At certain times of the semester, campus computer labs are swamped—not surprisingly, for instance, right before papers and projects are due. However, at other times, not so much. You can hear crickets chirping early in the morning. This may not be the case everywhere.
But the phenomenon begs the question of whether labs are the most efficient way to provide access to computers and the Web for instructional purposes.
Matt Reed, in Inside Higher Ed., provides his customary keen insight into the present utility of computer labs. Please read it.
The writer suggests that it may be best for students, at last, to bring their own devices to school. Due to lower costs for the new generation of tablets, laptops, and such (which can also be rented), it may be time to pull the trigger on, or at least begin the elimination of, expensive labs. Obviously, a really good campus Wifi network would be a paramount requirement. Tutors would need to be on call to help students with problems. It's not an easy choice.
Dr. Reed mentions several potential problems involving students with particular needs, such as part-timers and those too strapped for cash to purchase or rent a device.
Computer illiteracy used to be a significant issue, but this obstacle is fading quickly. Walk into any college classroom before the session begins (or perhaps even during class, unfortunately) and you will observe most, if not all, students from all backgrounds with their necks craned downward, poking on their hand-held devices, tablets, and laptops.
Maybe the space and resources for computer labs could be put to better use.