History of the Program

Winona State has established itself as a nationally recognized Laptop University, providing all students with a fully configured and supported laptop computer and tablet..  Currently over 8000 computers are deployed to the Students, Faculty and selected Staff; positioning Winona State as one of the largest university provided, dual-platform laptop programs in the nation.

In addition, Winona State has deployed over 4000 tablets campus-wide.


The program began in the summer of 1997 when Winona State University (WSU) began a pilot project integrating laptop computers in to the educational curriculum. One hundred faculty members received laptop computers. Four departments (Chemistry, Marketing, Music and Nursing) required groups of their majors to have a laptop computer.


Following the completion of the pilot project, the University offered laptop computers, obtained through various University agreements to students within the 4 pilot departments. Approximately 225 students were involved in the 1998-1999 pilot program, with an additional 400 students electing to participate voluntarily in the Laptop Computer Program through the University, During the 1999-2000 academic year, the University provided approximately 1000 laptop computers to the students, faculty, and select staff on a voluntary basis.


During the fall of 2000, Winona State University decided to implement the e-Warrior Digital Life & Learning mandate. This mandate would be phased in over a 4 year period with a requirement that all new first year students would be required to have a laptop computer. Students under the mandate would be required to continue their participation until they graduated. Students could obtain the required laptop computer from the University in a leasing arrangement or provide their own laptop computer which would comply with posted standards. They had the choice of a Mac or a PC/Windows based laptop computer. During the first year of the mandate, WSU established a full technology package to students. We established the philosophy that a full maintenance and support package would be given to the entire campus community, not just a laptop computer. Realizing that technology was rapidly changing, we decided to change our program from a 3-year rotation of technology to a 2-year rotation. This meant that students, and faculty would exchange their laptop every other year for a newer computer. Full technical support services were provided with a Walk-In support center, and technical support by telephone; staffed by a local computer vendor. Standard software programs were provided with each laptop. Spare computers were available as needed for laptop problems.


In 2001 WSU continued the requirement for all full-time first year students added to the requirement. along with its’ financial partner Merrimak Capital, we introduced the Laptop Buyout option for Graduating students. This was the first year students were able to purchase the end of lease laptops at Graduation. We implemented a web-based course management solution as an tool for the students and faculty. All students were provided personal web space and personal network storage space.


The next class of incoming Freshmen students were included in the requirement. Transfer students were now also required to participate in the mandate. Standardization of technology became an important issue and the mandate was changed for new participants and the option for personally owned laptops was removed. Those who had personally owned laptops in previous years would be allowed to continue with that option, but new students entering into the program could no longer choose a personally owned laptop option.

In the summer of 2002, we started to distribute laptops to students several months prior to the start of school. Giving the laptops to the students in June and then on Fridays throughout the summer gave the students time to become familiar with their laptops before school started. It also spread out the distributions for us so that we did not have so many at one time. With the summer distributions almost all of the Freshmen and Transfer students had their laptops before fall semester started.

Winona State’s eLearning Center was established in August 2002 as a division of Academic Affairs. eLearning collaborates with the Krueger Library, Information Technology services, and other members of the university community to provide learning opportunities and project support to faculty and staff members on the Winona and Rochester campuses. Faculty now had a resource to assist in the implementation of technology for their classes.

Students at WSU requested a better laptop buyout program for Graduating Seniors. WSU responded by offering a tiered buyout program for graduates with lowest buyout prices offered to students that participated in the program for 4 years or more.


The next class of entering Freshmen joined the mandate in 2003. With this additional group 75%, of the full time student population, were participants in the laptop program. Winona State became an Authorized Service Provider with Gateway for warranty claims. Becoming a service provider allowed us to reduce damage fees to students even further.

WSU switched from Lotus Notes to the Exchange Server for email. The Exchange Server integrated with our active directory services provided a smoother interface and gave users more flexibility. Wireless networking was also implemented on the WSU campus in fall of 2003 with all laptop computers having wireless capabilities.

The Laptop Learning Lab was introduced to enhance the e-Warrior Digital Life & Learning program in the fall of 2003. This program offered software and technology training to all WSU students. The training is done by other WSU students in the STARS (Student Technology and Resource Specialists) program. The training is done “By Students for Students” and has been very successful.

