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Technology at CMU - Student Orientation

This page contains some of the most important technology-related topics and answers to frequently asked questions from a new student's perspective. It is an ideal article to share with all first-year and transfer students as well as their parents, guardians, and supporters. Links to additional information are available, some requiring login using a CMU Global ID and password.

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IT Help Desk

Our professional and student staff members are ready, willing, and able to assist you with any and all technology-related questions that you may have. All interactions are linked to your Global ID. Updates and additional communications are managed through your CMU email account. Hours of operation can be found on the website linked below. 

Global ID

Your Global ID is a unique user name based on your last, first, and middle name plus a number that, along with a strong password, you use to sign in to all of CMU's online services, system and website. It is also the first part of your CMU email address (before the part). While you will regularly asked to type in and provide your Global ID to others, it is very important that you never share your password with anyone else, under any circumstances. Your Global ID and password are necessary to access your CMU account which includes, but is not limited to, email, course registration, course content, financial information, health information, and MUCH more. Your ID # is NOT the same as your Global ID, but they are connected. (Learn more)

If you have not already done so, you can activate your CMU account here

Visit My Account to change your password, review personal information, set or change your security questions, and more.

CentralLink is the internal portion of CMU's website. You can sign in by visiting or by clicking the Sign In link on the home page. Once you are signed in, you can find a plethora of information that is not available to the general public.

My Account is one of the most useful sections within CentralLink. It offers links to nearly all of the online services you'll ever use as a CMU student, including by not limited to, academic calendars, course bulletins, course registration, degree progress interfaces, all things financial, student employment opportunities, profile update options, transcripts, grades, and MUCH more. You can access My Account by visiting or clicking on My Account after logging into or CentralLink

Authorized Payers

If someone else will be taking financial actions on your behalf, such as paying tuition or other expenses, you should set up an "Authorized Payer" account for them rather than sharing your Global ID password. This gives them their own account within our QuikPAY finance system.

NOTE: The CMU website serves up content based upon audience type. Provided content will be shown dependent upon whether you are a public or signed in viewer as well as whether you are a student, faculty, or staff member.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-Factor Authentication is a way to add an additional layer of security to your account when accessing protected systems and services. This requires both something you know and something you have. Something you know is your Global ID and password, and something you have would be your smartphone, desk phone, or hardware token. For certain CMU services, such as anything that would use our standard logon page (Blackboard, Office365, etc.), once MFA is enabled on your account, anyone attempting to log into those services with your Global ID and password would also need that second factor, helping to protect your account should your password become compromised.

Email and calendar

CMU's email and calendar are provided within a Microsoft-based environment that is user friendly across all major operating systems and devices.

All CMU email addresses are created in the form of Global ID / CMU Account above)

All official administrative and course-related communications are sent to your CMU email address. As such, you are expected to check your account regularly. We discourage the practice of auto-forwarding CMU email to non-CMU email providers (gmail, yahoo, personal domains, etc.). Our support staff are unable to troubleshoot non-CMU email systems. We can help with our own.

You can access your email and calendar in a variety of ways, including:

Visit My Account to change your password, set or change your security questions, set an email alias, and more. Email aliases are ideal for those wishing to use a preferred name or a simple formatted address.

Phishing and spam

Scammers and spammers don’t take days off, so neither can you. CMU’s Information Technology team encourages all members of the University community and their supporters to be vigilant when reading and responding to email. Requests for personal information, promises of jobs or easy money, and prompts for immediate action are tell-tale signs of phishing. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Attention to detail, skeptical hovers, and grammar checks are but a few ways to identify and thwart phishing attempts. Check out our  Phishing Awareness page for additional information, tips, tricks, and the way to report SPAM to our admin team.

CMU utilizes Microsoft Office 365 for email and collaboration as well as their built-in spam/phishing filters. We also subscribe to Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection tools which help to filter out additional malicious messages. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible catch them all. Across the world, new threats are launched on an almost moment my moment basis. Our OIT Security Team continues to evaluate and implement additional controls to further reduce the amount of these types of messages. 

Central Mobile ID

For many years, CMU used a physical Central ID card that students would swipe or tap to gain access to secured spaces, pay for meals, use Flex dollars, check out library materials, attend events, and more. Starting in the Summer of 2022, incoming students began using Central Mobile ID on their mobile devices.

Hardware recommendations 

One of the most commonly asked questions that we receive is, "What kind of computer do I need?". Unfortunately, there is no singular answer that, as an Information Technology organization, we can offer. Our best recommendation is for you to connect with a faculty member or advisor within the curriculum that you plan to study and ask them for advice. Some areas of study have very strict requirements related to operating systems, video card specifications, RAM, processors, hard drive size, etc., and others not so much.

