Student Laptop FAQ

Why do students need a laptop computer to study medicine?

Information technologies will revolutionize patient care, medical research, medical education and the administration of health services in the next decades. We want students to be able to use computers for two main reasons: to access the online medical curriculum of the University of Ottawa and to develop skills in using information technology to help treat patients. Students will use computers every day throughout their four years of medical school, from wherever they are. We want students to have maximum flexibility in using computers at school, home and on electives.

What are the benefits of a laptop program?

There are 3 main benefits: Efficient course delivery - Efficient support - Efficient communications!

Efficient course delivery: The distribution of course materials are easier. The electronic curriculum is a hybrid of Internet and other learning materials. By using uniform systems and configuration, we are able to ensure that students are "ready to go" with their computers as soon as they receive them. Many faculty members and students have developed the electronic Curriculum that you will use during your time here. It contains many full color images, clinical video, clinical sounds and patient simulations. The e-Curriculum is available any time and from anywhere, which also means that students in years 3 and 4 who are on electives anywhere in the world will have a means of taking part in online learning at the Faculty of Medicine.

Efficient support: Our goal is to have students be able to access the online curriculum 100% of the time. The laptop program decreases software set-up and maintenance problems. This is because there are less computer configuration problems, and when such problems arise, the Faculty technicians can easily rewrite the configuration files. Many of the learning materials require specific configurations of browsers or browser "plug-ins" that are necessary to read the various formats of the learning material. There is great potential for incompatibility of these software programs with each other. Providing a uniform configuration that is tested prior to distribution of the laptops easily solves this problem. If a laptop breaks, we offer students a "loaner" until the repairs are completed.

Efficient communications: The laptop is fully configured for email access to the University of Ottawa email service. Your e-mail service can be accessed from anywhere in the world where an Internet service provider is available.

What is the rationale for mobile computing for medical students?

The choice of a portable (laptop) computer is best because students need the flexibility of using their own computers in different locations. Students need access to the online medical curriculum from multiple locations during their 4 years of medical study. Students are increasingly sent into community settings for training but they will still be able to access the University their laptop and an Internet connection - no matter how far away they are. This is of particular importance to 3rd and 4th year students doing electives and community rotations.

Can a desktop computer be purchased instead?

No. Students need to access the e-curriculum while on the campus as well as when they are at home or in other locations such as community electives. A desktop computer cannot offer students the portability that is required to access the curriculum in locations other than the location of the desktop itself.

If a student already owns a laptop computer, are they required to buy a new one?

No they are not required to purchase a new laptop. If a student has a laptop with the appropriate configuration and features, then they do not need to buy a new laptop. Our technical team will help them configure their system, but will not be able to support them for software and hardware issues that may arise thereafter.

Is the content available in both French and English?

Yes. This feature is truly unique in North America and perhaps the world.

Is there less contact with Faculty because of increased computer usage?

No. In the year since the e-Curriculum was introduced we have not decreased student-faculty contact at all. The learning sessions are all enhanced with appropriate images and multi-media tools and contain explanations of complex topics. Consequently, students do not have to record the material to the same extent that they used to during the actual learning sessions. The amount of time devoted to lectures and labs has not been affected but the format of these activities is changing for the better. There is more time for discussion of important points. Eventually, we would like to present the material that we currently distribute on the web in a structure of concepts and quizzes to self-assess progress.

Have computers taken over Case Based Learning?

CBLs have been enriched with digital images, video and audio. For example, instead of describing on paper the gait of someone with Parkinson's disease, the group can now view a video clip on the computer. There are many benefits to this approach, including a greater understanding of clinical presentations, as well as a clearer picture of psychosocial issues encountered by the patient. We are however aware that the focus of the CBL sessions should not be on the computer but on the discussion within the group. Faculty members are trained to use the CBL system effectively to enhance and enrich the learning experience.

Have medical students been involved in the planning and development of the e-Curriculum?

Yes. Many medical students from all levels have been involved in the development of the web-based curriculum. This has taken many forms from participation in working groups, retreats, piloting certain aspects of the curriculum to being employed during the summer to help in developing certain modules. Their help is greatly appreciated and will continue to be solicited.

With the eCurriculum, are there fewer clinical opportunities?

Not at all. Clinical opportunities are essential for medical students to consolidate their knowledge, and increase their awareness of clinical medicine. Enhancing the curriculum with technology does not decrease the time students spend in the clinical setting. In fact, technology allows students to experience more realistic simulations of clinical scenarios earlier on in their medical education. Videos of clinical exams, patient presentations, and even of surgical procedures allow students to be better prepared when they encounter real patients. Students also have many opportunities to meet real patients from very early on in their training.

Other than the first two years of the curriculum, what other purposes are intended for the student use of these laptop computers?

In years 3 and 4 of medical school, students observe and practice medicine under supervision in the clinical environment, at the bedside of patients. The clerkships in 3rd and 4th year also have full web-based support. This means that students will access a variety of learning materials online. In addition, students will be able to use the laptops that they purchase in first year to access valuable reference materials as they continue their education from their community rotations. The curriculum site provides students with access to a variety of reference materials and other resources. Students will be able to access these materials and services again and again as needed.

Can anyone access the curriculum web site?

No. The curriculum site is password protected and copyrighted by the University of Ottawa .

Why were Dell brand laptops chosen?

The University has entered into a contract with Dell for its computer requirements. This contract was awarded pursuant to an open bidding tender.

Are there discounts available for high-speed Internet access from home?

There are currently no discounts available for high-speed Internet access from home.

Who is responsible for insurance?

Insurance is the responsibility of the student. A laptop computer can usually be covered under your house or personal effect insurance as would other assets belonging to the student (e.g. furniture). There are various types of insurance available and students are advised to consult with their insurance agent to ensure appropriate and adequate coverage.

Is the rate of repair unusually high with students transporting the laptops back and forth to school all the time?

Laptops are designed for transportation and as such are capable of sustaining the wear and tear of constant transport. If a laptop is damaged due to accidental mishandling, the cost of repair or replacement is covered by insurance. At orientation, students are instructed on the care and maintenance of their new laptops.

What kind of technical help can students get?

MedTech is the name of the technical support group at the Faculty of Medicine. MedTech offers a wide variety of technical services. They can be contacted by email (, telephone (562-5648) or by going to their office in Roger Guindon Hall (room 2129). You can also reach their website at