By Jamie Lisanti
It’s not just free pizza and t-shirts anymore! Some colleges are setting the bar high by offering free iPads or iPods to all incoming freshman and transfer students. The buzz surrounding the Apple products giveaways carries mixed opinions among students and faculty members. With the arrival of the new iPad about a month ago, does this mean more colleges will hop on the free Apple product bandwagon?
The debate is whether free Apple products benefit a student’s education or if it is simply an incentive and part of a clever marketing scheme.
Some institutions are giving the iPads to students pre-loaded with e-textbooks and other classroom resources. Even Blackboard, a company that provides online educational tools for thousands of schools, has introduced an app for the iPad. Although there are benefits for students, some people believe that the Apple product giveaways are a means of gaining press and exposure for a university.
“I think it is great that schools are offering free iPads to incoming students, but what about everyone else? They are good for educational purposes but it seems like more of a way to get people to come to the school,” said Caitlin Hoffer, a junior at Saint Peter’s College.
In the fall of 2010, Seton Hill University, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, became the first institution to give out free iPads to every student and faculty member. In 2011, each new student and faulty member received an iPad2, and incoming freshman received a MacBook Pro. This incentive was part of Seton Hill’s mobile learning program, which was designed to provide the students with the most advanced technological tools to create the best learning experience. With an enrollment of about 2,100 students and a school many are familiar with, there is a question behind the motives of Seton Hill’s Apple product distribution.
Although Seton Hill is the first college to distribute free Apple products to all students, Long Island University Post Campus is actually the largest deployment of iPads to students in the entire country. LIU Post has given 6,000 iPads to incoming freshman and transfer students, and is just one of many schools that have used this type of incentive and educational tool. The vice president for academic affairs at LIU post believes that the use of the iPad is the beginning of a new era of higher education.
“The iPad creates an educational environment that will support enormous pedagogical evolution, the pace of which will be limited only by the imagination of the faculty,” he said.
Some schools are facing challenges because of the iPad’s incompatibility with Microsoft Office, a platform several instructors use in their classrooms. Other students are also facing obstacles with their professors who do not allow laptops, iPads, or any other form of technology in their classrooms.
Tamir Dayya, a junior at LIU Post, was a transfer student during the time of the iPad initiative and uses his iPad to take notes and access supplemental materials online. This year, he has two professors who permit the use of technology in their classrooms.
“I understand teachers don’t want us on the Internet during class, but if the school gives the iPad to students to help them with their education, why am I not allowed to use it in my class?” Dayya said, “It’s frustrating and doesn’t make sense.”
The decision for an institution to incorporate an iPad initiative is a substantial one, with cost, compatibility with professors, and marketing strategies all being important issues to consider. Marylou Yam, Ph. D., the Provost and vice president of academic affairs at Saint Peter’s, could not comment whether Saint Peter’s would offer free iPads in the future, but did not eliminate the idea.
“The College is exploring how to effectively integrate iPads and similar devices in our repertoire of digital teaching and learning tools,” she said.