Fall 2020 Technology Information

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A lot changed. COVID-19 will be here, in whatever form, for a while. We're preparing now for our return this fall. The College declared our intent to return but we also know there's risk of another "wave" of the pandemic. The IT Department is coordinating with multiple groups to be ready for an in-person Fall while also readying in case we have to close campus again. This page provides information about technology changes coming to instruction and operations. We'll update this page as we're able whenever significant new information is available.

This page is a bit different than our others in that we expect it to get pretty long. Instead of trying to make major sections or organize by audience we've opted for a (super) long-form layout. Check out the topic headers below to see if a section might be something you need to know. If not, skip it and move on to the next one.

Computers Expected for Students

In order to be ready for whatever fall brings, all students are expected to bring a computer with them to school. If all goes well we will not need to return to online instruction next year, but even without that we know more faculty will rely on digital tools. In the event we do have to teach online at some point then having a computer will be absolutely essential to learning. The IT Department is not able to provide laptops for student use and we expect everyone to arrive prepared with a computer. We anticipate computers labs to still be open, especially for specialty software, but we also expect reduced lab capacities for physical distancing and sanitization whenever possible. Having your own computer means you can work how you need to, when you need to, where you need to.

For the best outcomes we prepared this list of specifications to help you choose the right computer. We don't provide direct links to products for purchase since they change very frequently, but this list can either be taken to your favorite local store or used to check the tech specs on any computer you're considering online or in-person. We hope to someday offer laptops like this for purchase directly from us, but we're not yet able to do that.


You don't have to follow these specs for your computer, but if you choose not to you may run into trouble accessing course materials, using required apps and software, getting help, or connecting smoothly. In particular, we know that Apple products and macOS are popular, but we have applications that only run on Windows. If any of your courses use this software you may be stuck using our labs (assuming the lab is open) or purchasing additional, complex software for your Mac in order to run Windows apps. And, we hate to tell you, but Macs do break and they do get malware.

We do not recommend Android-, chromeOS-, or iOS-based tablets like Chromebooks or iPads for your primary computing device. While it's possible to do a lot of work from devices like these, and we've had students do just that, there are performance and compatibility limits that are very likely to make the lower cost not worth the trouble. If you'd like to bring one of these devices in addition to a computer that's fine.

With care and no major accidents both our minimum and recommended laptops are expected to meet all of your needs for all four years. The recommended configuration is more expensive, but we also expect it to last a few years after college and still have decent performance.

Swipe to horizontally scroll the table.

Component Minimum Recommended Notes
Form Factor Laptop or Tablet PC A desktop will work, but you can't take it to class
Operating System Windows 10 macOS can work, but see the note above before deciding
Processor/CPU Intel Core i3 Intel Core i5 8th Gen or newer; more cores help with multitasking and multiple open apps
Memory/RAM 8 GB More memory won't hurt, but don't stress about it
Storage/Disk 120 GB SSD 250 GB SSD We do not recommend traditional spinning-disk hard drives
Connectivity/WiFi Dual-band Intel or Broadcom Newer options like WiFi 6 are fine, but our network is only WiFi 5 (802.11ac)
Display 1920x1080 Full-HD LED Size doesn't matter as long as you're comfortable; touchscreen optional
Webcam 720p HD 1080p Full-HD All laptops meeting our spec should already have a compatible webcam
Budget $700-$900 USD $900-$1100+ USD A computer can count as a Qualified Education Expense on your taxes

Purchasing Tips

If you need to buy a computer before arriving or need to upgrade yours after you're here, review these tips to get a good computer at a fair price.

  • Save a lot and don't buy Microsoft Office. We provide it to you for free.
  • If possible, try before you buy. Shopping online is easy, but actually seeing the laptop in a store can help you find the right combination of price, size, and fit.
  • Have a Costco membership? Costco always has great deals on laptops that meet our spec, and they include an extra year's warranty.
  • We typically recommend HP, Microsoft Surface, or Dell computers. We exclusively buy HP for our employees.
  • We typically do not recommend Sony, Acer, ASUS, or Toshiba. We've had issues with these brands.

Teaching Platforms

We will continue using Instructure Canvas and Microsoft Teams for any online course materials, tools, or delivery that may be necessary. Other LMS or meeting applications are not supported by IT. Canvas is available via web browser or mobile app. While Teams is available in a browser we recommend using the full application for the best experience.

We recommend faculty adopt Canvas for all courses, pandemic or not. Canvas provides a number of digital tools to enhance your courses.

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