The laptop buyout program was changed to provide WSU graduating seniors with the opportunity to purchase their laptop at a very low cost, with some students purchasing laptops for as little as $25. This added considerable value in the laptop program as students now could continue their use of technology as they begin their careers.


In the fall of 2004 Winona State introduced the Gateway Tablet Convertible Laptop. Determined to be innovative in adopting the use of the latest technology; 4,000 Gateway Tablet PCs were rolled out for incoming freshmen, as well as current students, faculty and staff ready for a refresh of their existing laptops. We became an Authorized Service Provider for accidental damage claims which further reduced costs to students.

The e-Warrior Digital Life & Learning program now was at full implementation for all full time undergraduate students. This implementation allowed the campus the opportunity to decrease the number of desktop labs on campus, reclaiming valuable classroom space and allowing technology resources to be diverted to software and supportive technology initiatives.


Our mandate continued for all students and our yearly laptop distributions and exchanges was now becoming a common, accepted experience. On the Mac platform, DVD technology was added to the laptops as well as a very lightweight laptop computer option for students.

The STARS program expanded, offering valuable part time work experiences for over 100 students. Technology training opportunities for students increased with the introduction of 1:1 tutorial training offerings at the Laptop Learning Lab. Our technology leasing partner Merrimak capital provided $20,000 in scholarships to WSU students; the second consecutive year for this scholarship program. Apple continued sponsorship and promotion of digital video capabilities.

The use of technology continued to increase within the educational environment using course management tools, web-based classes, Key Server, and tablet technology.


Adding value to the Winona State technology experience continues to be a primary goal of our program. We continue to add services and tools so that our students can obtain the best technology opportunities. We continued to adopt tablet technology in the fall of 2006 choosing the M285 Convertible Laptop. Now in its seventh year, the WSU e-Warrior Digital Life & Learning Program had put a total of 7,600 Gateway convertible notebooks in the hands of WSU students, faculty and staff. The Gateway M285 added feature of DVD burners.

Because the Walk-In team offers in-house laptop technical support, WSU remodeled the Front Desk and Walk-In areas during the summer of 2006.The area was enlarged and designed to create a resourceful working area for the employees and a comfortable area for students, staff and faculty when they come in to have their laptops serviced.

This year also brought new technology to the campus with the MacBook introducing the Mac Intel Chips, remotes and a built in camera. Wider screens on the Mac and Gateway laptops brought changes to laptop video capabilities inside and outside of the classroom environment.

Winona State University is proud to offer students a quality technology experience. We are committed to provide up-to-date technology so that the latest software and computing experiences can be offered. This experience offers all of our students the ability to develop skills in the daily use of technology, giving them a competitive advantage in the workforce.

Our e-Warrior Digital Life & Learning program is self-sustaining with all fees collected for the program used entirely for the technology experience. The program at WSU also provides partnerships with vendors and community resources that connect the technology experience to the real world.


Winona State continued to offer tablet/convertible laptops for campus. Did you know software was used with these laptops, utilizing the pen and ink capabilities; allowing students to collaborate with class projects. Office 2007 was offered to the campus laptop users and pilot programs were planned for the introduction of Microsoft Vista and Leopard Operating systems. Dual boot options for the Mac platform now offered both Microsoft and Apple software from a single laptop computer. Laptop Learning Lab technology training opportunities expanded with an increase in the number of students taking advantage of this service. This technology training was delivered by trained student technicians.

In preparation for a Laptop RFP, students, faculty, and staff were surveyed to gather information about the type of laptop computer that best meets the needs of our population. Light weight laptops, battery life, and power were important features desired. This survey also reported a high interest in continuation with the tablet technology. This feedback from our student and faculty population (along with input from ITS and E-Learning) led the RFP team (which consisted of student and faculty senate appointees as well as reps from the from Finance & Facilities, ITS & E-Learning) to select the Toshiba Portege M700 convertible PC, which met all of the desired factors. Student and faculty involvement in the laptop selection process is important for a quality technology experience at Winona State University.


Winona State became the first University nation-wide to deploy both laptops and tablets to students.  Students exchanging laptops this year have the choice of an HP or Mac laptop, as well as an iPad mini or Samsung Galaxy tablet.  New students will receive an iPad mini with their choice of HP or Mac laptop.