Students in Dr. Ian Shepherd’s microeconomics class were greeted with more than just a syllabus on their first day of class Tuesday. The students were told they will be given iPads and told they will be among the first in the nation to use a textbook on the device.
The 50 students in Shepherd’s class, along with 14 students in a senior level marketing course taught by Dr. Rick Lytle, will be issued iPads with the preloaded digital text book for their course. Students will not pay for the iPad or digital textbook, but will return the device at the end of the semester.
ACU is collaborating with iPad textbook developer Inkling to investigate the textbook and platform along with some other software being used in the class.
George Saltsman, executive director of the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning, said the iPads were issued as a study to test the viability of digital textbooks.
“We all believe that at some point in the future students will get their textbooks digitally,” Saltsman said. “Student learning is a very important thing at ACU, and we want to make sure platforms for learning are as effective as they can be.”
Saltsman said students at ACU, along with students at Seton Hill University and the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, would not only be learning through the projects, but time conducting research.
“These students have the chance to influence, at the highest level, how this thing will work,” Saltsman said. “When it comes to innovative, exceptional and real, there is nothing more innovative, exceptional and real than doing this type of research.”
Dr. Scott Perkins, coordinator of mobile learning research, said mobile devices like the iPad are already means of entertainment but their viability as an textbook remains a question.
“The digital reader seems to work really well for enjoyment reading,” Perkins said. “But the platform for digital learning is in its infancy. The other angle is for us to be on the ground floor of research.”
Perkins said coordination with Shepherd, who designed his entire class around the iPad, helped make the project a reality. Shepherd said he was excited about the groundbreaking nature of the project.
“George Saltsman was looking for a class to run with the iPad, so he contacted me. And since I’ve done some online stuff before, I told him that this was a natural progression, to move the class onto the iPad,” Shepherd said. “I’m excited about it. Let’s see how it goes.”
Shepherd said he looks forward to the task of incorporating the iPad textbook into his class.
“It’s a challenge for me, but that’s the beauty of it. We have access to these great technologies now,” Shepherd said.
In addition to using the textbook on the iPad, students will also be using a new Blackboard application. Saltsman said the Blackboard application also has the potential to revolutionize mobile education.
“I think it can be a very positive influence on the way people learn,” Saltsman said. “ But the big question is, ‘will it work?’”
Christiana Kotyk, senior information systems major from Flower Mound, was surprised by the announcement, and said she looks forward to using the iPad.
“Just when ACU surprises me with one thing, they surprise me with another,” Kotyk said.
Robynne Harris, sophomore management major from Katy, was blown away by the announcement.
“I was super excited. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Harris said. “It totally made my day.”