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University continues to integrate iPads into instruction in campus classrooms

Tori Roeck | Friday, January 28, 2011

While iPads may be considered a trendy device outside of a university environment, this semester, two new pilot classes are exploring the benefits of using these University-provided devices in the classroom.

Professors also are making adjustments based on last fall’s experiences.

Last semester 50 iPads were dispersed among different undergraduate classes, including assistant professor of management Corey Angst’s Project Management course.

The class used iPads mainly as e-readers, in addition to electronic pop quizzes and sharing documents and videos.

Although student feedback was mostly positive, the e-reader through which the class read textbook and supplementary PDF files posed challenges because of its limitations.

“One of the criticisms that we saw in the survey [the class took] was that the students said you couldn’t annotate and you couldn’t highlight,” Angst said. “But in fact you can do those things, but you need [to purchase an] application to do it.”

Julian Velasco, associate professor at the Notre Dame Law School, who is using iPads in his Advanced Topics in Corporate Law class, requires students to purchase iAnnotatePDF, the application to which Angst referred. He also is using different e-reader software.

“The software used to read the text [last semester] was very clunky software designed for the iPad, a 1.0 at best,” Velasco said. “I wanted to nip that in the bud, and I refused to use proprietary software.”

Academic Technologies consultant Jon Crutchfield believes the upgrades for Velasco’s class will improve students’ experience with iPads.

“Most of the technical issues [last semester] were the usability of the apps themselves,” Crutchfield said. “The apps that are available for Professor Velasco’s course are better than those available to the business school course.”

In addition to Velasco’s class, iPads will be used in Professor Lance Askildson’s course on the Impact of Language, Culture and Identity on Educational Practices. For this class, the iPads have two distinct purposes.

“They’re both using [iPads] for coursework and trying to figure out how to use it to teach others languages,” Crutchfield said.

Because of the success of the iPad first semester and continued improvement, Crutchfield said he foresees an increase in the use of iPads and their equivalents at Notre Dame in the near future.

“We actually have web statistics that show that more iPads are accessing Notre Dame websites as time has gone on,” Crutchfield said.

Velasco said while the iPad has contributed to a decrease in their own paper usage, a truly paper-free class does not wait in the future.

“A completely paperless office? No,” Velasco said. “But as for a drastically reduced paper one? I think absolutely.”