CSUN’s Virtual Software Library, which began at the start of this semester, allows students to virtually access software programs for no extra charge.
Select titles are available to all students; these include Adobe Acrobat Professional, ArcMap, ArcReader, LibreOffice, Mathematica, SPSS and OpenSSH.
The remainder of the programs are available to students studying in specific departments and colleges, including Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, InDesign and Illustrator.
According to Chris Olsen, project director of both the pilot and the launched project, the reason for limiting some of these programs to specific departments is because of department requests and limited licensing.
“It’s based upon college request,” Olsen said. “For example, CTVA, journalism and geology students, as well as students enrolled in a handful of courses across art and geography have access to one or more of the aforementioned software titles. Please keep in mind that this list will continue to grow as requests are received throughout the semester.”
Olsen further explained certain packages, such as Adobe Suite (which contains Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver), have limited licensing, and are therefore limited to courses and departments that absolutely need the packages.
Students can access software from many and multiple devices, such as laptops, desktops, iPads, iPhones and other mobile computing devices, Olsen said.
“When using the VSL, software is accessed virtually and not installed on a student’s device, and the computational processing power and memory needed to run software in the VSL are located in the VSL ‘cloud’ infrastructure.” Olsen said. “Following a one-time plug-in installation, software can be accessed virtually anywhere, anytime, from any device with a web browser and Internet connection.”
Olsen further explained the programs are accessed virtually through VSL, which gets its processing power and memory needed to run software from CSUN’s VSL cloud.
CSUN students can now access these programs by logging into VSL with their CSUN user ID and password.
A pilot was released last semester to test the applications and hear student responses. According to Olsen, the responses were positive.
“The pilot went very well,” he said. “I think the reason why is because students who may have not been able to afford these programs before can now access these programs wherever they’re at. They don’t have to worry about driving how(ever) many miles to campus to access a program that was only available to them at school anymore.”
Olsen also explained that the reason behind launching this project was because of student demand for more access to software programs.
“Past campus IT surveys have shown that students want greater access to course software,” Olsen said. “Feedback from the pilot suggests that students have the potential to save money by avoiding costly software purchases, and coursework may be improved as a result of having anywhere, anytime access to software.”
Olsen explained that multiple CSU campuses are also using services similar to VSL and CSUN has been piloting similar technologies for a couple of years now.
VSL is funded by the Campus Quality Fee, and according to Olsen, is a service “funded by students, for students.”
Computer science professor Gloria Melara said some of these programs, such as SPSS, a statistical analytical program, will be helpful to most students and making these programs more available will “help students do their assignments better and it will help professors give better feedback.”
Christopher Shultz, graduate student and teaching assistant in the geography department, is a user of ArcMap, one of the free programs now offered by VSL.
“I use ArcMap a lot as a student. I also use ArcMap to teach.” Shultz said. “I make it optional for my students to use it but I like using it in my classes so they can be more familiar with it. They may not have to use ArcMap a lot right now as undergrads but for geography majors, they will have to use ArcMap a lot in graduate classes.”
Shultz also explained that for students, obtaining these programs outside of the classroom can be difficult because of the high prices.
“Money can be a barrier, especially for undergrad students,” he added