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Is Higher Education experiencing a desktop renaissance?

Dionne Barlow

Dionne Barlow explores whether desktop computers are experiencing a renaissance in higher education institutions in the place of laptops and notebooks.

The desktop PC was a cornerstone of home and professional computing for decades. The tower PCs that populated many a home office and computer labs in university campuses across the country might be considered a relic of the past as portable laptops and notebooks became the dominant devices, but recent trends indicate that the desktop could be making a comeback. But just why are traditional desktop computers making a comeback for higher educational institutions and is this is a renaissance or is it just another nostalgia throwback?

The return of face-to-face learning

2022 marked a return to pre-pandemic learning with many institutions seeing full face-to-face learning for the first time since 2020. Not just domestically, but international students were welcomed back to UK universities as the last travel restrictions lifted. For institutions, this signalled a return to pre-covid purchasing habits to ensure students have sufficient devices to work from.

The surge in desktop purchasing from universities throughout this year is not solely the result of institutions scrambling to ensure there is enough tech for every student, overdue refresh cycles have their part to play too. The pandemic years gave higher education institutions a circuit break in replacing, refreshing and upgrading desktop units across their sites as students and lecturers moved to the remote learning. With students flocking back for in-person teaching, it comes as no surprise that universities and colleges are rushing to get up to speed with their pre-pandemic quotas.

Desktops enable the inter-connected stationary workspace

The pandemic blurred the lines between the classroom and home as students and staff alike adopted to remote learning, and as such, the desktop allows people to create clear boundaries between their studies and downtime. The stationary workspace allows for enhanced productivity, helping students concentrate more on their studies and assignments alongside health benefits such as better posture sitting at a work desk as opposed to being hunched over a small laptop screen.

Yes, notebooks’ portability allows students and staff to work wherever suits them, but a clear advantage of the desktop is that they generally require a hard-wire connection to the network. The benefit of this is that it streamlines and enhances connectivity and compatibility with other tech in the classroom, reducing downtime from poor connections and allow students to maximise their time and productivity during face-to-face tuition. It’s not surprising that higher education institutions are investing more in the desktop units to reap the rewards of this to maximise the learning potential of their student population.

High specs for tech-savvy students

As more students embrace the digital revolution, more universities across the country are reflecting this in the courses they offer for the next generation of the workforce. There are over 100 universities across the UK offering courses in video game development, capitalising on the staggering revenue the sector provides for the economy; this year the gaming industry is anticipated to generate £7.1 billion in revenue.

Due to the high specifications modern-day graphics engines and 3D modelling programmes require, power hungry programmes and software like CAD applications and video editing suites, as well as emerging technologies including Augmented Reality and Environmental Capture, universities need to ensure that the computers they utilise for these courses are capable of running such high-end software. Out-of-the box notebooks will likely buckle under the pressure, so it comes as no surprise that we’re experiencing a higher volume of desktop PCs being purchased.  

By Dionne Barlow, director of marketing, ecommerce & partner management, Stone, A Converge Company

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