Personal versus work-related laptop and tablet use

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About this article

This article provides an overview of the policies that apply to the personal use of the laptops and tablets provided through the E-Warrior Digital Life and Learning Program. It is intended for all students and employees who participate in the program. Please note that this is not an official, comprehensive presentation of all related laws, policies, and guidelines. All questions and requests for clarification should be directed to WSU Legal Affairs.

Can you use your laptop and tablet for personal purposes?

Students

Students lease their laptops and tablets and are essentially the owners of these devices for the duration of the lease period. As long as they abide by the terms of the WSU Lease Agreement, do not abuse WSU network resources, do not violate MnSCU Board Policy 5.22.1, and do not break the law, they are free to use their devices for personal, non-university purposes. Note that this does not apply to devices assigned to student workers, graduate assistants, and other students employed by WSU. This would be considered employee, not student, usage.

Employees

Employees do not own the laptops and tablets provided to them through the E-Warrior Digital Life and Learning Program. These devices are considered the property of the State of Minnesota and are distributed to employees for work-related purposes only. However, Minnesota State Board Policy 5.22.1 and the Minnesota State Procedure 1C.0.1 Employee Code of Conduct do permit limited personal use of WSU laptops and tablets, provided there is no incremental cost to the state (e.g., providing ongoing technical support).

Can you store personal files on your laptop and tablet?

Personal files include family photos, birthday party videos, and purchased iTunes music. If you are a student, the answer is, "yes," as long as you follow the rules listed above. WSU employees are strongly discouraged from storing personal media (e.g., photos, videos, audio) on their WSU devices. Employees should store their personal media on a separate, personally-owned device such as an external hard drive. Some applications make this difficult. For example, Apple iCloud allows you to synchronize photos across all of your devices automatically. When you take a picture on your personally-owned iPhone, it can be downloaded to your WSU tablet and laptop almost instantaneously. This may be what you want when taking pictures for class or research purposes, but not what you want when taking pictures at a family reunion. Tools like Apple iCloud behave according to how you configure them. If properly configured and managed on all your devices, you can use their features and functions for professional purposes only. You are responsible for learning how to do this and TLT (tlt@winona.edu, 507-457-5240 Option #3, Maxwell Hall 130) is here to help.

Will WSU support the personal use of laptops and tablets?

Supporting your digital life

Students and employees use technology in their daily lives to have fun, keep in touch with friends and family, stay organized, and support numerous personal and social activities. This routine, personal use of technology can help develop overall digital literacy and specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that can be applied both academically and professionally. One of the main goals of the E-Warrior Digital Life and Learning Program is to help members of the WSU community develop these skills. TLT is committed to helping you learn how to use technology effectively in all aspects of your life. However, there are limits to what we can support when it comes to the personal use of technology.

Online documentation

TLT does not document software and apps that are intended for personal use only. We use this knowledge base wiki to maintain information about the academic and professional use of university-supported tools. However, some of these tools can also be used for personal purposes and the related documentation may not differentiate. Here are some examples of articles that can be applied to both school and personal use:

  • How to move an Apple iTunes library from one WSU-provided laptop to another
  • How to use Apple iCloud to synchronize the contents of a Photo Stream folder across devices
  • How to manage photo, audio, and video content captured on a laptop or tablet

Live support

For both students and employees, WSU will provide limited live support for simple questions and minor technical problems related to the personal use of laptops and tablets on campus, as long as that support does not incur a significant cost. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Here are some examples based on actual support requests:

  • Scanning personal 35mm slides. An employee brought several carousels of personal 35mm slides to TLT and asked us to scan and save them to a DVD. These included old family photos. Although TLT provides slide scanning services to our students and employees for educational and research purposes, we do not extend that service to cover personal media conversion. The request was denied and the employee was encouraged to use a commercial service.
  • Finding a personal vacation photo for a laptop screen background. An employee who had recently exchanged her laptop came to TLT asking for assistance restoring to her new laptop a vacation picture she had used as wallpaper. She said that the original picture was on an external drive that held hundreds of personal, family pictures. She said that the files were very disorganized and she did not have time to go through all of them. She wanted TLT to recover the picture from her old laptop instead. The request was denied. A TLT staff member spent less than five minutes showing the employee how to change the wallpaper on her new laptop and how to search for specific files. In this case, the amount of staff time required to meet the employee's request was judged unreasonable, especially since image could be recovered by the employee.
  • Recovering a personal Apple iTunes music library from an old laptop. An employee who had recently exchanged his laptop called TLT and said that he had failed to back up his personal Apple iTunes music library and some of the music was irreplaceable. Because we hold the old hard drives for two weeks following an exchange, we scheduled an appointment with the employee and a TLT staff member assisted him. The TLT staff member spent about 15 minutes with the employee to ensure that the files were copied to a personally-owned external hard drive properly and the employee was discouraged from restoring his personal music to his new WSU laptop. TLT will provide a reasonable amount of assistance to help students and employees recover irreplaceable or otherwise valuable personal assets. We work to minimize these incidents by providing opportunities to learn proper file management practices.
  • Rebuilding a personal photo gallery. An employee came to TLT and asked us to restore a personal photo gallery on her new laptop. The photo gallery software came bundled with a personally-owned digital camera she had purchased several years earlier. The request was denied. A TLT staff member spent about 10 minutes showing the employee how to download software updates from the camera vendor's website and how to access the vendor's technical support center if she needed help learning how to rebuild her personal photo gallery. The employee was also discouraged from storing personal photos on her WSU devices and was directed to online documentation on several, WSU-supported tools for managing images for professional purposes. In this case, the time required for a TLT staff member to learn how to use the unsupported, proprietary software and help the employee rebuild her personal photo gallery was judged unreasonable, particularly since WSU discourages this practice.

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