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Digital learning laptops in hands of new students early because of COVID-19

MENOMONIE – University of Wisconsin-Stout first-year student Jillian Chaltry loved receiving her university-issued laptop computer early to help get ready to start the school year Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Because of the COVID-19 virus, first-year students aren’t able to pick up their laptops in the traditional way through the eStout laptop program. Laptops traditionally have been given out on campus at the start of the semester in mass with students waiting at the Memorial Student Center ballrooms.

This fall, first-year students are receiving their laptops weeks earlier via UPS from Vanguard, a partner of UW-Stout’s eStout Program. Returning students who have two-year-old laptops will receive an updated computer through the exchange program when they return in the fall.

New students will also receive information on how to set up their laptops as well as a backpack and power accessories. The technology help desk is available to help students should they have difficulty.

Chaltry, of Chippewa Falls, who is majoring in game design-art, was one of the students who tested the laptop application form for the university. She received her computer on Aug. 7.

“It worked very smoothly,” Chaltry said of the form. “It was very exciting to get the laptop. It is what makes UW-Stout a great school. You get to have a new computer for classes.”

Chaltry said receiving the computer early helped check one item off her to-do list in preparation for starting college.

“With the coronavirus, things are so different,” she said. “It helps to have one less thing to think about. You have the laptop; it’s set up and ready to go.”

Noah Albricht, a first-year student majoring in graphic design, also helped test the delivery of laptops.

“My experience regarding receiving my laptop through the mail was phenomenal,” he said. “The organization and clear communication throughout the process was very impressive. I received frequent updates via email about the progress of my laptop, and then I received it within three days after filling out the online form. It would be a very easy process for any type of student.”

Albricht, of Colfax, chose UW-Stout because it was close to home and he is impressed with the campus and sense of community there. “UW-Stout is also known to have one of the best graphic design programs in the country, so I was very excited to be able to develop my professional skills at an institution with a strong reputation,” he said.

Trent Isaacson, director of client technology services and eStout coordinator, said the program has gone well.

“In some ways, the COVID-19 situation has caused us to improve our process,” Isaacson said. “It might be more efficient to distribute laptops this way in the future. Vanguard has really been a great partner in this.”

Joan Wahl, of eStout Business Services, said the program worked closely with Vanguard to develop the shipping process. “We are pleased with how well the students have responded,” Wahl said. “I feel the launch of our new process worked well because of our strong IT leadership in conjunction with our long-standing partnership with Vanguard.”

A total of about 3,000 laptops will be issued to first-year students and refreshed for other students for the fall semester.

Most students receive Windows HP laptops with preloaded Office365 software. Students also can add software from the university geared for their specific majors. Some art students receive an Apple laptop because of their specific major.

The eStout program is the digital learning environment at UW-Stout. Former UW-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen established the program for undergraduate students in 2002 and the wireless infrastructure on campus to support it.

Chaltry chose a game design-art major because she loves writing and art. “I think it will be great to find a job working in game design where I can combine art and writing,” she said. “I am really looking forward to taking classes.”

Princeton Review this year ranked UW-Stout No. 24 in the nation for its undergraduate game design program and No. 1 in Wisconsin. It’s the eighth straight year UW-Stout has been in the top 25 in the nation.

UW-Stout offers two undergraduate game design programs, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science, the latter in computer science with a concentration in game design. In these programs, students learn how to create video, mobile, board and other types of games.

The MFA in design program also offers a game design concentration.

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