Campus News

Professor’s surgery leads to iPad-use study

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After experiencing the potential of the iPad following his surgery, Professor Oglesbee launched a study to determine the feasibility of professors and students using the technology on a regular basis on campus. After Dr. Eric Oglesbee, assistant professor of linguistics, experienced back surgery in the fall 2011, he was faced with a challenge. Unable to carry his books and materials around campus, Oglesbee discovered the iPad. After using the technology of this tablet computer a few months, he realized it might be valuable for other members of campus, so he launched a study that includes 11 professors and 11 students, with an ultimate goal of determining whether the use of iPads on campus is realistic and beneficial. “Whether or not we believe that a particular product or device really provides an advantage, we have a responsibility to explore and understand (as best we can) innovations employed in the wider culture,” stated Oglesbee, in the iPad Pilot proposal he wrote. “After surgery, I wasn’t allowed to carry (more than) 20 pounds for two months, so I had to have some way of transporting materials back and forth, and all my classes’ textbooks were available electronically,” said Oglesbee. An iPad worked well for him. Through this, he discovered that he could quickly and efficiently accomplish other tasks, such as receive student papers, send and receive emails, schedule appointments and grade student work electronically. “This is a really powerful tool for faculty members,” said Oglesbee. He found that certain applications for the iPad serve as useful tools in his discipline, as well as disciplines outside his own. An example he pointed to were the sciences, in which three-dimensional visualization could significantly improve a student’s educational experience. He discovered that other tasks, such as typing papers, researching various topics and taking notes, could all be performed on the iPad. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought this might be a useful tool for faculty members and for students,” said Oglesbee. This led him to approach Chief Financial Officer Clair Knapp about integrating iPad-use on campus. After a few meetings with Apple employees and a few more with Knapp, he was asked to write a proposal for the pilot study. He completed and submitted the proposal for review in the spring of 2012; it was approved in the summer of 2012, and the study is being conducted in the fall of 2012. Oglesbee noted that two major questions need to be answered through this study. How much will the iPads be used, and will it save the student money? They are currently testing the first part of the question through the pilot study, and the second part is continually being taken into account. When asked, people said there were various positives to the iPads. “I think it would encourage note-taking,” said Taryn Johnson, a sophomore who is not participating in the study. Luke Eichorn, a sophomore who is participating in the pilot study, said, “So far, it’s helped me stay on top of things a little bit better.” Eichorn said it allows him to pull up a PowerPoint in class, check emails and take notes. He prefers the convenience and size of the iPad compared to a traditional laptop. Dr. Bryan Issac, associate professor of chemistry, who owns an iPad, said that he found the iPad helpful to use with PowerPoint and for taking notes. Sara DeMaster, a freshman participating in the study said, “I found that it was easier to take to class with me. I don’t notice it as much.” DeMaster mentioned that the start-up time was faster than a traditional laptop. “If I need something in class, I can pull it up right away,” said DeMaster. “It’s great for quick points, presentations, notes from teachers, highlighting and bringing in stuff from outside sources.” Although there are positive points to having the iPads, a few people, including DeMaster, mentioned potential concerns. DeMaster said that typing out longer essays proved difficult on the smaller keyboard. She does all longer assignments on her laptop. Also, printing from the iPads can be difficult. Natalie Croft, a sophomore, who is not participating in the study, said, “A con could be getting distracted in class.” She also voiced concern about technology glitches and information loss that could occur due to such glitches. When asked what he believed could be an issue, Eichorn said, “The biggest thing would be getting distracted with it.” Eichorn also commented on the potential cost of an iPad,“It’s more expensive for the students. But, if you can get them at a discounted rate, it’s not so bad, I guess.” Additionally, Dr. James Stump, professor of philosophy, voiced his concerns. “My reservation towards every student in class having an iPad sitting in front of them, is that it seems to me that most of us—and there I include faculty as well because I’ve observed it—can’t sit with it in front of us without doing three different things on it and not paying attention. That seems to go against some of what we try to do in an educational environment, to get people to focus on one thing.” Despite Stump’s hesitation, he said he could be persuaded otherwise and that he sees how, in some areas of study, an iPad might prove to be a useful tool. One possible use for the iPads will be electronic textbooks. However, some students are hesitant about making the transition. “I could get used to it, but I don’t know that I’d like it right away,” said Eichorn. Isaac commented that electronic textbooks have the advantage of being light and convenient to carry, but that electronic textbooks have some disadvantages, such as restrictions on the amount of a page visible with larger textbooks and on flipping pages back and forth quickly. According to Oglesbee, if all goes as planned, they are hoping to implement iPad-use into the incoming freshmen class in fall 2013. No current students will be issued an iPad, but there will likely be an option for current students to participate. According to Oglesbee, the plan is to issue a 32-gigabyte iPad to each incoming freshman. “To do something like this and to go to all students, we would have to have a model where the cost is built into student cost of attendance,” said Oglesbee. Every two years, each student will be issued another iPad. With the previous iPad, the student will be welcome to do with it whatever he or she pleases, opening up the option of selling it. The current proposal suggests spreading the cost of the two iPads throughout four semesters, to avoid a higher cost in one semester, compared to another. Despite cost concerns, Oglesbee made it clear that he had the student’s best interest in mind: “We are very sensitive to the cost part of it. We don’t just want to add to the cost of tuition. If we are going to do this, we want to make the student experience better and to try to save them money. Those are our two goals.”            
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