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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    At-risk students given laptops

    A new course at the UA provides at-risk students with their own laptop computers and instruction on how to use them to increase their chances of academic success.

    With funding from a partnership between the UA and Gateway Computers, 15 students received Gateway E-256M laptops with memory and warranty upgrades as a part of a course called “”Gateway to Success.”” The course is offered through the Disability Resource Center, said Dawn Hunziker, assistive technology coordinator at the DRC and a co-instructor for the course.

    Students who earn a “”C”” grade or better get to keep their computers.

    “”The students go through the process of learning how to use the laptop in the university environment, and how to use the software,”” Hunziker said.

    Consisting of pre-business, communication and undeclared students, the course focuses on time management and utilization of campus and library resources, said Tom Murray, a DRC disability access consultant at the DRC and co-instructor for the course.

    “”We are interested in (the students) being able to use tools at their disposal,”” he said.

    Students were selected based on results of the College Student Inventory, an exam designed to elevate rates of student retention at the UA, Murray said.

    Specifically, the DRC looked at a factor known as “”predicted academic difficulty”” to determine which students would be eligible, he said. Students with a higher level of predicted academic difficulty are considered more likely to have trouble succeeding in school.

    The students meet twice a week for 75 minutes and receive instruction on the use of Microsoft Office 2007.

    The students represent varied levels of computer proficiency, but even the tech-savvy pupils benefit from the instruction, Murray said.

    “”What I find is that students oftentimes think they know how to use technology very well when, in fact, they don’t,”” he said.

    Part of the course involves a project in which the students compile a fully annotated bibliography as if they were writing a research paper, he said.

    Course funding was provided by the Gateway Strategic Alliance, a program in which a portion of all on-campus sales of Gateway computers is set aside to improve UA computing facilities and provide students cutting-edge technology, said Kate Jensen, assistant vice president for marketing at the UA Office of External Affairs.

    In 2007, the Alliance awarded $82,190 to the DRC, the College of Engineering and UA libraries, Jensen said.

    “”Gateway feels strongly about its connection to higher education, and particularly to this university,”” Jensen said. “”So, this was a good way to encourage Gateway purchases and also provide a real benefit to units on campus.””

    The Gateway funding for the course is not renewable, but the DRC is hoping to secure other sources of funding so that Gateway to Success can be offered regularly, Hunziker said.

    “”We’re hoping to be able to continue this for future fall semesters,”” she said.

    For students who would like to learn more about computers but are not eligible to enroll in the course, the Office of Student Computing Resources offers workshops for Macs or PCs, said Catherine Zavala, OSCR workshop and training team lead.

    Students can request workshops by contacting Zavala. There is no minimum enrollment required, she said.

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