One of the latest additions to the multitude of services that the William & Mary IT department offers is the Computer Lab Status module. The module officially went live in the beginning of November 2014 and can be accessed through the William & Mary mobile app and W&M IT website.
The module’s purpose is simple: to allow students to easily differentiate the computer labs at full capacity from those with open computers. It specifies the exact number of computers occupied in all the Publicly Accessible Computer (PAC) Labs around campus in real-time. This allows students to find the nearest available computer. With this new technology available to students, those who are particularly busy are able to figure out the best place to print last-minute assignments.
While the seat finder is simple in its concept, it is the product of the work and preparation from various IT personnel. Jennifer Bentley (’14), then the IT Communications Intern, spearheaded the effort. As the intern of Melissa Palacios, IT’s Project & Communications Manager, one of Bentley’s responsibilities entailed gathering ideas from the IT departments of other academic institutions.
“One of the things I noticed during this process,” says Bentley, “was that many schools had a system set up to monitor how crowded or available computer labs on campus were.”
A student herself, these systems caught her eye as something that would be useful to the student community. “Given that I had, on more than one occasion, arrived at Swem [library] hoping to use a computer there, only to find every single seat taken, I thought that this was something that busy W&M students could really benefit from,” explained Bentley.
Although there had been prior discussions about a similar project within the department, Bentley served as the catalyst for action. Bentley began crafting a vision plan, which she would propose to the department engineers and programmers. She worked with windows system engineers, Jamie Wick and Matt Partain, who manage the PAC Labs computers, to obtain the data needed to transform her ideas into a functioning tool.
“Probably the most important thing the module needed to be was mobile accessible. It didn't make sense to have students looking up open seats in their dorm rooms, only to walk to the computer lab and have the seats filled,” Bentley added.
Once Bentley’s proposal was approved, she worked with Applications Engineer, Scott Hayes, to create the module. “Once I had the idea and design planned out, Scott really did the work,” continues Bentley, “I just stepped in periodically to see how it was progressing and give some feedback.”
Bentley’s tool couldn’t come to William & Mary at a better time. The mobile-friendly module is incorporated into the William & Mary mobile app, which was released as the module reached its last stages of development. Thanks to Bentley, Hayes, Partain and the rest of the IT team, students can now access the seat finder on their mobile devices to find open computers on campus.
In her closing remarks Bentley expressed her excitement for the module, noting, “Although I graduated before the launch of the Computer Lab Status module and was never able to use it myself, it will be time well spent if it saves even a few students some precious time.”