device to their existing coverage if they desire more insurance than the initiative provides. Continuing students who pre-register for the following fall will be able to use the mobile device through the summer at no additional charge.

Part-time students may, at their option, participate in the program. Part-time students may also, for a fee, check out the mobile devices from the library on a daily basis.

Learning From Others

NMU steering committee members have learned much from those who have already established similar programs. An NMU team visited Wake Forest University and the University of Minnesota-Crookston both of which run a similar program.

Additional Aspects

NMU continues to support and improve "specialty labs" as a function of need and resource availability. These are labs designed to meet the needs of specific academic programs that have special equipment and software needs (e.g. graphic design, computer science, GIS, CAD among others). Many of the administrative processes of the university are now available via the Web. Students can register, view their grades and will soon be able to do their own on-line degree audits. An increasing amount of information about the university is now available on the Web, including: enrollment statistics, academic program information, department information, computer use and help information, minutes of various campus committees, the university activity center and much more. The Center for Instructional Technology in Education (CITE) in the LRC is a place where faculty can, for example, scan materials for use in lecture presentations or on Web pages, learn how to use new Web development tools or other instructional support applications, and find/review materials on course design. Faculty can obtain assistance in preparing course materials from full-time staff and trained student assistants.