ARC funds $100,000 for iNortheast initiative

The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded Northeast State $100,000 to continue the College’s iNortheast initiative, which provides iPad mini 2 devices to qualified students.

For the fall semester 2015, Northeast State issued 1,200 iPad mini 2 devices to Tennessee Promise and other new full-time, degree-seeking freshmen and leased another 600 devices to other students.

Through the iNortheast initiative, the College seeks to increase student retention by providing ready access to technology, course textbooks, related reading assignments, and other materials.

iPad distribution at Basler Library.
iPad distribution at Basler Library.

The ARC grant will provide 500 devices to first-time, full-time degree seeking freshmen with first priority going to those students residing in Johnson, Carter, and Unicoi counties. Other beneficiaries of this project will include qualified students residing in Washington and Sullivan counties.

The iNortheast Initiative addresses the need to increase technology skills and reduce the rising cost of printed texts by supporting the adoption and integration of tablets, providing access to e-textbooks and other instructional materials.

Research from the National Association of College Stores has shown students are interested in ways to offset the rising costs of textbooks, with many turning to digital textbooks. Purchasing the required number of textbooks for a 15-credit hour semester is costly in comparison to digitally supplied e-textbooks. Colleges that have started similar programs have reported wide acceptance and student success.

Khaliyah Phillips gets her the first iPad at Blountville campus.
Khaliyah Phillips gets her the first iPad at Blountville campus.

In a review of etexts for courses typically scheduled each semester, the iNortheast project team documented that students can potentially save at least 50 percent by purchasing etexts rather than print versions that range from $58.75 (Women Studies) to $325.75 (mathematics).

For a full-time student, switching to etexts could result in a total savings of $400-$500 a semester. The difference would more than cover the $100 lease fee for an iPad mini each semester through the proposed lease to own program.

While Northeast State will continue to research and pursue additional grants from all sources to support this initiative, students will be responsible for paying the $100 per semester lease fee.

Expansion of the iPad initiative will continue over the next two to three years until fully integrated campus wide. All Northeast State students will be required to have an iPad beginning fall 2016 through the College-provided lease to own option.

The College plans to engage a national study to collect data on student performance, retention, enhanced technology skills, cost savings utilizing online book and resources, and paper usage reduction. Northeast State will also study the impact of iPads on student services and the challenges mobile devices present for a connected campus and the science of teaching.

ARC (www.arc.gov) is a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life. Through ARC, Tennessee is able to award grants each year for economic and community development projects in the 52 counties in middle and east Tennessee.

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