MARQUETTE - Touchscreen computers, fast-becoming the norm in technology these days, will become the new normal for Northern Michigan University students in the coming years as well as the university upgrades its laptop initiative.
Faculty - and for the most part, incoming freshmen - are now using new Lenovo Thinkpad Twist Ultrabooks.
"The Ultrabook is the wave of the future, the Ultrabook and the tablet computer, and we just thought, let's stay up with the technology and give the faculty, staff and students the most cutting edge computer we could," said Scott Krah, NMU director of microrepair services and information technology.
The new computers can act as a standard laptop with a keyboard attached, but also have the ability to act as a tablet by twisting the screen around and laying it flat against the keyboard.
The computers also have touchscreens.
NMU has been distributing laptops to its student and faculty since 2000, when its Teaching, Learning and Communicating notebook initiative began.
Its goal was to offer a standard set of equipment to Northern students, roughly 9,000 people, and faculty.
With such a large and ambitious undertaking each year, Krah said the university typically works on a three-year cycle when updating the computers used in the distribution system.
"We do one-third of our machines every year," Krah said.
This year, faculty were at the end of their three-year cycle, so faculty members each received one of the new Ultrabooks.
Krah said a total of 2,800 Ultrabooks were distributed this year and roughly 1,500 older Thinkbook models were sent out, along with Macbook Pros, which students enrolled in the university's Art and Design department receive.
Krah said it was primarily freshmen receiving the new computers along with sophomores who may have an end-of-lease model.
The new computers also mark the first time the university has distributed not only touch-screen computers but those using Windows 8.
Krah said the new operating system was sometimes tricky to handle, but that the computers appeared to be a hit among the students and faculty.
"Our biggest issue is Windows 8, that's probably a learning curve," Krah said. "It's been a little challenging, but all in all I think it's going pretty well."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal. net.