How will Windows 7 help universities – Part Three – Staff laptops

Continuing my thread of half-term learning snacks, this one’s is shorter (only 7 minutes long), but talks about a feature which you may want to think about to help your academic staff.

Here’s a scenario that may well have happened in your college:

  • You allocate a member of academic staff a laptop

  • They use it on campus, and also take it home

  • Whilst at home, they use it for university work, and also use it for personal use – like downloading their photos and plugging in their iPod.

    As far as I’m concerned, so far so good – a sense of personal ownership helps teaching staff to value their laptops more highly, and also helps them to see more possibilities for using it to enhance their teaching. It’s great to walk into a classroom and to see an academic using a video to set the mood for a lesson, or showing an interactive diagram as a discussion opener; and I think giving academics ‘ownership’ for their laptop helps this kind of use.

    But it’s when we move from the above, to one of the below that we get a problem:

  • They want to print something to their printer at home, which is connected to their home PC

  • They want to download some photos/music from their home computer to their laptop

It doesn’t take much – okay, it probably only takes 10 minutes and them asking their own teenage child “Can you set this up for me” - for it turn from a secure laptop, to an open-for-business home file server – with hard disk shared with every other computer in the household. Next thing you know…

There are obviously two approaches to this. One is to lock it down, which I personally think removes the ability for staff to feel ownership. The other approach is to allow academic staff some flexibility and sense of ownership, but making sure that they don’t wander into trouble. (Like accidentally sharing any confidential data with their own children!)

HomeGroup, in Windows 7, is a new feature which is designed to make things a little easier to manage. As well as enabling easier home networking (at last!), it also means that “domain joined” computers – ie your university laptops – can be connected to their home resources (like printers, and shared photos etc) without compromising the security of the files on the laptop.

Take a look at the “Creating a HomeGroup” chapter to see what it can do.

Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7 

Learning Snack: HomeGroup in Windows 7 

ps I used to work for a company which locked down our laptops – we got absolutely no control over software installation, and very restricted Internet access. As a result, most of us spent the time emailing files between home computers and work computers. If I wanted to write a presentation with images, I typically wrote it at home, and then emailed them to myself on my work laptop (even though it was sitting on the same desk). The same happened in reverse if I wanted to print something out. The IT people probably thought they had good security, but our workarounds probably drove a cart-and-horses through it!

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