Replacing paper with iPads

I have mentioned this phenomenon before, but here is another instance of a university handing students a pre-loaded Apple iPad for a degree programme. The institution in question is Rutgers University, the premier university in New Jersey; and it is handing out the iPad to students on some of its MBA courses. Given the high volume of hand-outs and other materials on such courses, the iPad reduces the use of paper very substantially (and therefore is not as big a net cost as might be imagined); and it is also a highly usable piece of learning technology.

This may be the future of higher education. The iPad (and, I imagine, other similar devices by other manufacturers) is certainly capable of being adapted to interesting learning uses, inside and outside the classroom. At any rate it seems to me that the era of the class ‘hand-out’ should be over; there is no justification any more for printing thousands of pages of course materials. The paperless university programme should soon be upon us.

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23 Comments on “Replacing paper with iPads”

  1. Vincent Says:

    It might work for the science people. But for the Arts this will be just another way to shake more shillings out of the hard pressed student.
    What will happen ?. The lecturer with the usual conjunction of self-indulgence and laziness will transmit the digital equivalent of reams. All of which will hit the pocket of the student. And as for the lawsmiths. This will make the incestuous relationship between the friends of the lecturer who publish the latest definitive work,Tort and the Thumbtack, even easier.

  2. no-name Says:

    Interesting assessment — many would place Princeton in the “premier” spot for New Jersey.


  3. Even if these fondleslabs become the norm in higher education, I hardly think many institutions will hand out ones of the Jobsian variety due to expense. Back in my day we used laptops, and that’s the way we liked it!

  4. Ernie Ball Says:

    And this use of the iPad is of course only possible thanks to the wanton violation of copyright laws ubiquitous in Irish universities.

  5. John Carter Says:

    Can anyone tell me if an iPad can be read in the sun? The situation might occasionally arise.

  6. Eugene Gath Says:

    I agree with no-name. I think Princeton University would be somewhat disappointed to find they were relegated to second position in New Jersey.

  7. Al Says:

    I wonder in a few years time if, despite all the improvements that will arise from this new medium, it will be looked at as enter-cation or edu-tainment.
    But at that stage we will be travelling to work on the internet…

  8. Steve Button Says:

    Ever heard of Moodle/Blackboard etc where we place all course related material and therefore no need for class handouts? Why incur the cost, hassle and ongoing technical grief of handing out ipads et al with their built in obsolesce when the student can simply buy their own laptops which are far more powerful in any case and access all their material online?

  9. Donal Clancy Says:

    Handing out an iPad smacks of handing out goodies as an incentive to choose the programme. Course material is already available on Moodle, and cloud sourcing is the key to eliminating paper handouts. Cloud sourced documents can be accessed from multiple devices and locations.

    For me the issue is less one of data availability to students, but more one of editing. We live in an era of data surplus. A lazy lecturer can bombard students with a teetering pile of reading material that can never realistically be absorbed in the available time. This forces students to adopt screening strategies. Some scan many documents lightly and miss much of the insightful material. Others pick and choose to read the detail of a cross section, and may miss key themes in the process.

    A good lecturer is one who supplies a solid core of vital reading material that you can easily absorb, and then directs you towards materials that can take you in optional directions. Lecturers need to work hard on this focused approach.

  10. Niall Says:

    Laptops offer much more functionality than iPads – much wider range of applications and connectivity

  11. jfryaryar Says:

    There are lots of universities in the US and a lot of competition for prospective students. Could it be that offering students a pre-loaded ipad might just tilt the balance in terms of recruitment? Or are admission figures completely independent of such perks?

    I have severe doubts as to the usefulness or value of ipads on courses. If the purpose of such devices is to aid in the dissemination of notes and other written material then why an ipad? You could happily use an e-reader for about 1/3rd the cost.

    If it is to allow the student to also complete coursework, well I have yet to meet anyone who prefers tapping a touchscreen over an external keyboard and mouse for larger documents. In which case one could purchase a netbook for about 2/3rds the cost of an ipad. Plus, of course, most companies expect people to be familiar with Word, Powerpoint, Excel (etc) so why limit students by forcing them to use an Apple OS?

    To me it makes little sense for universities to invest in ipads over netbooks or e-readers other than for pure ‘coolness’ value to attract gullible students.

  12. Nick P Says:

    Despite an interest in all things shiny and social media in particular i’ve recently put together a physical reading pack for an intro anthro course i teach, partly in response to student demands for “textbook” as there isn’t really one for my specific course.

    This is perfectly legal with the UK copyright licensing agreement, which also allows for making it available as a pdf on a VLE. i will do this, it will be interesting to note how many students take this (free) option and use kindle/ipads/laptops to access the pack rather than paying 6 quid (i guess about 10 dollars) for the pack.

    I’ve blogged some thoughts about it http://wp.me/pJwaH-3P

  13. Jonathan Says:

    As a computing student i have to say that providing the electronic copies of hand-outs online has helped with my studies. During lectures, like many other students, I simply download materials from Moodle and view them on my screen. This significantly reduces the amount I spend on toner and university printing fees. Providing these services online means that no matter what devices the students use they can view this material.

    However giving students an iPad each is unnecessary. Most students already carry these devices and the people that don’t more often than not are those that prefer to study using paper. In short if students like the idea of studying using iPads etc., they already own them.

    My solution is to put all hand-outs on services like Moodle. If the students require paper copies, then they can print them off, on campus or at home. That way everyone wins, university saves money and students get what they want.

    A final point that I would like to make is that, as mentioned above, not every campus can use electronic copies. Architecture and art are great examples of this.

    Sorry for the long post and I hope this helps.

  14. no-name Says:

    “The paperless university programme should soon be upon us.”

    By the way, do you imagine this to include the diploma? Do you think that should be pre-loaded as well?

  15. John Carter Says:

    I think it time our esteemed blogmeister (who, it occurs to me, harking back to a previous blog, does display some of the attributes of leadership, certainly in the technology-in-teaching field) gives us his views on ‘cloud computing’, including its genesis and final definition. Then we can knock him down in the usual Anglo-Irish way.

  16. anna notaro Says:

    As a supplement to this interesting thread people might like to have a look at this slide presentation aptly entitled ’62 interesting ways to use an iPad in the classroom’ (if you manage to ignore the silly face on the first slide without laughing too much, that is🙂 http://tinyurl.com/2vmwfgo
    Also interesting is this blog post ‘Pointed Response to NYT Article on iPads in Schools’ by Cathy Davidson, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke (where they ’embraced the iPad experiment) and co-director of HASTAC (a network of individuals and institutions inspired by the possibilities that new technologies offer for shaping how we learn, teach, communicate http://hastac.org/about-hastac).
    My opinion, for what matters, is that the future is tablet in its widest applications from pedagody to restaurant menus, what strikes me is the sort of digital reincarnation of what was an ancient medium of communication (the tablet) since Babylon times, but that’s only a fascinating new twist on the old story of humanity’s attempt to represent and express meaning in written form…


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