Have Tablet, Will Print

College students have taken mobility to a new level both inside and outside the classroom. According to a recent study, 25 percent of college students now own a standard tablet. The study also found that 90 percent of college students who are current tablet owners find tablets to be valuable for educational purposes. There is no denying that these mobile devices are changing the college landscape. Many students are bringing their laptops, smart phones, and tablets with them wherever they go. Students use these devices to answer emails, take class notes, and follow along with class lectures. With tablets and smart phones becoming more and more popular among college students, current campus library technology is struggling to meet the demands of college students and the technology they are using.

While college students may be printing less in general, the need to print a physical document still remains. Many professors require assignments to be printed out and turned in during class, and campus libraries provide a great resource for students who want to print. However, students are faced with a dichotomy where the campus environment still has the traditional “file-print” limitation from a network-attached personal computer, which causes a challenge in the mobile world they live in today.

Current offerings to print in campus libraries can be outdated and create complex workflows. One example is coin-operated printing stations, which are most often only enabled for making copies. In this environment, students are forced to carry around a pocketful of change or cash. However, today’s students are carrying less cash and typically have their student I.D. card or bank card with them. On top of the payment challenges, these printing stations also often require maintenance by library personnel, as well as having a library staff member to manage student printing jobs or print queues. This process takes away from productivity and efficiency of both the student and staff member.

To combat these dated machines, many students are making extra trips to print in the campus computer labs or they are bringing bulky printers into their dorm rooms. Many of these home printers are a challenge to maintain, and ink cartridges can be expensive. On top of that, campus libraries are not meeting the demands of students who want to print in an easy and quick manner from a variety of devices or online storage services. Today, students have documents on mobile devices, USB drives, or cloud services from which they need to print. As a result, printing documents can be a complicated process and can cause headaches for both library personnel and students. The reality is that the need to print is not going away. Library technology needs to catch up with the technology students are using and should provide a simple, quick, and easy way to print without the involvement of library staff.

Many campus libraries have realized that printing is not as easy or convenient as it could be for library staff and college students. Providing a flexible solution is vital, which is why college campuses have started to implement self-service printing stations to directly address the challenges at hand. With a self-serve solution, library staff no longer need to manage the printing stations. Meanwhile, students can use mobile devices to print and do not need to carry coins with them, as newer systems accept credit cards and integrate student cards with campus billing and print management systems. A copy and print station can provide an easy way for users to access, pay, and print in a self-serve environment. Some stations allow users to select their desired printing method, enabling users to print from a USB drive, send documents from mobile devices, or retrieve a document from cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive, or Box.

Students today are completely immersed in the mobile lifestyle. As mobile devices continue to grow, more students are going to demand that their campus print options allow them the same flexibility as their laptop or smart phone. These mobile devices are serving a greater purpose than just a communication device. Laptops, tablets, and smart phones are where students keep their notes, email, presentations, and many other important documents. Students need to have a way to easily print without being tied down to outdated library technology or inconvenient computer labs. Printing does not need to be a productivity obstacle for library staff or students. A self-service environment is the answer to addressing this challenge. 

Tom Offutt is the director of Business Development for EFI’s Fiery business unit. In this role he directs the exploration of new markets, partnerships, channels, and technologies for the leading provider of digital print technology. Offutt holds a BA degree from the University of Southern California and an MBA degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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