From an Information Technology perspective, we offer support to the very best of our ability regardless of hardware type or operating system. Windows and Macintosh operating systems are the most commonly used and supported devices across the University community. As such, the vast majority of our enterprise level software and systems are chosen and designed to run these same major operating systems.

If you are interested in seeing the specifications and cost of the standard machines that we purchase for faculty, staff, classroom and lab use, check out our  pre-approved computer list.

NOTE: While fine machines for very basic computing needs (typing, web surfing, etc.), we discourage the use of Chromebooks. Students using these devices are unable to take advantage of the numerous free software available to them as a member of the CMU community. Additionally, many students have experienced challenges when taking tests or completing course work through online learning systems. 

Hardware purchasing

As a CMU student, you are eligible to purchase Apple and Dell computers at special discounted rates available only through the  CMU Bookstore. The Bookstore also offers bundle deals on laptop and desktop computers, tablets, accessories, extended warranties, standard and custom configurations, and more. An extensive device trade-in service is available for numerous types of hardware.

Visit the CMU Bookstore website, search for keywords Apple or Dell  or click on Shop by Department > Technology to see all available hardware. If you have additional questions, contact the CMU Bookstore at 989-774-7493 or A staff member will respond and assist you as soon as possible.

Free software

Oftentimes, when you purchase a new computer or mobile device, you are offered special bundle or package pricing if you also include select software. As an enrolled student, you are provided with a LOT of software at no cost. Don't spend money on things that you can get for free.

The list below includes some of the most popular software and systems utilized by students for academic, research, and personal use. Each is available for Windows and Mac operating systems, and many have mobile apps and/or web interfaces.

Blackboard Learning Management System

When professors say blackboard, they’re not talking about a chalkboard. They're talking about our learning management system. For every course that is offered at CMU, a Blackboard course shell is created. Think of it as a course-related website on steroids. Faculty use Blackboard in many different ways. They will post their syllabus, announcements, assignment information, and they'll have you submit assignments and documents inside of Blackboard. You can take exams, look at your grades, and of course, get feedback and comments on your work. Course shells are opened prior to or at the very start of each semester and are available to students and faculty members for the duration of the course.

Microsoft Office 365

When most people think of Microsoft Office, they think of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and they also think of these software being installed onto a computer. While this is all accurate, Office 365 offers so much more. Office 365 is a collection of more than 25 different applications that you can use for all of your academic, research, and personal needs. Examples include Outlook, OneDrive, OneNote, Teams, Sway, Lists, Planner, Forms, Bookings, and more. Desktop and mobile applications are available to install on up to five of your personal desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets. You can also access many of the tools via a web interface. 


Think of this as your hard drive in the sky that you can access from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. All students are provided with 1TB of cloud storage space where you can store whatever you wish, regardless of file type. This amount is, on average, four times larger than the built-in hard drive size of a standard user computer. Whatever you upload or save to OneDrive is secured behind your Global ID and password. Additionally, you can use all of the applications available within Office 365 web interface and save your work directly into your OneDrive. If you so desire, you can share individual files or folders with collaborators within and outside of CMU. You have full control over who sees what, for how long, and what they can do to the files. If your personal device needs to go in for repair, gets lost, or is stolen, you can still access your files and complete your work on a public or lab computer.

Adobe Creative Cloud

With a goal of increasing digital literacy across the University,  CMU has partnered with Adobe to become an Adobe Creative Campus. That means that everyone, regardless of your field of study, has access to the two unique software collections at no cost, Adobe Express Premium or Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps (Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat DC, Premiere Pro, Express, Audition, Dreamweaver, and more).

Once you are officially registered for classes, you can request a license and then download and install mobile and desktop applications to your personal devices and start using them immediately.

Qualtrics Research Core

Qualtrics Research Core XM is CMU's enterprise-level survey and data collection tool for both research and administrative projects. It offers users the ability to create surveys, collect responses, and analyze data. 


Panopto is used by faculty and students to record, edit, and deliver course content within a secure environment. Software is available via a local installation, web interface, and mobile application. The system offers screen recording, voice over, and video functionality. Whomever owns the content decides who can see it, for how long, if they can edit it, and more. It is not uncommon for faculty to record and provide links to content for students to review before or after class. 

Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams

These systems are two of our staple communication and collaboration tools. Each allows users to create a virtual space where they can come together, interact via audio and video, screen sharing, chat, whiteboards, file creation, cloud storage, and much more. Students are able to use each of these within their own respective personal and secure virtual environments. Faculty may choose to live stream and/or record classes using one of these tools.

