Cranfield School of Management has provided laptops to all of its full-time Master of Business Administration students as part of their Pounds 18,500 tuition package.
Deborah Harry, Cranfield's finance director and head of IT, said the machines were bought for Pounds 800-900 each including VAT. The manufacturer, Dell, gave a volume discount but no sponsorship was involved. PCs will be collected at the end of the course.
Students can plug straight into the campus intranet and internet, or dial in from home using the built-in modem. "They are given access to the Cranfield network which is connected to SuperJanet," Ms Harry said.
The PCs are "Cranfield-ready", with Microsoft Office 2000, IBM Lotus Notes and a range of Cranfield's own teaching software. In the past, students who brought their own PCs sometimes encountered compatibility problems or had difficulty reconfiguring them.
There is a dedicated support team and a helpline is open from 8.30am to 6pm.
Student PCs are commonly required or recommended for part-time or distance MBA courses, but few schools consider them essential for on-campus programmes. "I think it is very different that we are giving full-time students PCs," Ms Harry said.
The full-time MBA compresses into a year what most other comparable programmes spread over two years, so round-the-clock access is an advantage. If a student completes an assignment at 2am, other learning team members can access the information and add their comments, assuming they are awake and online.
"We do not expect that technology-enabled learning will make face-to-face methods redundant, because of our belief in active and interactive learning that reflects the modern workplace and practices," said John Mapes, director of the full-time MBA.
"We are utilising technology imaginatively to streamline administrative procedures, to allow more time for learning, to enhance and supplement other teaching methods, and to facilitate best possible communication between faculty and students."
The programme started last week with 208 students from 30 countries. Their average age is 30, with an average of eight years' business experience.