Stages of Computer Laboratory Development
We group all the stages into four namely the Requirement Stage, the Component Design Stage and the Implementation Stage and the Operation and Maintenance Stage.
THE REQUIREMENT ANALYSIS STAGE
This is the process of gathering information in order to understand the problem for which we are trying to develop a solution for. Problems in the context of this course could be considered as to why the computer lab development is being undertaken in the first place. The problem could a scenario where there exists a lab that requires modification or upgrade, or a situation where there is no lab at all and you need to develop the lab from scratch. In either of the situations, you need to determine the purpose for the development and the functions that would be performed at the lab. This will inform what is really needed in the school as a computer lab suitable for the school. It would also help define the level of sophistication in terms of equipment, their quantity and software tools that the lab must provide.
To get a fair idea of this, there is a need to bring all stakeholders on board including the school’s administration, the teachers, students, representatives of parents, opinion leaders, etc. You can do this by meeting each of the groups separately or organize them in clusters to seek their inputs. Once the lab is for educational purposes, remember to involve subject area personnel. Remember at this stage you will have to:
• Gather, analyze and validate the information
• Define the requirements and prototypes for the lab
• Evaluate the alternatives and prioritize the requirements
• Examine the information needs of end-users
The most important aspect that will run throughout all the stages is documentation. You need to make sure that you document every activity and every information obtained.
COMPONENT DESIGN STAGE
The component Design Stage is also referred to as the system design stage and the design stage. Here, you identify which tools or IT infrastructure would help meet the requirements identified for the lab to be developed. Additionally, you define the details of the expected functions to be performed at the lab. This stage is to describe in detail the necessary specifications, features and operations that would satisfy the functional requirements of the lab. To help you determine the right specifications, you need to consider the following:
• What is the size of your new or existing learning space?
• How many students will be utilizing the space?
• Will power be accessed from the floor, the ceiling, the walls, or from the furniture itself?
• Are there doors, windows, columns, heater vents, and other items that need to be designed around?
• Are dimmable lighting or light-blocking window treatments required?
• Will computers or technology equipment be placed on top of work surfaces, or mounted below?
• What items will be used individually or shared? How many are needed?
Computers, CAD stations, tablets?
• Do the lessons emphasize students working independently or as part of a group? What size groups?
• Will students gather at a staging area, or a central location, before breaking into groups for project work?
• Are accessories like monitor arms, System Unitholders, or keyboard trays desired?
• What type of desk does the instructor need?
• Will the teacher present lectures, requiring a lectern, or is all instruction collaborative — or is there a blend of the two?
•What type of technology will the instructor employ regularly? Whiteboard, computer, or projection technology?
• What age are the students? Five, eleven, seventeen? What seat or workstation heights will work best for them?
• How will you accommodate disability considerations within the student body?
• Do students have backpacks or other materials with them that require classroom storage?
• Can students see everything clearly?
• Will there be a requirement for BYOD desks?
• Do students have portable devices that require charging?
Equipment Specifications considerations
You can use the following table to define the Specifications for the equipment required for the proposed computer lab:
Lab Layout Consideration
Computer Lab layout simply looks at how the desks and the other lab tools are to be arranged within the physical space of the lab. Perhaps, what informs the layout would depend on the size of the physical space, seating capacity, courses to be taught there and their requirements, etc. the following are the possible layout for consideration.
With workstations arranged along the walls, perimeter labs allow teachers to easily maneuver around the classroom and manage student work. Teachers can easily keep an eye on what a large number of students are working on, and students can quickly turn around when the teacher needs to make a presentation. Perimeter labs function well for subjects that have students working fairly autonomously without a lot of lecture-based learning. The large center area also facilitates the creation of a central collaborative work area from either moveable tables or stationary stations making perimeter layouts conducive to subjects requiring both individual and small group projects, such as CAD or graphic design classes.
