L.G. Patterson, Associated Press
Some university students can now check out a laptop computer from a machine with a quick swipe of a card at any time, day or night.

There's a new twist to the time-honored association between college students, midnight study binges and vending machines. At some colleges, those nighttime vending machine dashes aren't about chips and soda anymore, and they might actually improve the study sessions. The new vending machines are dispensing laptop computers, which means the librarians who would otherwise check them out to students don't have to work a 2 a.m. shift.

An Inside Higher Ed story said that about six universities are using the kiosks, which are provided by LaptopsAnytime, a Texas-based company devoted to providing convenient on-demand access to laptop computers. Six more schools are in the process of installing kiosks.

By piggy-backing onto campus Broadband networks, the kiosks can dispense computer devices through ATM-style technology, using security protocols that check ID cards. The system can be integrated with university systems for tracking student records, a feature meant to minimize liabilities.

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Today's students are already accustomed to staying in touch and getting information from portable devices like smartphones and tablets and resist being chained to desktop computers or being forced to drag laptops around with them, the logic goes. (That's so 20th-century, right?)

Drexel University installed a kiosk with 12 laptops last December, and use of the machine has been brisk. Providing the kiosk allows the Drexel library to put space that would be needed for additional computer stations to other uses, while giving students mobility as they study — and the option of studying at whatever time of day, or night, they choose.

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