Students in Dr. Ian Shepherd’s microeconomics class knew their class would be different when they were handed iPads during the first week of classes.
“I think it has been very good so far,” said Kwame Twumasi, junior political science major from Accra, Ghana. “I really like the connectivity it gives us in class. You have instant updates, which makes class interactive.”
Twumasi is among the 50 students in Shepherd’s class testing the mobile device’s viability as a textbook – and serving as guinea pigs for a potentially groundbreaking idea.
ACU students, along with students at Seton Hill University and the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, are among the first in the nation to use a digital iPad textbook as a substitute for traditional paper books.
Shepherd said using the iPad in class was hard at first, but has become easier with each passing class. However, he said the attention the class has received from the media, specifically from cameras, is proving to be a distraction. Shepherd said the cameras change the dynamic of the classroom.
“When 50 people try something new, and it works, it looks good on television,” Shepherd said. “If things don’t go well, that creates a lot of pressure. When something goes wrong it looks like it was my fault, or I was unprepared.”
Shepherd said his classes have always involved the use of laptops, so technology has played a part in his lectures as well as textbooks. But he said the iPad is a more effective medium for student learning. He said microeconomics prove the iPad’s worth.
“The story of microeconomics is about two key words: efficiency and productivity,” Shepherd said. “The iPad allows them to focus on the intellectual content of the book.”
He said developing course interfaces compatible for the iPad and not just computers has been the biggest struggle.
“The hardest challenge has been developing the new platform,” Shepherd said. ” Transferring things I have and making sure they would work on the new platform was hard, especially early on.”
Shepherd said the iPad will revolutionize the educational system, with students eventually having all of their textbooks on one piece of equipment. He said the iPad serves as a valuable tool even outside of the classroom, creating continuous learners.
“Our class is lucky. They were given the text and the device,” Shepherd said. “The ability to have one device that you can carry around campus with all of your textbooks on it is coming.”
Lily Assaad, sophomore business management major from Cairo, Egypt, said the iPad textbook has made the learning process more enjoyable, but the digital textbook still has some flaws.
“It’s a lot easier to read on the iPad compared to old textbooks, which are pretty boring,” Assaad said. “It works well, but it is clearly not perfected.”
Assaad said the main problems she has encountered involve text size and the highlighting function, but she said the iPad is still helping her in class.
“I love it,” Assaad said. “I think it’s helping out in class a lot.”