iNortheast initiative gears up for Spring 2016 semester

The College’s iNortheast initiative recently completed its first semester of iPad instruction in selected classes and is gearing up for expansion in spring 2016.

The iNortheast initiative is designed to transform learning through the use of technology, giving students greater ownership in how they learn and how they access and retain information.

“Mobile devices, once viewed as being inappropriate for use in classrooms, are now seen as vital components in promoting student-centered learning,” said Jim Kelly, associate professor of History and director of the College’s Center for Teaching Excellence. “Initiating our iPad Initiative makes a strong statement that we are being proactive rather than reactive in meeting the needs of our students and staff.”

During fall 2015, 1,800 iPad mini 2 devices were distributed to students, including Tennessee Promise Scholarship recipients. According to enrollment data, 146 iPad-enhanced courses were offered during the fall.

iNortheast iPad initiative 2015
Northeast State distributed 1,800 iPad mini 2 devices for fall 2015.

“I found the iPad Initiative to be an outstanding project,” said Johnny Bragg, assistant professor of Speech, who taught four iPad-enhanced classes. “Student engagement in the classroom is always a challenge. I feel the iPads helped to create interest in the course, and increased overall student engagement.”

Bragg said the iPads were particularly useful for in collaborative learning. He said in-class group projects, aided by research on the devices, increased the quality and efficiency of work. Perhaps most importantly, the iPads added a level of fun to the classes, he said.

Tennessee Promise student Seth Manning said the devices helped to level the playing field in his iPad-enhanced classes, giving all students access to the same device, operating system, and applications.

“The devices streamlined the process of doing work,” said Manning. “It’s all inclusive so everyone is working with the same thing.”

Mason Williams, another Tennessee Promise student, said he was initially skeptical of the initiative, but was soon impressed by student interest and classroom integration of the devices.

“I see my peers using the iPads in the library, outside, in their cars, and everywhere else,” Williams said. “As for myself, I honestly did not think I would use it; however, I have used the iPad every day this semester.”

Williams said he completed about half of his assignments this semester on his iPad. He used Office 365 to complete essays and presentations. He also said the iPad offered easy interface with Desire 2 Learn (D2L), a learning management system to access course-related materials, electronic drop boxes for assignments, on-line quizzes, and grades.

Williams and Manning said their instructors used popular apps such as Kahoot and Nearpod in combination with lectures to keep students engaged with assignments and quizzes, which helped gauge learning and retention. Both students said they used the iPads and other forms of technology to learn more about class content or amplify instruction.

“With my generation, you have to find ways to maintain interest or we’re tuned out in 15 minutes,” Manning said. “But the iPads, apps, and things like that are the best way to keep in line with current technology and educational standards.”

Williams said the convenience of iPads allowed students spur-of-the-moment research opportunities, which were beneficial because students found out information for themselves rather than having it presented to them in lecture form.

“When you research something for yourself, you retain that knowledge longer,” Williams said. “It’s these kinds of activities and mobile convenience which enable better long-term learning.”

“I see my peers using the iPads in the library, outside, in their cars, and everywhere else. As for myself, I honestly did not think I would use it; however, I have used the iPad every day this semester.”
– Mason Williams

The initiative required substantial increases in the College’s wireless capacity. During the fall semester 182 additional access points were installed in all buildings where students attend classes or congregate of class-related activities. In addition bandwidth was increased to handle network traffic. Efforts are continuing to add even more connectivity across all buildings and campuses.

Bragg said the iPad initiatives technology and technical support performed admirably.

“I appreciated how well the technology worked and the efficiency of the wireless system,” Bragg said. “Our computer and technology services did an excellent job offering support to me as a faculty member and to the students.”

For spring 2016, iPads will be issued to first-time freshmen (either full-time or part-time) and students taking EDUC 1030 and HRPR 1000 courses. Depending on enrollment, students in some iPad-required courses will receive iPads as well. Students who sign up for an iPad-required course – and are not in these categories – must either lease or buy an iPad device.

Currently, 89 iPad-required courses are scheduled for spring 2016 with more in the works.

For fall 2016, all students attending Northeast State will be required to have an iPad. Details on lease or purchasing options are available by e-mailing ipad@NortheastState.edu.

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