Laptop Requirement

UNC and SILS require that all students own a laptop computer that complies with UNC standards. The Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI) website provides comprehensive information about specifications and purchasing laptops.

Why are students required to own a laptop?

It comes with the territory. Information Professionals must be able to use technology in a collaborative environment and be thoroughly conversant with its uses and limitations so that they can provide services that are reflective and reactive to the needs of society.

Why a laptop instead of a desktop?

SILS scholars need access to information resources wherever they are. Knowing that students have laptops allows faculty to design course content around the concept of ubiquitous computing. It also facilitates students' work both in and out of the classroom.

Will laptops be used in all of my courses?

No. Faculty are increasingly integrating computers into their course content, but only when it makes sense pedagogically. Some classes include presentations on student laptops, and many students take notes, access the web, and use course-specific software on their laptops during class.

I am a Continuing Studies student or Inter-institutional student. Do I need to buy a laptop to take SILS courses?

All of our students are required to own a laptop. You may find that some courses don't require a computer in class, but in other classes you will need one.

Should I buy a CCI laptop from UNC, or can I select my own?

You should buy what you feel comfortable with. Balancing strengths and weaknesses, you should choose a system which fits your needs and meets Campus Computing Initiative (CCI) specifications. Below we've outlined some things to consider when buying a computer.

  • Software: PC or Mac?
    Windows is the current standard as a platform, but alternatives, such as Macs, are increasingly accepted and widely used on campus and in Manning. We encourage you to choose the operating system with which you are most comfortable.

    Support. There is more campus support for Windows users; UNC services, access to resources, and support experience are Windows-centric. CCI laptops are all PCs, and can be repaired on-campus for free. The SILS Help Desk staff, however, are well-versed in different operating systems, especially Macs, and though we can't solve all problems, we are glad to do our best to help you.

    Windows-only software. Some SILS classes use software that only runs on a PC, so having a non-Windows system means you will have to seek workarounds or other systems to complete assignments. Mac users should install Windows virtualization software (such as Virtual Box, Bootcamp, Parallels or VMWare) in order to run Windows-only programs on their computers. It is expected that students will have virtualization software installed BEFORE it is needed in classes. Students may also use computers at the SILS lab, which is open 7 days a week during the regular semester.

  • Hardware
    System specifications should meet or exceed the CCI minimum specifications for the semester you are entering SILS.
  • Warranty
    We strongly recommend that you get at least a one-year warranty on your machine. Should something physically break and need the expertise of a technician, those repairs fall under warranty. We recommend you read your warranty thoroughly and understand how it works, as well as the steps you'd need to take to get your machine repaired.
  • Expense
    How much money you want to spend will definitely be a factor in your decision. The challenge with shopping for laptops is deciding how much to spend to get a powerful and reliable, yet lightweight machine. CNET.com now divides laptops partially based on size/weight. You, too, should consider portability in your decision-making process, weighing the price against the value-added features. For example:
    • Lighter is better but usually more costly and less powerful.
    • A large screen means more weight to carry, but some people like the extra workspace.
    • More devices means greater flexibility but more clutter and weight.
  • Try it out!
    If it's possible for you to try out your computer before you buy, do so. See how well the keyboard fits your hands, whether the pointing device is easy to use, if the screen is the right size, and how the machine runs overall. Taking the computer for a test-drive is the best way to gauge whether a computer will be the right fit for you.

What laptop-specific services does SILS offer?

The SILS Help Desk staff are glad to help you...

  • set your computer up for use in SILS, on campus, and elsewhere;
  • get access a variety of tools and resources;
  • defend your laptop against security breaches; and
  • troubleshoot your laptop for both hardware and software problems.

We will not replace laptop hardware and software. These services should be covered under your warranty.