Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, April 6, 2012

Residential Computing celebrates 25 years of innovation

Between today’s constant bustle of checking e-mail on smartphones, watching videos on tablets and conducting research on laptops, it’s difficult to imagine a time when students didn’t have computing support in the residence halls to help them in their academic endeavors.

But that support was introduced 25 years ago when University Housing launched Residential Computing.

The first Residential Computing site consisted of only a couple rows of computers and printers in the basement of Mosher Jordan Residence Hall. Today, Residential Computing sites have evolved into some of the most vibrant hubs of living-learning communities on campus, and now can be found in every residence hall.

Jeff Wright, the interim director for the Housing Information Technology Office, says the 25th anniversary of Residential Computing provides an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the unit and to imagine what the next 25 years of technological advances will mean for students.

“The scope of what Residential Computing does has certainly evolved with the advances in technology over the past 25 years,” Wright says. “It’s simply amazing to think about how different technology is from when I was a student at the university to what it is today.”

When, as a student, Wright joined Residential Computing in its infancy, most students came to the university with little or no exposure to using personal computers in academic endeavors. As a result, Residential Computing focused on teaching students how to use technology.

“Today, students come to the university with wide and varied experiences with technology; so instead of providing basic training on how to use technology, we put a lot of focus on how to apply and utilize technology in new and collaborative ways,” Wright says.

As part of this, Residential Computing has offered many programs in the past several years for students living in the residence halls, including the potential repercussions of illegal file sharing, how to protect your identity online, safeguarding your computer from viruses, and the copyright implications of remix culture.

Residential Computing also worked this year to help students understand the transition to Google, which provides a plethora of new collaborative tools students can use to support their coursework and research.

Realizing the increasing importance of collaboration, Residential Computing has changed most computer labs and libraries in the residence halls into Community Learning Centers. The updated spaces provide an area in which students can pair the available technology — including computers, smart boards and digital video editing technology — with flexible group spaces to work on academic projects in teams.

But Wright emphasizes that technology continues to evolve — something he says will continue to impact how Residential Computing works to support students.

“It will be very interesting to see how future advances in technology will impact the living-learning experience of our students,” he says. “Just as the technology of today would have seemed an impossibility 25 years ago, the technological developments of the future are barely imagined yet.”