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Using iPads To Lower the Cost of a Degree

Lynn University's iPad initiative aims to create an educational experience that's affordable for more students and provides higher quality content.

College student with tablet


Since 2011, Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, has issued 2,600 iPads to students and faculty. The iPad initiative began with full-time faculty, then expanded to undergraduate day students as well as MBA students, both online and on campus. Undergraduate evening students will be included next fall. And after the initiative's first full year, 99 percent of Lynn University students and 97 percent of faculty reported a significant enhancement of the learning experience — but the story doesn't end there.

"We're just warming up," said Kevin Ross, Lynn University president. "The real story is about faculty adoption and the tremendous engagement given the program's mobile nature and rich content, in and out of the classroom."

He and CIO Chris Boniforti "tinkered" with the idea of a mobile technology initiative for approximately a decade, according to Ross. They were early adopters of the iPad, and now see the whole ecosystem coming together, which Ross describes as "robust, mobile, interactive and affordable." At this point in its mobile evolution, Lynn can offer its undergrad students an online degree for $295 per credit hour; an on-campus degree for $355 per credit hour; or any combination of the two. That's a degree total of $35,400 to $42,600 — an affordable tuition for many adult and non-traditional students who may not have considered an independent college because of the perception that "private" equals "expensive."

In addition to the iPad, the initiative includes about 40 applications — "hand-picked by faculty," said Boniforti — ranging from productivity to note-taking to social media, plus MobileIron, a mobile device management system, iTunes U, a LiveText license subscription and iBook options. There's also a "no questions asked" iPad replacement package, with a small deductible. So far, Boniforti noted, very few iPads have been lost, stolen or broken.

Independent and Affordable

"Higher education is under pressure," explained Ross. "Students want to know if it is worth the cost." Lynn University believes that mobile technology will help create an educational experience that is more affordable and provides higher quality content.

"It's a robust collaboration," added Ross. "Other institutions are doing it in their own way, and we all have a bit of a different flavor. But we think it's time to consider what you're getting with us versus a bigger box; whether you want to be in a small classroom versus a class with a couple of hundred students; whether you want faculty engagement or a teaching assistant."

Students are introduced to the iPad program at a traditional orientation. "Many of the students are used to iOS," explained Boniforti, "but are less familiar with using it in an academic environment." They are divided into sections and given their iPad and Apple ID; shown how to configure the iPad, and populate their e-mail address; and introduced to the campus WiFi system and Lynn's iTunes U platform.

In addition, faculty have begun creating their own textbooks via Apple's iBooks Author. "So far, Lynn faculty have produced 24 iBooks," said Boniforti. "Another two dozen are scheduled for next fall." Typically Lynn iBooks are free, and the university is moving toward providing free or low-cost e-options for most traditional textbooks.

According to Boniforti, "An undergrad first-year business student who spent $1,000 in textbooks last year can get those same books this year in e-book format for $29." He added that, "In general, by moving our 'Bookstore' online, students are saving a minimum of 40 to 50 percent on textbooks. Students now receive their hard-copy books via mail or have them printed on-demand."

Going Forward

Lynn University (including CIO Boniforti) has been recognized by CIO Magazine's 2014 CIO 100 Award Winners as a "technology leader" — one of 100 institutions throughout the world utilizing "transformative" business practices.

Boniforti attributes his institution's success to two major factors. "First of all, you have to commit to faculty development," he noted. "Do it in the beginning, the middle and throughout the process." To that end, Lynn has created a support structure that includes a combination of librarian and instructional developer assistance.

"Second, you have to commit to mobility and move forward in the adoption of mobile-ready services for faculty, staff and students," Boniforti said. For example, Lynn created its own grade books and attendance application that all faculty and students can access with the iPad. "This application not only manages those aspects, it also allows us to communicate in a timely manner with students — such as informing them of frequent absences," he explained.

In going forward and building on the iPad initiative's success, Ross said, "We will always be tinkerers. We recognize that innovation moves fast, and we are not done yet." He said that both national and international schools have visited Lynn's campus, heard its story, and sat in on its classes, and that the university is building relationships with other institutions. "We are looking for partners who share our vision of delivering affordable, accessible and quality mobile content," he said. For example, Watson University in Boulder, CO, is now using Lynn's iPad-based curriculum in a new Degree Track program that will allow students to earn a bachelor's of science degree in entrepreneurship in two-and-a-half years.

"We have a shared vision," Ross concluded. "We share a passion for expanding our footprint and increasing the quality of education. And now, with iTunes U, the tools are finally here that allow us to do this."

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