iPad Trials at Oklahoma State

Via Dr. Andy Brovey, comes news of the results of an iPad pilot program at Oklahoma State University.

How was the iPad used among students and faculty?

iPad use had professional and personal benefits. Focusing on professional benefits, students were able to use the iPad in ways that outflanked a traditional computer, be it laptop or desktop. The iPad also was used as a substitute for paper and pen. Faculty were able to explore and recommend course-specific apps (i.e., software) to enhance the learning environment. Given the size and scope of Apple’s App Store, there were thousands of educational software possibilities plus having a built-in Web browser made the Internet more readily available.

Was the integration of an E-Reader an enhancement or detraction to the academic experience?

The responses were mixed. On the one hand, students liked using the iPad to house their textbooks and suggested it promoted more reading. On the other hand, reactions from the beginning-of-the-semester expectations of planned use to the end-of-the-semester actual use saw e-book reading exhibiting the greatest change, a substantial decrease. Students thought they would use the iPad as an e-reader but did not do so as much as initially planned.

Was the integration of the iPad an enhancement to the academic experience?

Self-report responses by pilot students indicated that 75 percent agreed or strongly agree with the statement, “I think the iPad enhanced the learning experience of this course.” Upon more detailed review, that number jumps to 92.8 percent among students who owned a Mac and falls to 70.4 percent among students who owned a PC. Survey results also showed only 3 percent of students in one course would opt out of the iPad course for an identical course which didn’t include the iPad. From a faculty perspective, the greatest benefit was having uniform hardware and software available across the class. Said differently, faculty knew all students had access to the same learning tools. This was critical when planning assignments and class activities.

Fascinating that e-reading was the apparently weakest part of the experience.

For me, two things stand out. Firstly, a quote from Bill Handy, visiting assistant professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications:

"We used the iPad in every aspect of our course. The most important consideration is the device must be truly integrated. Simply distributing the device without evaluation of how the course might be modified for its use limits the impact."

This puts me in mind of a theme I've been developing in various conversations and presentations over the last few months: that technology, pedagogy and curriculum each have influence on the other. If you're not able to modify your teaching methods or curriculum to take account of new technology, that's a barrier to getting the maximum utilisation out of these devices.

Secondly, the team at OSU discovered something that I have been hammering on for months - the importance of reliable uniformity:

From a faculty perspective, the greatest benefit was having uniform hardware and software available across the class. Said differently, faculty knew all students had access to the same learning tools. This was critical when planning assignments and class activities.

The report's conclusion is powerful:

Because of the overall improvements to the academic experience of both faculty and students it is our recommendation the university should consider the full deployment of iPads for all students.

This train is leaving the station.