As a trial run for the fall, the Information Technology service at WKU opened the computer lab at Jody Richards Hall for use Monday in hopes to be prepared for the upcoming fall semester. According to Assistant Vice President Greg Hackbarth, the service is using the trial to gain experience in handling student traffic prior to the arrival of students on campus
During the trial, CDC guidelines were implemented, such as mask requirements, social distancing requirements, sanitizer stations and shields for the customer service desk and signage.
To implement social distancing and limit the amount of computers used, Hackbarth said all of the keyboards and mice from the lab computers have been removed and will now be distributed to students in a checkout process upon their arrival.
Keyboards and mice will be located at a particular point in the front of the lab, where everyone enters the room. When a student arrives and requests to use a computer, they will receive a sanitized keyboard and mouse and when they are finished. They are expected to return it for sanitation.
“The idea came from mimicking a grocery store with your grocery cart,” said Senior Director of Technical Support Services Lori Douglas. “Several people were thinking, ‘how could we make this safer and ensure to our clientele that this is a safe place?’”
Hackbarth said that the plan also makes it easier on staff as well as implementing CDC guidelines.
“It makes it easier on us to not have to guess which one has been used and which one has been sanitized because students will be forced to come back to the desk,” said Hackbarth. “It also helps enforce our mask policy. When someone comes into the lab and they don’t have a mask, we would make sure they do before they have a keyboard and a mask.”
Capacity has been reduced to approximately half of the computers normally available, allowing only 54 students in the lab at one time.
“We have done a lot of things to space people out,” said Douglas. “We don’t necessarily want 54 people there at a time, but we have things to space it out enough so that if it comes down to it we can hold that many.”
Another transformation will be to the counters which will allow staff to keep track on how many people are in the lab and how many leave, so they don’t go over the amount of work stations available.
IT Services will continue to provide laptops to students in need, as they did in the spring. Additional laptops have been added to help those who need them. The online laptop request form can be found in their Service Catalog and is linked from WKU’s COVID-19 website.
While also helping out students, they are teaming up with different academic areas to also help them with their needs from a lab stand point
“A lot of academic areas use different software and we want to make sure that is available to students for whatever class that they need,” Douglas said.
IT is currently hiring student employees to staff the labs in the fall for Jody Richards Hall and the library for the new semester. Hackbarth stated that the JRH lab will be able to open in at least a limited fashion and they will follow the library operating hours. They also intend to add additional hours and locations when there is efficient staff.
IT Services still still plans to help people with their technological needs in the new world.
“We are gonna try to keep the computer labs open for another option for people. Besides cleaning protocols and social distancing, we are gonna try to keep things as normal as possible because we know that the labs are a resource that students depend on,” said Hackbarth.