Mifi photo

Students can now pick up and drop off devices, including laptops and mobile hotspots, at Polak Library amid virtual semester. (Zara Flores / Daily Titan)

The Cal State Fullerton Department of Information Technology has seen an upsurge in requests for rental computers this semester, loaning hundreds of new devices to students. 

The IT department is aiding students by offering long-term PC laptops with built-in webcams, headsets, mobile hotspots that are also known as MiFi, along with webcams upon request at no charge. 

“We have never had this many of these devices loaned out for a semester — we’ve just never been through a pandemic before in our current learning environment,” said Rommel Hidalgo, an associate vice president for the IT department, in an email to the Daily Titan. 

In preparation for the virtual semester and the predicted increase in demands, the IT department purchased large quantities of devices over the summer, including laptops, headsets and microphones.  Laptops are by far the most requested item, Hidalgo said. 

As of Monday, over 1,200 laptops have been loaned out for the fall 2020 semester, with about 1,000 laptops and 500 MiFi hotspots still available, as detailed during an Associated Students meeting. Only about 700 laptops were available before COVID-19. 

Haovy Nguyen, a senior majoring in biochemistry, used the service to check out a laptop and a MiFi device. She said the process to pick up the devices once confirmed was straightforward, and all the information was sent out in an email. 

Some of the main concerns the department faces is meeting the increased device request demands and ensuring each MiFi has adequate coverage. 

Although we have created a good inventory for our students, we still worry about being able to meet student device demands,” Hidalgo said. “We are working hard to make sure we keep an adequate number of devices and purchase more if/when needed.”

Hidalgo warned against students, faculty and staff from using the MiFi for personal use instead of school or work-related purposes such as video streaming because the internet providers could then slow down the speed of a MiFi device. 

Students can request devices through the dean of students office or through a faculty member. The Dean of Students Device Request form, located on the homepage of the department’s website, asks students for their phone number, the devices they need and why they need them. 

In addition, a faculty sponsor can send a device request email on the student’s behalf using the email devicerequest@fullerton.edu. Requests should be processed and ready for pick up within 24 hours of the initial form submission, Hidalgo said. 

After approval, students can pick up their device at the south entrance of the Pollak Library. Beginning Sept. 11, pick up times are set for Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on weekends. A valid TitanCard or photo ID is required.

Students who check out long-term devices may keep them until Dec. 18 or longer if they are enrolled for the spring semester.

Safety procedures are still being maintained throughout the process. In addition to wearing face coverings while on campus, Hidalgo said that when borrowed devices are returned they are sanitized before being distributed to a new student. 

Daily device checkouts of laptops have been suspended for this fall semester, as well as smartphones with built-in Wi-Fi. Flip phones are available upon request for students who require cell service. 

Other technology services have had to modify their scope. The Student Genius Center, located in the Pollak Library, has moved online and can be reached remotely on the Student IT Help Desk. 

Hidalgo said that the department has made efforts to increase the number of staff working at the help desk call center to ensure every call is answered, and increase the devices that can be accessed through the Virtual Computing environment in order to compensate for the circumstances of virtual instruction. 

We shifted our work schedules to increase the number of help desk call center staff to make sure all calls coming in would have someone who could assist campus users,” Hidalgo said. “We increased the number of virtual machines (PC’s and Macs) that could be accessed remotely via the Virtual Computing environment.”

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