Will the college computer lab soon be a relic of the past?

I read an article on the movement toward downsizing, if not eventually outright eliminating, college computer labs in favor of offering students remotely accessible software. Schools will continue purchasing the rights to use the typical software, and students will use that software not in computer labs, but in the privacy of their own homes, out in public, or anywhere they can find a sufficient high-speed internet connection. The goal seems to be cutting costs by reducing the amount of money spent on technology, as well as the money that would normally be spent housing the technology, hiring people to supervise and clean labs, etc.

The article raises a number of questions:

To what degree will economic inequities impact students if this movement becomes the norm?

It sounds like this will further reduce our face-to-face interactions, but will it also reduce our tendency toward interacting face-to-face?

Will the money that schools save be used to benefit students?

Could this be a major step toward one day eliminating the need for physical attendance in schools?

Most importantly, what kinds of new excuses will students invent to get out of homework assignments? ("... but the network was sabotaged by a local brigade of hackers who were hellbent on ruining the English 191 collaborative writing assignment!")




I can envision a scenario in which students are given (or required to purchase) tablets or netbooks, and then all the software is available through virtual labs (cloud computing). There are big hurdles, though, most notably in bandwidth. Plus, imagine the load on the servers if lots of students are simultaneously trying to render video or 3D objects!