Clemson University Laptop Program History

The Laptop Program Pilot Phase
Fall Semester 1998 - Spring Semester 2002


Prior to fall 1998, the College of Engineering and Science worked diligently to bring about Clemson University's laptop program pilot. Led by Associate Dean Stephen Melsheimer and mathematics Professor William Moss, a committee of administrators and faculty planned and implemented the pilot that began fall semester 1998.

Preparations included renovations to classrooms, selection of a course management system, selection of the laptop students in the pilot would purchase, and selection and training of faculty members who would teach the pilot laptop courses. An Innovation in Teaching Grant awarded by then Provost Stephan Rogers made possible the renovations, laptop purchases for faculty, training, support structure, and other necessary components. (For more information on the planning phase, contact Prof. Moss. For more information on the pilot and early years of laptop support, contact Laurie Sherrod or see her section of Extending Classrooms Over Electronic Bridges.)

About 100 engineering and science students self-selected to participate in 1998. In 1999, about 125 first-year students joined the College of Engineering and Science pilot. These students enrolled in laptop sections of courses in English, history, math, computer science, chemistry, physics, and engineering. For information on those early math and English laptop sections, read Prof. Moss's and Barbara Weaver's sections in Extending Classrooms Over Electronic Bridges. To read reflections of two students, see Jacob Cartner's and Ryan Keitzer's sections of Extending Classrooms Over Electronic Bridges.

Fall 2000, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities joined the laptop program pilot and a laptop section of Spanish was added to the offerings. A total of about 175 first-year students joined the pilot.

The pilot continued for one more year during which Clemson University Board of Trustees approved a phased plan for students to arrive on campus with laptop computers beginning fall 2002.

The Phased Laptop Mandate
June 2002 - June 2005

In June 2002 Carla Rathbone, then director of Educational Technology Services, in partnership with Linda Nilson, director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation (OTEI), hired Barbara Weaver to manage the newly formed Laptop Faculty Development Program (LFDP). Also available to help faculty through LFDP were five graduate research assistants enrolled in computer technology majors. Phil Lyles, director of Computing, hired Laurie Sherrod to manage the expanded Laptop Support Center. Graduate student employees assisted with the hardware and software needs of primarily students.

The requirement for students to purchase a laptop was implemented as follows:

  • Fall 2002, all first-year students in the College of Business and Behavioral Science and the Master of Business Administration program; all first-year students and sophomores in the College of Engineering and Science.
  • Fall 2003, all first-year students in the College of Architecture, Art and Humanities; all first-year students in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.
  • Fall 2004, all first-year students in the College of Health, Education and Human Development.

Through limited funding provided by Provost Doris R. Helms, LFDP awarded about 100 faculty IBM laptops during academic years 2002-03 and 2003-04. In exchange for their laptops, faculty participated in 40 hours of laptop pedagogy and technology training and "giving back" to the program by writing articles and giving presentations about their experiences teaching laptop sections of various courses. Through LFDP and their own creativity and willingness to explore, faculty learned how best to use laptops to enhance teaching and learning; some continue to meet regularly in what has become the Teaching with Technology Community, where they share their experiences, brainstorm new ideas, and collaborate on student assignments, papers, and presentations. In conjunction with other CCIT programs, their work has contributed to rapid progress in new technology-enhanced teaching methodologies at Clemson.

Since 2005
How We've Evolved

Over the years, the Laptop Faculty Development Program evolved from a sole focus on laptops to include digital ink and tablet PCs. Then that focus expanded to include all mobile technology. With the agenda always faculty-driven, we were soon focusing on clickers (audience response systems), as well as various applications that provided those tools, such as MessageGrid. Most recently the group, which has grown to more than 80 faculty and students representing about 30 disciplines and IT staff from various areas of the organization, continues to explore virtual worlds and gaming, as well as assisting in the development of a coherent faculty development program that pulls together various components offered at the department, college, and university levels. The group worked collaboratively with the General Engineering Program director Beth Stephan and former Director Ben Sill in their renovation of Clemson's abandoned YMCA swimming pool, now the Holtzendorff Teaching with Technology Experimental Classroom.