Last week, I argued that Seton Hall University’s choice to standardize on a single platform – Windows 8 tablets and PCs – was the wrong strategy in the age of BYOD and end-user choice. Here, I give Seton Hall’s top tech official a chance to rebut my claims.
My blog last week, “University Deploying Thousands of Windows 8 Tablets Is Smart Tactics, Flawed Strategy,” generated quite a bit of reader reaction.
I’m actually quite excited about what Windows 8 will deliver. But I felt that Seton Hall’s plan to standardize completely on Windows 8 tablets and ultrabooks (initially all from Samsung) and effectively ban Apple and Android devices from classroom use was overly restrictive, out of touch with student preferences, and could cost the school more money in the short and long run.
One of those who responded was the architect of the Windows 8 plan, Seton Hall CIO Stephen G. Landry. His e-mail was both surprising – did you know Seton Hall has been giving out free laptops to students since 1997? – and predictable – the decision to restrict to only Windows 8 came down to a real-world analysis of the financial cost-benefits.
Credit: Seton Hall University
Landry actually acknowledges that Seton Hall is swimming against the tide. Most schools and companies will choose to support BYOD for a diversity of platforms, he writes, but going Windows 8 was “the best solution currently available” for the school.
While the e-mail didn’t make me change my mind, I thought it was well-written and illuminating. The fair thing to do seemed to be to run it in its entirety below, and ask you for your thoughts. Text is bolded by me for emphasis.
Thank you again for responding to my tweet on your ZDNet article. I found your comments both interesting and informative. I certainly agree with you that our program’s use of Windows 8 Tablets is smart tactics. I also agree with you that in the long term most successful IT organizations will implement strategies to support a variety of devices that users bring to work or school. However, some background about Seton Hall might give even more weight to your assessment that SHUmobile was the best solution for us at this time, and not necessarily a flawed strategy.
For the past fifteen years Seton Hall has been a ubiquitous computing campus, that is, we provide a standard laptop to undergraduate students and their faculty as part of their tuition and fees. One of the core principles of this program is that in today’s world access to appropriate technology is important for academic success. Our president, Dr. Gabriel Esteban, put this well in his announcement of this program to the University community when he said, “By putting the most advanced mobile computing system in the hands of all of our students, regardless of prior experience or socio-economic background, we are leveling the playing field and creating opportunities for tomorrow’s servant leaders.”
In designing our ubiquitous computing program, we’ve found that standardization enables us to provide excellent computers to our students at the lowest overall cost. This standardization also allows us to provide a very high level of service and support. This high level of support has been especially important to our faculty who want to incorporate technology-based activities, courseware and e-texts into the classroom. Until technology evolves that will allow us to provide the same level of support in a diverse environment, or our community is willing to accept greater responsibility for their own technical support, our objective is to provide the best technology package for the price we’re able to pay.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC with Windows 8 did this, while solving several instructional technology issues. In particular, it allowed us to consolidate students’ laptop and tablet experience. This was less expensive for us than issuing both a laptop and a tablet, or issuing a convertible laptop/tablet, as we have done with science and honors students in the past. Once we made the decision to join Microsoft’s First Wave Program and adopt Windows 8, Nokia and AT&T also worked with us to implement and distribute a Freshmen Experience app to support greater student engagement with their classmates, suitemates, instructors, mentors and peer advisors, and to help them navigate the campus (both physically and by providing online services from the Financial Aid, Bursar and Registrar’s offices).
Here are some Web pages that provide some additional background on our program:
SHU Mobile Computing Program page: http://www.shu.edu/offices/
SHUmobile Web page: www7.shu.edu/technology/
I’d be happy to provide you additional details about our program, our decision to adopt Windows 8, and why we believe this is the best solution currently available that meets the University’s instructional and technology requirements. Please give me a call (my office and cell phone numbers are below) or drop me an email at your convenience. And thanks again for reaching back to me for my point of view regarding this program.
Stephen G. Landry, Ph.D.
Chief Information Officer
Seton Hall University