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I am one of the instructors in the open student computer center at my community
college. We have the same problem. Our technical support department has set up
the computers so that students can't download any programs from the internet
onto the hard  drive of the computer. We got some zip drives, hoping that they
would be large enough to handle some of this downloaded software so students
could use it, but most times that doesn't help, since to run, the program needs
to go in and alter the Windows software, which of course it is locked out from
doing. This presents numerous instructional limitations and problems for
teachers and students, but happily doesn't cause any problems for our technical
support staff. (I often question WHO should be the ones WITHOUT the problems,
but so far I've been losing that battle!)
On a related note, of great concern to me and to other faculty is the trend for
educational publishers to bundle supplemental CD Roms with their textbooks.
Theoretically this supplemental material will help the students in the course,
but some cynical faculty have pointed out another side benefit to the
publishers.... a policy that prohibits the return of the text if the seal on the
CD Rom has been broken. (Educational Publishers lose alot of money from the
resale of used textbooks.) Whatever the reason for these CD Roms, my concern is
that the faculty need to know whether students can use them in the open computer
lab. Most of the faculty at my college assume that it will work... after all,
all of our machines have CD Rom drives!  In most cases, I've found they CAN'T be
used in our lab because of the helper software on the CD Rom that must be
installed in order for the CD Rom to work. Faculty need to know about this
potential problem and require that the publisher's sales rep to prove the CD Rom
can work in the computer lab or offer both the CD Rom and non-CD Rom version
books to the students. (Of course, in most cases, these CD Roms work fine on
student home 'non-networked' computers. But at my school, less than half of the
students have computers at home.)
I have also had the dilemma of our tech support staff being unwilling to install
the helper application on the server for the lab, saying that there are
copyright infringement issues. When I've called the major educational publishers
to request written permission to do this, (It seems to me that they would be
willing, since the helper application is useless without the CD Rom which can
only be obtained by purchasing the book) they don't seem to understand what I'm
talking about, furthering my belief that a primary purpose for the CD Rom's
presence in the text  is to render the book un-resellable......
So, to sum it up, we have similar problems here, and no solution yet, except to
tell the student that, sadly, that CD Rom or software can't be downloaded,
which, by the way, also makes some web sites unavailable to our lab students.
I visited the Phoenix, Arizona Community Colleges a couple of years ago. They
had Macintosh labs and had a software program that, at the end of each day,
could immediately return all the hard drives on their networked machines to the
way they were at the beginning of the day, with the click of a button. So, they
didn't lock out nor worry about students downloading anything they might need
temporarily. We have only PC's and were unable to find a similar software
solution, I believe due to the nature of the Windows operating environment.
-Dean Mancina, Golden West College

Julie Jensen wrote:

> I manage a computer lab as part of our Learning Assistance Center.  Students
> seem to be more persistent this year than in the past about downloading
> programs from the Internet.  When my staff delete the programs, students
> just download them again within a few days.
>
> Especially "irksome" is AOL and Yahoo Instant Messenger. These handy little
> programs allow one to work on a computer and be notified immediately if a
> "cyber friend" has logged on and is available for a conversation.  Our
> technicians tell us that having students download programs from the Internet
> can cause problems because they can change the standards of the setup on the
> PC's.
>
> Does anyone else have problems with students downloading "stuff" to lab
> PC's?  Has anyone successfully remedied this problem?  Thanks, in advance,
> for your help.
>
> Julie Jensen
> E-mail:  [log in to unmask]
> Phone:  308-398-7481
> Central Community College
> Grand Island, Nebraska