With the swipe of a student ID card, Grand Rapids Community College is offering free laptop rentals to students. The service is being offered via vending machine, giving students an alternative to accessing the technology needed to support their academic work.
Renting laptops and tablets isn’t a new service on college campuses, but the means in which these valuable resources are distributed to students is becoming increasingly automated. As reported by MLive, Grand Rapids began a pilot program late last year with the Dallas, Texas-based Laptops Anytime, to implement a laptop vending machine in the college’s student center. The vending machine cost Grand Rapids Community College $35,000, paid for with a grant from the college's Strategic Leadership Team.
Checking out a laptop from the vending machine is as quick and easy as any other vending purchase. Students simply enter their last name on the touchscreen and swipe their student ID card, at which point a laptop pops out from one of the machine's twelve charging ports.
The fully charged laptops are available to rent in four-hour increments, and students simply return the computers back to the vending machine anytime before the end of their session. The vending machine automatically wipes the laptop clean of the student’s work session and recharges it for the next rental.
The new vending machine joins existing rental options at Grand Rapids' campus library, as well as the college’s standard computer labs.
According to the college’s IT department, more than 500 students have checked out a laptop, logging a total usage time of roughly 660 hours without any issues. These results, in turn, have led the college to consider an expansion to the program, adding other campus locations as well as the addition of tablet rentals.
The vending machines are configurable to suit the specific deployment, holding anywhere from six to 12 devices in a single machine, with optional 12 or 18 bay add-ons. The company also offers either a barcode or card reader option to support device checkout.
In addition to college and university campuses the machines are also being deployed in public libraries. The initiative at Grand Rapids Community College marks Laptops Anytime’s first install in the state of Michigan, but the company is already in 31 states and four foreign countries.