The Southern Arkansas University Honors College is conducting a pilot study during the Fall 2011 semester. Sixty iPad 2 tablet computers were delivered to all students enrolled in the introductory course, Honors Seminar. That seminar covers four main topics: the academic experience, the Honors College itself, critical thinking, and diversity. Students write extensively on each of those topics and their final drafts are published online on the class blog: sauhc.blogspot.com.
Students own their iPad 2 devices and use them for many academic purposes. The iPad 2 includes two cameras, additional RAM, a faster processor, is thinner and lighter than the original, and incorporates FaceTime. That app allows iPad 2 users to video-conference (one to one) with other iPad 2 devices as well as with iPhones. The iPad 2 allows students to access the Internet, send and receive e-mail, read online course materials, download textbooks, network with other students, faculty, and friends over the campus’ WiFi network or any other open wireless network (such as those found at McDonald’s or Starbucks).
If the pilot project is successful, the iPad 2 may come to replace the book bag and the laptop; tomorrow’s students may only have to carry a small tablet computer. In it they will find all their books, written assignments, and e-mails. They might browse the Internet, roam the stacks of a library, read a newspaper, visit with friends, or ask their professor a question whenever they wish. SAU is taking the first steps to exploring that digital future.
The pilot study required no new funding. Incoming honors students enrolled in Honors Seminar received an iPad 2 instead of their usual first-year stipend. In subsequent years they will receive the monetary value of their stipends.
Preliminary results of the pilot project will be presented at the annual meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council meeting in Phoenix in October 2011.