September 11, 2006
For the fourth consecutive year, ThinkPad® (formerly IBM) laptop
computers were distributed to all incoming students as part of St.
John’s University’s Academic Computing Initiative (ACI).
Approximately 3,550 laptops were distributed during Orientation
programs on the Queens and Staten Island campuses this year,
according to St. John’s Manager of Network Initiatives Stanley
At this point, says Joseph Tufano, Chief Information Officer at
the University, almost all St. John’s undergraduates and full-time
faculty possess a University-issued laptop computer. This
represents a milestone for this University, and perhaps a first for
any university in the United States, he suggests.
Launched in 2003, the
Academic Computing Initiative doesn’t end with the laptops.
Other components of the initiative include the creation of a
campus-wide wireless network and a student web portal, St. John’s
“It’s amazing to see them using St. John’s Central en masse,
more than 1,000 a day on average, even in the summer, “CIO Tufano
remarks. “It’s a great vehicle for students to communicate with
each other and their faculty, and for obtaining news about the St.
ACI represents an ongoing institutional commitment to technology
that has fostered an enhanced learning experience for both students
and faculty. Podiums equipped with stereo speakers, DVD and VHS
capability; wireless connections in all classrooms; student
computer labs; a wide assortment of classroom software; and an
expanding online learning program have all added to the high-tech
experience at St. John’s.
“The immediate hopes” explains Vice Provost James Benson,
Ph.D.--formerly CIO and Dean of Information Resources and
University Libraries, and a leader in the support of the ACI--“were
to establish a standard computing platform that would equalize
student access to computing; increase email interactions between
student and teacher; improve student learning; and increase the use
of digital information resources. Anecdotally,” he adds, “all have
been achieved” and he points to data that show faculty and student
satisfaction with ACI is rising.
The Survey Says…
Studies have shown that when both professor and student are
equipped with laptops, better and more effective communication
occurs between the two. Surveys on National Student Satisfaction
Engagement (NSSE) taken between 2001-2004 showed a steady increase
in the percentage of students who felt that their experience at St.
John’s contributed (very much/quite a bit) to their knowledge and
skills in computing and information technology, from 61 percent in
2001 to 69 percent in 2004. In addition, in every semester since
fall 2002, students have rated “the instructor’s use of computers
as aids in instruction” as very effective or effective.
In the 2004 survey, about 80 percent of students indicated that
they felt the University emphasized (very much/quite a bit) using
computers in academic work. An internal survey taken that same year
at St. John’s revealed that 95 percent of faculty felt the same
Training and Support Provided
St. John’s students benefit from an extensive support system
provided along with the laptops, including services at the Laptop
Shop, a “Care and Feeding” training session with IBM presence and a
New York Police Department presentation on laptops and
Faculty members also receive training through the “Portable
Professor” program, allowing them to take advantage of electronic
resources for enhancing classroom experience, and to interact more
effectively with their students.
St. John’s Academic Computing Initiative has received significant
recognition from the national IT community. The University has been
ranked in the top 10 in Intel’s “Most Unwired Campuses” for the
past two years and was honored this spring by Computerworld’s
Mobile & Wireless World’s “Best Practices in Mobile &
Wireless” Awards Program in the category “Transforming the ‘Brick
and Mortar’ Enterprise.”
CIO Tufano credits the University’s Administration for taking
the bold step of equipping all full-time undergraduate students
with laptops. ”They have repeatedly endorsed and supported
technology initiatives that benefit all in the University
community,” he says, “but most importantly, enhance and support the
quality of life and the learning experience of our students.”