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Study: iPads enhanced learning experience at Oklahoma State University

There have been a few pilot projects for the use of iPads in the education sector. Last month, Virginia Beach schools spent $651,000 on iPads to distribute to elementary students, while a school district in Maine equipped their kindergartners with iPads. Will the presence of iPads have a positive impact in classrooms? Can it be a proper substitute for computers? That remains to be seen for the prior two cases.

Newer generations of kids are increasingly more tech-savvy than their parents - some elementary kids are getting iPhones, whereas in the last decade most people got cellphones only in high school. Younger people are fast at picking up new technology around them and rarely need to read manuals. But despite this, is placing iPads in the education sector a bit of a premature move and a waste of money, or is it an innovative way to deliver new methods of teaching and even reduce costs?

In the case of Oklahoma State University, not only did the use of iPads end up in monetary savings, but a majority of students agreed iPads enhanced the learning experience. They didn't just give out iPads for students to fool around with - they made the integration of iPads into the class's curriculum a key goal in this pilot project.

The University has released the results of its iPad pilot (via BusinessWire). The test was conducted in five lecture sections of two courses across two colleges and campuses at OSU. Bill Handy, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications, and Tracy Suter, an associate professor in the Spears School of Business, led the pilot. Some of their key findings of the pilot include:

  • The iPad reduced student expenses when they were fully integrated with the courses. The savings were attributed to purchasing e-books over traditional textbooks. The shift away from paper also led to a reduction in costs for printing out course material.
  • In addition to replacing paper and pens (we wonder if that will work in mathematical courses), instructors were also able to recommend specific apps to enhance the content of their courses.
  • Students were mixed over the distraction levels posed by the iPad. Some students felt the iPad promoted more reading of the course material, while others did not make much use of the iPad as an e-reader as the course progressed.
  • 75% of students agreed the iPad enhanced the learning experience. 90% of those respondents who answered "Yes" owned a Mac, while 70% owned a PC. Only 3% of students would opt to stay away from an iPad-only version of the course if given the choice.

A video with key faculty members of this pilot program may be seen below. 

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