Lynn deploying one of the nation’s most extensive tablet-based learning efforts
Published Aug. 21, 2013
Lynn University is launching one of the most extensive tablet-based learning efforts in all of American higher education on Sunday, Aug. 25, when the university hands out more than 600 iPad minis to incoming students. The tablets will use Apple technology to deliver the university’s nationally praised core curriculum and greatly enhance students’ learning experience through curriculum custom enhanced by faculty with multimedia content—replacing traditional textbooks and saving students hundreds of dollars.
Incoming freshmen and transfer students with less than 30 credit hours will receive the iPad minis. The distribution of the devices will also include in-depth instruction focusing on the ecosystem of iOS apps and software specifically tailored to enhancing their learning experience.
“This is a huge moment in the history of Lynn University. We are one of just a few schools in America deploying iPads in this way,” Lynn University President Kevin Ross said. “It is the culmination of years of planning and preparation by our staff.”
Laying the Groundwork
The groundwork for launching the tablet initiative included pilot programs, a major expansion of technological infrastructure, faculty and mentor training, a major overhaul of the freshman curriculum materials, meetings with Apple experts and continued, extensive work by the Information Technology department and the faculty.
Preparation for the deployment moved quickly this summer as faculty retooled freshman-level courses and e-reader textbooks to include a variety of multimedia materials and integration of other resources. Additionally, each classroom was equipped with an Apple TV to allow professors and students alike to share content on projection screens in the classrooms.
Staff and Faculty Preparation
Staff mentors will play a vital role during the roll out. All first-year students at Lynn are given a staff mentor to help them transition from high school to college and acclimate to the resources offered at the university. These mentors also received training over the summer to enable them to lead the instruction during orientation and help students if issues come up after they receive their devices. This mentor instruction will be followed by instruction with faculty, including using a lesson based on the summer reader as a practice session for using the iTunes U and iBook environments in the class.
“Our faculty have been working with the devices and courses for some time now,” Gregg Cox, vice president for academic affairs, said. “This summer, we finalized the conversion of freshman courses and e-readers to take advantage of the iTunes U digital environment, with reading materials available on Apple’s iBook platform and a variety of interactive materials integrated to enhance instruction and learning.”
Other recent preparation included determining the iOS apps that will be “pushed” to each device, expansion of campus Wifi access points, delivery and processing of more than 700 iPads, and the ongoing configuration of the devices with the various software needed to create the learning ecosystem envisioned by the university.
Tablets to enhance learning
The dialogical approach to teaching is a core tenet of Lynn’s core curriculum—teaching based on a conversation between ideas. Incorporating tablets into this process so students can easily share material with instructors and classmates is the focus of the iPad initiative.
To this end, the university’s IT department has worked with faculty and others in a deliberate effort to pinpoint the correct mix of software that will best support this process. They will be loading the iPads with at least 30 education, productivity, social and news-related iOS apps—some free and some paid for by the university. Key apps include iBooks, iTunes U, LiveText (a collaboration tool), iStudiez (a homework organization app), Keynote and Pages. These will support the abilities of reading course work, taking notes, sharing assignments and giving presentations based on reports. The apps loaded on the devices will continually be reexamined to incorporate new software when needed.
“Our goal is to create an environment specifically focused on leveraging the unique capabilities of the iPad minis to enhance learning,” Chris Boniforti, Lynn's chief information officer, said. “We’ve worked closely with Apple experts, faculty and others to identify the right apps to provide the right mix of functionalities for the students. But the top down approach is only one way to do this. We’re also going to use organic, word-of-mouth sharing to cultivate a powerful list of apps that will ensure students and faculty have everything they need.”
The school will launch an aggressive internal communications campaign, including contests, to encourage the sharing of apps found to be useful by members of the Lynn community. The most popular apps will be curated on the school’s intranet site so everyone can access them. Each student can also load apps, music and photos of their choice beyond those loaded on the devices by the university. As with any tablet, the amount of data they can load will be determined by the storage capabilities of the tablet. Lynn’s iPads will have 16 gigabytes of storage.
model encourages responsibility
The students will not own the tablets, at least not right away. Lynn University will own the devices and loan them to the students. The cost of the devices and construction of the enhanced infrastructure to support them and other digital devices is part of Lynn’s technology fee all students pay. Each eligible student must sign an agreement before they receive an iPad. However, each iPad will be covered by AppleCare+ which will replace or repair a damaged device in most cases for a $50 charge. If the device is lost or stolen however, the student will be responsible for the cost of replacement before they graduate or transfer.
Since the devices are owned by the school, they will also be serviced by the university’s IT department and the software updates will be taken care of through tablet management software.
Students benefit from Lynn owning the devices:
- Students will receive a free upgrade to the latest iPad after two years (this would cost them around $500 if they wanted to upgrade on their own).
- If the student graduates from Lynn, he/she gets to keep the upgraded iPad.
“Our model for distributing the iPads encourages responsibility, saves them the hundreds they would have to spend on traditional textbooks, provides continuous technological support, including a free device upgrade, and lets them keep the iPad mini when they graduate from Lynn,” Boniforti said.