In the world of higher education, some technologies have revolutionized the way we teach and learn, others have not. Now, we have the tablet PC—the latest invention that promises to reinvent the way degree programs are delivered. But, will tablets actually become permanent fixtures in higher education?
Many institutions and business schools have or are currently conducting research on the use of tablets. For instance, Louisiana State University’s eMerging Technologies Project plans to explore the usefulness of tablets throughout higher education. Early results of these studies show positive impacts of tablet use on costs and environments. For example, according to an integration experiment conducted by IMD Business School, the most attractive benefits of using tablets were “the substantial cost-savings and environmental benefits of lowering the school’s paper consumption.”[i] Tablets can be used to download textbooks, case studies, PowerPoint slides, lecture notes, classroom handouts, exam reviews, and other additional readings that are often printed.
However, the benefits of using tablets extend beyond budgets and environments. Emerging studies show that the device provides a wealth of positive impacts for students. For instance, in a study conducted by the University of Notre Dame, students naturally embraced the use of tablets, but used them much more than anticipated. Instead of merely using the devices for textbook reading, students downloaded apps that they integrated into study habits, team projects, and presentations. Students found dozens of ways that tablets could be used for their coursework.[ii] Another finding is that charts, figures, and formulas can become so interactive that they significantly increase the speed at which students understand them. This is why tablet textbook publishers like Inkling and CourseSmart are creating 3D diagrams that can be rotated with the flick of a finger.[iii]
Thus far, the studies have revealed two limitations of using tablets for education: 1) the difficulty associated with taking notes on the device and 2) the preference for reading from paper. However, new apps and supplemental devices are beginning to allow users to take, use, and share notes with their tablets. This will help to eliminate the first drawback. Time, and not a lot of it, will likely diminish the second limitation. Therefore, I predict that the tablet will become a standard tool for higher education.
Additional Readings and Resources
- 8 Ways Technology is Improving Education, Mashable.com
- 10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do with an iPad, YouTube Video
- Higher Learning: The iPad on Campus, Fox Providence, YouTube Video
- iPads at B-School: Pros and Cons, BusinessBecause.com
- Tablets Bring Interactive Dimension to Classroom Teaching, AllBusiness.com
- Tech4Teaching Blog
[i] Burns, R. (2010, February 9). “The MBA and the iPad.” TopMBA.
[ii] Woyke, E. (2011, January 21). “Pros and Cons of iPads in the Classroom.” Forbes.com.
[iii] MacMillan, D. (2011, June 9). “Inkling Publishes Textbooks for iPads.” Bloomberg Businessweek.