Who doesn’t like the sound of that? Attach free to just about anything and you’ll have college coeds swarming like stray cats on a well-stocked porch. But a free iPad? That’s got all sorts of temptation written all over it.
At least two U.S. colleges have decided to provide the iPad, the newest gadget from Apple, to their students. It’s not uncommon for colleges to offer incoming freshmen laptops, to ensure they have this important tool to manage their scholastic careers, but it’s a little uncommon for schools to jump on board with something that’s only been on the market for seven days and has yet to truly prove its benefits in the academic environment.
At Seton Hill University, a Roman Catholic school in Pennsylvania, all 2,000 full-time students will be welcomed back this fall with an iPad. George Fox University, a Christian school in Oregon, is giving students, including first years, the option between an iMac and iPad; next year they only get iPads.
“The iPad appears to be the perfect device for information at your fingertips which places it in the role to ignite the change,” Greg Smith, CIO at George Fox, told USA Today, responding to criticism from other universities who are skeptical about the program.
Smith’s peer at Molloy College, CIO Robert Paterson, thinks it sounds “gimmicky,” as Apple releases another product “with no particular purpose” and the faculty has yet “to experiment or to plan how to use them in the teaching/learning process.” He speculates that a mere five percent of students using the iPad will find a novel application for learning.
There are proponents and critics of the free iPads program; amongst the critics you’ll likely find professors who aren’t keen on changing the way they present their coursework, or the way in which they receive work from students. But with e-textbooks, and iPad textbooks, becoming a reality, and new technologies like the iPad finding their way into students’ hands, the professors might need to add flexibility to their resumes.
The estimated cost to deliver iPads to a campus with a student population of 3,000 would be about $2.2 million. While everyone will certainly not scoff at receiving a brand new iPad in the fall, it might raise questions by those writing tuition checks that continue to rise.