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iPad Pilot Launches in Texas University MBA Program

The University of the Incarnate Word is running an Apple iPad pilot at its San Antonio campus this fall. The university's School of Business and Administration is trying out the tablet devices in an international business course for 25 students pursuing their master's degrees in business. But by the end of the school year, the institution predicted, more than 100 MBA students will have participated.

The iPads are provided for student use at no cost. They'll be experimenting with productivity applications, cloud file sharing, interactive databases, and wireless printing in the classroom. Students will also provide feedback about how the iPad should be integrated into all of the university's courses.

The professor leading the initiative, Pat Burr, was involved in the university's mandatory laptop program several years ago while she was dean of the school. That previous effort was launched after the university did a wireless network implementation across campus.

Burr initially considered a deployment of the iPhone, but the school couldn't see "an easy and broad application for business students." When the iPad was introduced, she said, "We immediately saw how we could use it and decided to introduce it to a pilot group in a classroom setting in order to carefully schedule assignments and methodically measure successes and opportunities. We will analyze our promising practices and lessons learned, and then make recommendations for broader campus integration of the iPad to our learning environment."

The iPad model chosen was the 16 GB WiFi+3G. "Students overwhelmingly confirm that they have WiFi at home," Burr said. She added that AT&T account executives are scheduled to visit the class in the near future to discuss options for 3G use. The professor said she's encouraging students to sign up for at least a month of 3G service to understand what it could offer them in terms of their career advancement.

According to Burr, in the first four weeks of the course, students will use a planned app adoption and assessment schedule, though she said they're free to download other programs as well.

According to that schedule, during week 1, they'll learn basics: how to connect to the university server and e-mail; write with Notes, which is pre-loaded on the iPad; save various databases; save screenshots for use as images in presentations; open an iTunes account; and learn how to save paid apps to it.

In week 2, students will be using the iPad in coursework. That includes understanding freight movement with the app Globe for iPad; determining country economic profiles with World Factbook for iPad; and downloading media apps for tracking international current news and information. They'll also employ "save to Twitter" features at media sites for posting articles, audio, and video news segments to Twitter accounts as part of a class project to build a database of international news and to follow each other; and they'll learn how to manage invisible shortcuts in their iPad use.

Week 3 covers the use of QuickOffice for productivity and DropBox for cloud computing storage of documents. Students will also hear about how other companies are using iPads for productivity. For one project, they'll be using the devices to conduct field work in a nearby specialty supermarket on importing coffee and interview the company's buyer, all while taking notes using only the iPad.

For the fourth week, the students will learn how to do printing with their iPads (something, according to Burr, that the iPad wasn't designed to do) and share experiences in using the iPads outside of class.

"I see an enthusiasm for this technology in the classroom that is extremely gratifying," Burr said. "I did not anticipate such student eagerness and willingness to try the iPad for its many uses. I now have many other students contacting me with questions about they may 'qualify to get an iPad.'"

She added that the second class in which the iPad will be used is already oversubscribed. "So far, I feel very encouraged about how the iPad can be used across our curriculum. I work with my own iPad about three to four hours a day and am amazed at the new apps available from Apple every day."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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