Computer Requirement: Student with headphones working on laptop computer


Beginning in fall 2020, all students at Iowa State University are required to own or obtain a laptop computer or other device appropriate to their discipline. This webpage will be updated regularly to include information about this new requirement and to share helpful resources with students, parents and advisors.

Please thoroughly explore the frequently asked questions below as they include important information about software and hardware recommendations associated with your college or major. More information about software and hardware recommendations for your intended program of study, like microphones and webcams, can be found on the Major Success web app.


Select any of the following questions to expand and view the answer provided.

The decision to require that students obtain a laptop was not made lightly, and focused on student success and mitigating the spread of the virus. Advantages and disadvantages of such a decision were carefully considered.

The requirement provides two main benefits for students:

  • Improved access to online course content. Personal laptops provide more consistent access to course content and sets students up for success in a blended learning environment.
  • Health, sanitation, and safety. The risk to students’ health is increased by accidental exposure during the use of shared computing resources. Use of personal laptops reduces this risk, resulting in higher levels of student safety.

In addition to the computer stations available in Parks Library, additional computer labs are located across campus for student use. Some computer labs are open for general student use and others are reserved for students within a particular discipline or college. Depending on the lab and health and safety protocols, you may be able to use a computer on a walk-in basis or you may need to select a timeslot. Computer labs are managed by individual colleges and departments, so be sure to contact your college's IT team for more information.

Specific recommendations for devices and software will vary by academic department or college.

The ISU Book Store offers educationally discounted prices on laptop computer hardware and software for ISU students, faculty, and staff. Students should use the Major Success web app to find the recommendations for their intended program of study.

Microsoft Office Pro Plus downloads are available to all active ISU students through the ISU Book Store. Office Pro Plus includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Ear buds/headsets and a microphone are highly recommended but not required. These will be especially useful for students who will be listening to online lectures or participating in help sessions in a shared space.

A webcam (either built into the computer, or separate) may be required as part of hybrid courses. A webcam may also be required as part of proctoring software used to proctor online exams.

ISU does not recommend students use tablets, mobile phones or netbooks as their primary computing device, though these devices may help supplement their computing needs.

The reasons for this are:

  • Many courses rely on video and interactive content to deliver essential course materials. Not all video and interactive content formats are supported by these devices.
  • The primary learning management system at ISU is Canvas which can be used with iPad or Android devices. However, some critical features may require additional applications to function that are not available on all devices.
  • Some majors require software that will not run on iOS or Android devices.
  • Netbook computers are likely insufficient for students’ use throughout the duration of their college experience and may not be able to run specific software needed for certain courses.

If a student already owns a desktop computer that meets their college or department’s specifications, it may be an acceptable alternative, as long as the student does not have any courses that require them to bring a laptop to class. 

Students can submit a request at to participate in the university’s Laptop Loaner Program. A laptop loaner device is available for eligible students while supplies last. Students should also be aware that the Laptop Loaner Program is a temporary solution and consider arrangements for how they will obtain their own laptop for future semesters.

Please note, while students can still request to obtain a loaned laptop through the link above, Student Financial Aid is no longer accepting applications through the link for consideration for aid in purchasing a laptop. 

Students fill out and submit the request form available at  Requests are routed to the University Library for participation in the ISU Laptop Loaner Program. Because of inventory constraints, graduate students' applications are routed first to their colleges. 

Please note: The Laptop Loaner Program will provide devices to eligible students while inventory lasts.

Additional Resources

Laptop computer and software purchasing

The ISU Book Store offers educationally-discounted prices on laptop computer hardware and software for students, faculty, and staff:

  • Students should use the Major Success web app to find the recommendations for their intended program of study.
  • Microsoft Office Pro Plus downloads are available to all active students through TechCyte in the ISU Book Store. Office Pro Plus includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Computer security

Iowa State considers computer security to be extremely important. Protect your computer by:

  1. Obtaining insurance coverage for your equipment, especially laptops.
  2. Purchasing and using a security cable for your laptop computer.
  3. Locking the door to your room and not leaving your laptop unattended in libraries or other public areas.

For additional information, read “Securing Your Devices” and "Mobile Security Guidelines" articles available on the IT Portal.