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Florida SouthWestern State College installs laptop vending machines

Student ID card supports free laptop rentals

Andrew Hudson   ||   Feb 28, 2020  ||   

Florida SouthWestern State College has installed a batch of new vending machines on its campus, but instead of food the machines issue laptops. The new vending machines enable students to use their student ID card to rent laptops.

According to a News-Press report, the machines dispense laptops that students can borrow for up to four hours per session. The laptops can be taken for use anywhere on campus, and the rental is free with a valid student ID card.

The laptop kiosks are part of a larger initiative by the college to ensure all students, regardless of economic background, have access to the same academic tools.

“One of the things we have been looking at is that not all of our students can afford the same technology, so we wanted to make sure all of our students have the same opportunities to succeed at the college with technology,” said Jason Dudley, FSW's chief information officer.

The kiosks are made by LaptopsAnytime and can house up to 12 laptops that slide in and out of charging slots on the front of the machine. Every time a laptop is returned to its designated port, it is charged and a memory sweep is conducted before the next rental takes place.

The laptop vending machines were funded by $60,000 from the college's IT budget, with the first laptop kiosks placed on the Lee and Collier county campuses in August. The program has since grown to a total of 36 laptops available through kiosks at FSW's four campuses throughout Southwest Florida. A fifth kiosk was also added in Fort Myers for use by faculty and staff.

Students rented the laptops a total of 1,331 times this past fall semester. But usage has since spiked with the college already recording 2,200 total laptop checkouts across all kiosks since February 6.

Students use their ID card to check out the devices and must agree to the terms of use, including the four-hour rental window. Students can immediately check out another laptop to finish their work if the four hour window isn't long enough.

If a device is late, the user will be charged $5 for every additional hour, with the fee capped at $120. If a device is lost or stolen, the student will be assessed an $850 replacement fee.

Each laptop runs Microsoft Office, and allows internet connection through the college’s WiFi network, which limits the laptops to only access the internet while on campus. The laptops also include cameras and microphones, as well as software used to proctor exams.

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