Labs with students arranged in rows are the classic layout, and that is because many subjects are best taught with instructors leading the class. Lecture layouts allow students a clear view of the teacher without having to turn around, teachers can easily see when a student has a question, and the front of the classroom can be used to work or project lessons onto a screen. Lecture labs function well for subjects that have students spending substantial portions of each class listening to or working along with a teacher and then working autonomously on classwork such as math or word/data processing. These front-facing layouts also function well for testing environments when front, side, and intermediate panel heights are raised to reduce student visibility (shown top right).
Back-to-back layouts are similar to lecture layouts, but allow many students to fit in a relatively small footprint. Often, these classrooms have split uses one area for non-computer-based work and another for working with technology. Teachers might not do much lecturing because some students may be facing away from them, but the students do have the ability to easily interact with fellow classmates. Back-to-back labs fit courses where students work primarily on their own, at least for part of the curriculum, such as computer animation, drafting, fashion design (note the sewing carts tucked under the work surface in the middle image), or a research lab.
ROUND TABLE COMPUTER
This is a simple layout that only needs big round tables. The pros of this layout are that students and instructors can move about easily. It also is a good layout when doing discussions and team interacting because the students face each other during the discussion. Because it only requires one big table, this layout is cheaper to use than all the other layouts. Cons about this layout are that it wastes space in the room. This makes the room fit for only several people. This would be a problem if a class has many students and it would make it uncomfortable for students to sit so close to each other and would defeat the purpose of making moving around easy. This layout is suitable if the numbers of students using the lab are not big.
This is a type of design that incorporates the views of the essential stakeholders to design a suitable layout other than what has been presented. It can be a combination of any of the mentioned layouts or a new customized design.
Budgeting/Cost Estimate Consideration
The biggest aspect of the component design is how much can be spent in the development of the lab and whether the money can be made readily available when needed. There will always be budget limitations. When establishing a lab, you need to consider where money can be spent efficiently to produce the maximum results. You can use the following table as a guide for your budgeting.
The funds to develop the lab be the next issue to consider under cost. You need to clearly mark the sources of funds and raise them before the implementation begins, if not, the project would be started and then get grounded at a point. While we expect the school’s ownership to provide the financial resources for the development. The school can also solicit financial support or even equipment and other infrastructure donations from companies, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, political leadership, traditional leaders and other personalities who can assist. This would greatly cut down what the school must provide.
THE IMPLEMENTATION STAGE
This is the stage for the purchase of the various items identified, setting them up and testing them to ensure that they are functional and fit for purposes for which the lab is being established. At this stage, the quality of the products being purchased and setup must be of great importance to the one undertaking the implementation. Vendor selection must be competitive to select those who will offer quality supply at cost-effective prices. It should also be ensured that the right people with the requisite skills are the ones chosen to install the various equipment and other related tools. Ergonomics must be the biggest background mindset in the implementation. The infrastructure must provide comfort and ensure safety so that users do not incur any form of injury or damage.
At each stage of the implementation, testing must be done; and when all of them are put together, the entire infrastructure must be tested. The testing must be done over a period of time so that before it is fully commissioned, you are sure to an appreciable level that it functions as expected. The infrastructure installed must also be protected from theft or damage.
You need to prepare a technical document that will detail the equipment used, their specifications, the layout of installations, etc. You will also need to prepare the user documentation that will guide the end-users on how to use the various devices and applications.
THE OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE STAGE
This is the stage where the students, teachers and other relevant users are given access to use the infrastructure of the lab for the intended purposes. They are given initial training on how to use the computers and other tools and given routine assistance where needed. There should be defined schedules for routine maintenance to ensure that the equipment and other tools are in good shape always for use. A periodic evaluation must be done to ascertain if the tools and equipment are being handled properly and if some of them require updates or replacement. Where equipment and other tools are to be replaced, they must be replaced. Where there should be upgrades, they should be also done on time. Maintenance must be guided by the technical document that was developed at the implementation stage. Maintenance must also include that of the space and all other fittings besides that of the IT resources.