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iPads are ‘heart’ of course, professor says

Mary Kate Nelson | Friday, January 25, 2013


Students in Web Design 1 and The First Amendment: Free Expression in the Digital Age are utilizing iPads – their only required course materials.

Students can use their own iPads or lease one through the University for $70.

Lenette Votava, director of internal marketing and communicationsfor the Office of Information Technologies (OIT), said the program is made possible through collaboration between OIT, the Registrar’s Office, the Financial Aid Office, the Office of Student Accounts, the Department of Art, Art History and Design, the Law School and the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.

Elliott Visconsi, professor of The First Amendment, said the $70 lease fee is the only cost associated with his course. His students use their iPads to access Apple Education tools such as iTunes U, iBooks and iBooks Author, all of which are available to them for free. Students also use their iPads to visit websites like Twitter and Google+ to continue conversation outside of the classroom.

“We wanted all course content to be free,” Visconsi said.

Visconsi said iPads and similar technologies help facilitate, rather than detract from, classroom learning. He considers this especially important in his class of 115 students.

“I see technology as a suite of tools that can make a big class smaller and can give students an opportunity to learn through argument, collaboration and other social practices,” Visconsi said.

Visconsi and his students worked together to create a free digital textbook using iBooks Author. The custom textbook has essays, videos, illustrations, infographics, cases and image galleries.

Although the class also involves lectures, Visconsi said this digital textbook is “the heart of the course.”

Visconsi and his students face occasional challenges with their iPads and initially had trouble setting them up.

“I’m still getting used to walking around with my iPad in lecture and keep forgetting where I leave it,” he said.

Overall, Visconsi said his students responded positively to using iPads.

“The students seem to be enjoying the course, the textbook and the access to iPads,” Visconsi said.

Students in Web Design 1 have found their iPads beneficial outside of the classroom.

Senior Jordan Bai values the flexibility and convenience iPads offer.

“I use [my iPad] for all of my notes and I can use it to show my portfolio in interviews,” she said. “It’s much lighter than carrying your laptop around.”

Connor Sea, a senior, said his iPad is valuable in his other courses.

“I use [my iPad] for other courses and I use it to read academic journals,” he said.

Sea said he also appreciates the ability to read large files on his iPad without printing them.

“It’s a greener way to do things because I am not wasting paper,” he said.