Top Hat

The Top Hat system is our classroom audience response tool. It allows faculty to pose questions during class and students respond using their mobile devices. All of the results are dumped into the grade book and made part of your overall grade. There's also some great homework, review, testing, and electronic textbook features in the system.
NOTE: This is the only system in this list that is NOT FREE, but greatly discounted access is available through the CMU Bookstore vs. purchasing directly from the vendor.

Virtual Lab

Some disciplines require the use of specialized and/or very expensive software. Not wanting to impose greater costs upon our students, we license that software and make it available to you via Virtual Lab machines. In short, you connect your computer to a cloud-based system, run the software, use the software, save your work, disconnect, and walk away. Your professors will let you know if you need to use Virtual Lab.

PrintQ (printing on campus)

We live in a very electronic world. You're probably not printing as much as you used to, but sometimes it needs to happen. If you're making a list of things to bring to campus, a printer should be very low on it, and maybe not at all. Printers are cheap, but ink is expensive. It will probably dry up or your roommates will use it all before you're able to. Students are highly encouraged to use the PrintQ system. Each semester, an allotment of PrintQ credit is provided to students. This is use it or lose it credit. So, if you don't use it, it's gone. So, use it. Our goal with PrintQ is to promote thoughtful, responsible printing in order to reduce paper waste, so we encourage students and faculty to use digital options wherever possible.

Students can print from public or lab computers or upload documents via a web interface from their own computers. PrintQ kiosks are available in each of the academic buildings and residence halls. Most commonly, they are located in the atrium or lobby areas. The library has kiosks on each floor and within the 24-hour spaces. After selecting the closest print station, print jobs are released using their Global ID and password, and the appropriate amount is deducted from their PrintQ allotment. Print history, balance, and the ability to add credit is possible via the web interface.

Cell phone and mobile hotspot service

Students and family members are able to take advantage of CMU-exclusive deals with three major carriers - AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Considerable discounts, terrific device replacement cycles, and more are available through CONNECT CMU. Existing individual and family plans can be transferred into the CMU service environment and special rates continue when you become an alum.

Network (wired and wireless)

Stop and think for a moment how many devices are connected across campus at any given time - computers, phones, tablets, gaming systems, televisions, and more. When you arrive to campus, you can choose the best option for your device and needs and proceed accordingly.

Upon connecting to the network, your device is linked to your Global ID. All that does is tell us who owns it. Nobody is watching your every online move. That said, don't do anything stupid. Any kind of illegal activity is monitored and we will come have a chat with you if you're found to be doing peer to peer sharing, hacking, or any other type of illegal activity.

SpectrumU (television programming)

CMU has contracted with Spectrum to provide television programming via the SpectrumU app, which can be used to stream live television to your computer or mobile device. The SpectrumU service is only available to on-campus residents. 
NOTE: SpectrumU is a different service offering than Spectrum TV, which requires separate Spectrum account credentials and will NOT work with a CMU Global ID and password.

Central Alert (emergency notification system)

CMU has implemented measures to enhance communication through the use of the Central Alert notification system. In the event of a situation affecting the campus community (weather, campus closure, incidents on campus or in the local area, etc.), emergency notification broadcasts may be sent out in an effort to alert as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. The system can alert you via phone, text, or even an alternate email address. Students are automatically enrolled into the system using their CMU email and the cell phone information they specify in their application. Occasionally, we find that a parent o​​​​​​r guardian’s phone number, and old land line, or a high school email account that you no longer have access to was used during the application process, so we recommend that you sign in and verify that your contact information is up to date and accurate so that if we need to contact you, we can.

A mobile app is available with additional safety features that complement Central Alert emergency notification messaging. Search for Rave Guardian in the App Store (iOS devices) or the Play Store (Android devices).

CMU Dining mobile apps

Hungry? Use the the website link and apps below to find out which of our numerous dining locations are open and what they are serving, including residential restaurants and food on the go. You can even order online and pick up on the fly.

Information Technology-related policies

As an IT organization and a University, we have a lot of policies. We know it's easy to ignore them, kind of like the user agreements when you install new software, but they really do mean something. By enrolling as a student at CMU, you automatically agree to abide by them. You can find a full list of our IT-related policies via the link below. At minimum, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Responsible Use of Computing policy.

In general, if it feels like you're doing something wrong, you probably are. So, stop doing it, or contact the OIT Help Desk to find out if it's ok or not.

OIT student employment opportunities

Interested in becoming a student employee within any area of the Office of Information Technology? We have Work-Study and General Student Assistance positions available. Visit the  OIT Employment Opportunities page to learn about the positions that are currently available. We would love to have you join our team!