Apple has sold over 3 million iPads since the device’s release this past April. The touch screen tablet computer is smaller than a laptop and larger than a smart phone, and it’s been touted as a must-have for today’s successful college student.
The iPad has been promoted as a textbook reader comparable to the Amazon Kindle, an alternative to carrying a laptop to class, and so much more, but apparently it isn’t doing as well in academic circles as Apple had hoped.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs believed that the iPad was "poised to change the learning landscape,” but Stephen O’Donnell of Duke University’s Office of Informational Technology sees things a different way. Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology has a series of loaner programs so students and faculty can get a feel for the iPad.
The university’s iPad loaner program is still in its early phases, but feedback has been comprised of mixed reviews. “Some initially hoped the devices would function as mini tablet computers — and are disappointed that they don’t,” O’Donnell explained. “Professors are generally enthusiastic about the devices for certain purposes, but they’re still investigating their use in instruction,” he told FoxNews.com.
Different than Duke’s iPad loaner programs, other colleges simply distributed iPads free of charge to various students. George Fox University gave students the option to choose between a free iPad or an Apple MacBook laptop at the beginning of the fall semester. Only 10 percent of students chose the iPad, and among those almost all said it was because they already had a laptop.
The Chronicle of Higher Education mentioned George Fox freshmen Zach Kramberg, who did opt for an iPad. He uses it to record and organize lecture notes. “The iPad’s very easy to use once you figure them out,” he said.
Even so, Greg Smith, George Fox’s chief information officer, reports mixed iPad reviews from the school’s students. The iPad’s inability to multitask and print has kept students dependent on their laptops. It also has limited storage space compared to a “regular” computer.
Despite Apple’s claims that the iPad is education’s next best thing, most college students aren’t concerned enough about the device to purchase one on their own. If it’s handed to them free of charge, sure, they’ll try it out, but otherwise it’s not a big deal.
According to FoxNews, Stanford University School of Medicine’s entire incoming class was equipped with iPads, but students and faculty are still getting used to the device.“It definitely facilitates studying and recall because you don’t get bogged down by all the paper,” said first year medical student Ryan Flynn. “The iPad isn’t the best input device. Some people have gone back to paper and pencil.”
FoxNews also mentions Kat Meduski, a senior at Barnard College in New York City. “I haven’t seen a single one on campus, and I’ve been here for about three weeks. I see a lot of people with MacBook, Acer, and Dell laptops along with a few netbooks,” said the college senior.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the iPad is having trouble gaining acceptance at George Washington University and Princeton University due to network stability issues; Cornell University is also experiencing connectivity problems and concerned about bandwidth overload.
Based on everything that I’ve heard and read, the general consensus seems to be that college students are willing to accept iPads if their school hands them out for free. Otherwise the $499 (and up!) price tag is not worth it at this point in time.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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