February 25, 1996
Daily Pennsylvanian

Officials seek to expand residential computing

The ResTech Primary Support project would grow from Van Pelt College House to all residential program houses.

By Tammy Reiss
The Daily Pennsylvanian

More on the pilot version of this project, at Van Pelt College House

University administrators have submitted a request to extend a residence-based computing support pilot program in Van Pelt College House to all residential program houses by next year.

The ResTech Primary Support Project for first-year houses would "use the Van Pelt program as a model" in all 11 program residences -- including six college houses and five first-year houses -- according to Residential Faculty Council Chairperson Al Filreis.

"We experimented with one residence to see if we could do it," said Filreis, an English professor. "We've found that these houses are programs where this new system can be done very effectively."

The proposal includes plans to provide primary technical support in the residences by training approximately 120 students as information technology advisers, or ITAs. Most of these students already serve in work-study positions in the computer labor atories, Filreis said.

"The inspiration for the residential computer support project comes with our realization in reports from students that they were using their peers for a lot of their help," Residential Life Acting Director Chris Dennis said.

In addition, the proposal calls for the hiring of five computing professionals as "backups" for the student ITAs.

The existing Van Pelt program -- which involves nine student ITAs -- would "easily be transferred" to all first-year houses, according to Wharton senior Edton Mock, who serves as student manager of the program in Van Pelt College House, where he liv es.

"It's not necessarily a question of whether the first-year dorms are ready for this program," Mock said. "This is something that should have been in place all along."

The program concentrates on the principle of local primary support, which provides support "as close to the user as possible," Filreis said.

For example, Van Pelt residents post computing concerns to a listserv, which is regularly checked by the ITAs.

Response time to student questions averaged 3.6 hours during the first two months of the program's implementation -- while the Computing Resource Center responses often take about four days, Filreis said.

The CRC, which offers support to all University students, is "inadequate" because it does not provide primary support, according to Ira Winston, executive director for computing.

"The only recourse is for students to do things over the telephone or to carry their computers into the center," he said.

The expanded residential program "will add organization and consistency to computing help," he added.

Implementation of the project will coincide with the installation of ResNet in all Quadrangle rooms.

"There will be a lot of work to do in the Quad as everyone gets plugged into the ethernet system," Filreis said.

Administrators also hope to expand two additional aspects of the Van Pelt pilot program into other residences. The "Van Pelt at Van Pelt" initiative provides a resident of the house to serve as a liaison to the reference desk in Van Pelt Library, Mo ck said. Computer assistance is also available for help with Maple.

"This has become very service oriented," Mock said. "We want to deliver benefits for the students themselves."

Van Pelt residents said the program uses the expertise of students from within the residence.

And Mock explained that the program involves the hiring of "computer gurus" within the dorms, noting that "we might as well... institutionalize the system so everyone has access to one of these computer gurus."

College freshman Philip Grose -- who participated in a three-day training session to become a Van Pelt ITA -- praises the program for its success.

"There are so many things you have to accomplish in the first week," Grose said. "This program allows more personal service and it's quicker than the Computer Resource Center."

Filreis said implementing the program would be "extremely cost-effective."


Document URL: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/restech-dp.html
Last modified: Friday, 06-Aug-2004 10:09:28 EDT