A few final thoughts...

The iPad Pilot Project ended December 20, 2011.   The OCTET staff would like to thank all of the faculty and students who participated in this project. 

For their time and contribution to the extended project, the faculty participants were able to keep their iPads, cases, and purchased apps.  This is but a small thank you from OCTET for all that they accomplished.

As we consider what to do moving forward, we have to evaluate the usage and support of the devices in addition to the pedagogical value.  As an office, OCTET does not have the resources to continue to provide the same level of support for the project as is. Our current method is not a feasible distribution/support model and is definitely not scalable.  Scheduling more than 4 faculty to use these devices will quickly become unmanageable, especially if we continue to only have 20 devices.  We also must consider the management of the devices themselves (app installs, updates, training, etc).  I believe that Apple always intended these devices to be “personal” devices.  Since we are using them as “shared” devices, much like a public computer lab, we have encountered management issues that would not have been a problem if these were personal devices.  With this in mind we really have two possibilities:  retire the cart, or keep the devices and change the distribution/support model.

At our final meeting, I asked each of the participating faculty to speak to whether or not their teaching, their classes, or their students would be negatively impacted if the cart were no longer available.  The faculty provided some thoughts about the project with how it has affected not only their teaching but also how it has improved the classroom experience for the students.  What I heard from the faculty is that the iPad had changed their courses and their student experiences for the better.  Whether it affected one project or the entire course, it seems clear that the iPad does have a role in the teaching and learning process.

Since the distribution/support model would need to change if we kept the devices, we discussed several possibilities:
  • devices would be transitioned to a central checkout and students can check them out to use in class
  • devices can be made available to faculty for a specified time period (say 2 weeks) from a central checkout, but only after a discussion with OCTET about best practice and purpose (not just a shiny new toy to use in class but will actually have pedagogical value)
  • device would be requirement of course — students would need to purchase device
  • device would be requirement of course — college/con purchases device for student to use

Although there is tremendous value for what the iPad can contribute to the teaching and learning process, it can only do so in the hands of an individual--owned, operated, and managed by a single person.  We found that it was not practical to manage the device as a "shared" resource because it would go against the very design of the product. 
The ultimate power of the device rests with the user, not with the technologist or faculty who led the user to the device.  We also discovered early on in our project that our distribution method was not scalable for a campus-wide deployment.  These devices are too expensive for an instructor to require students to purchase for a course.  Furthermore, it is also unlikely that the College would purchase the devices for students because of the budget problems experienced over the last few years as a result of the poor economy.  After exhausting all of the options, the path was clear; the project would end and the iPad cart would be retired.  It was a difficult decision, but the right one to make under the circumstances.  The iPads were distributed to groups across campus for continued academic use at:
  • the Cooper International Learning Center,
  • the Oberlin Center for Technologically Enhanced Teaching, &
  • the Digital Arts Media Checkout.

In addition, a small set of the devices were given to the Oberlin Public School system.

Forrest Rose
Instructional Technologist
Oberlin Center for Technologically Enhanced Teaching