By Emily Campbell, College of the Sequoias
The COS Visalia Learning Resource Center is excited to report that it will launch a laptop and hotspot checkout pilot program this summer. Twenty hotspots and ten laptops will be available for students as a two-day checkout. The Library is working closely with our Student Success Program, which has an established laptop checkout program. Our Student Success Center will act as a second checkout location for hotspots. According to 2016 FCC data, ninety percent of rural residents in Tulare County, where the Visalia campus is located, lack access to broadband internet. More than a quarter of urban residents lack access, compared to four percent nationwide. Citing this data, our proposal described this lack of access as a clear student equity issue: increased enrollment in online classes, wider use of the Canvas LMS in face-to-face classes, and the growth of OER adoption have the potential to disenfranchise students without high-speed Internet access at home. We planned initially to apply for funding through our Foundation; however, after reviewing our proposal, our Student Success Program agreed to not only collaborate with us but also fully fund the program for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Collaboration with Student Success: Our Student Success Director and staff have been involved in the planning and coordination of the pilot from its early stages. Twenty total hotpots will be purchased; ten will be available for checkout at the Library, and ten will be available at our campus Student Success Center. Student Success staff will use our current ILS, OCLC WorldShare, as a part of their checkout process. Our Student Success Director, Juan Vazquez explains why this project was ideal for Library/Student Success Program collaboration, "When we look our Disproportionately Impacted Groups, access is a large barrier for our students. Increased access to internet also intersects with our Equity Program goals. Having an existing laptop lending program allowed us to hear from students and they shared with us the need for not only laptops, but internet access. When we look for projects to invest in, we look for projects that will help close achievement gaps among our students and projects that are innovative. We feel great to work with the Learning Resource Center on this issue of access and equity. I appreciate the LRC staff and leadership for looking at different ways our District can close the achievement gap of our disproportionately impacted groups. I look forward to seeing the positive results and feedback from students!"
Involvement of Paraprofessional Staff: It is important to mention that we felt it was essential to have the support and participation of the circulation staff, as this pilot will affect their workload. Our library technicians have been involved in planning meetings and development of checkout policies.
Pilot Assessment: Students will be asked to complete a brief survey when returning their laptops and hotspots. They will be asked to rate their satisfaction with the service, as well as how they used the equipment (e.g., what course(s) they needed it for, what types of software/services they accessed).
Vendors and Equipment: We're working with Sprint for the hotspots, as they provide wide 4G LTE coverage in our area. Explaining interest in a program like this to a frontline customer service representative in an initial phone call can be difficult; Sprint, Verizon and AT & T each have "public sector" or "education" sales departments that are a better place to start.
More Information: Feel free to contact Emily Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be more than happy to share vendor contacts, planning documents, our initial proposal, etc.