As iPads and other tablet computers find their way into more classrooms and faculty offices around Kansas University, professors and others are trying to figure out how the new technology will change the way students learn on campus.
Various schools and departments are experimenting with the devices across the university, but they will play a large role at KU’s School of Pharmacy next fall, where first-year students at the school will be required to purchase them.
“Everything’s going electronically,” said Ken Audus, dean of the pharmacy school. “With patient records going that direction, our students are going to be driven that way, too.”
Audus said faculty and staff already had iPads, and have been experimenting with how to use them. He said he hoped the availability of electronic textbooks in many classes would save students some money in the end.
In the pharmacy school, some faculty members are electronically recording lectures to be viewed before class, complete with other multimedia elements compatible for iPad viewing. Ideally, the classroom sessions would be reserved for discussion of the materials, Audus said.
“It will require a little outside responsibility in preparing for class,” he said.
The technology is in use in other areas of campus, too, on a smaller scale.
Doug Ward, an associate professor of journalism, studies how people adopt and use new technologies, and has written about his experiences with the iPad in the classroom in a blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The journalism dean has purchased 10 iPads for use in classes, but Ward’s graduate students said they often struggled to find out how to fit the use of devices in between their laptops and mobile phones.
“The students so far have been sort of lukewarm toward them,” Ward said. “They were actually embarrassed to take them out in public. The iPad was sort of seen as an elite thing that you don’t really need.”
In other areas, however, Ward has found ways for the devices to add to the classroom experience. An application called iAnnotate allows him to record voice comments when grading assignments that can be affixed to PDF files and opened by anyone with a PDF reader. For online classes, it adds a personal touch to an experience that can at times seem cold and impersonal, he said. He can also use the application to make written comments with a stylus on the electronic files.
KU’s School of Engineering in September benefited from a gift from Google executive Brian McClendon and his wife, Beth Ellyn, who donated $50,000 to provide Android-based Motorola Xoom tablet computers to students in basic programming courses. If students kept their grades up and continued to enroll in another programming course, they would be allowed to keep the tablets.
“We introduced the Androids, and the kids use it,” said Gary Minden, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science who teaches programming courses. “I see them in classes.”
He said within the department, discussions continue on how to best adapt to the new technology.
“A number of us are trying to think through, how do we change the delivery of the normal lecture to students,” he said. “We’re going to be experimenting a lot this fall.”
— Higher education reporter Andy Hyland can be reached at 832-6388. Follow him at Twitter.com/LJW_KU.