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New initiative implements interactive digital learning

Anna Duee / Lantern photographer

Ohio State is working with Apple Inc., using its iTunes and iPad technology to enhance learning and teaching through digital outlets just four months after Apple announced its initiative into interactive electronic textbooks on iTunes.
OSU’s plan, called Digital First, will integrate new technology to promote interactive digital learning in and out of the classrooms. Professors and students can access lectures, notes, quizzes and practice problems through OSU’s iTunes U page to assist class dialogue.
Digital First began with the university’s decision to switch from quarters to semesters. The university will implement the two-year plan starting July 1 in conjunction with the semester switch by beginning to upgrade classroom equipment and expanding wireless access points around campus, said Mike Hofherr, senior director of learning technology at OSU.
“To enable the success of this program, we need to make upgrades to the infrastructure to this campus as well and this program includes the upgrade necessary to ensure success,” Hofherr said. “So we will be expanding the wireless capacity in 75 percent of our teaching space, our top 30 classroom buildings.”
The university will expand the wireless capacity that each student in lecture halls will be capable to function three mobile devices at maximum performance as opposed to only one. The university will increase internet access points and access to OSU’s bandwidth, Hofherr said.
In addition to expanding wireless capacity, classroom podiums and equipment will be upgraded, Hofherr said.
President E. Gordon Gee said in a press release that the new technology will help OSU keep up with digital advances.
“By all indications, the modes of learning in higher education continue to evolve,” President E. Gordon Gee said in a press release. “In order to prepare our students for a fully wired digital world, we must integrate leading-edge technologies throughout our college campus – from the classroom to the operating room. To be sure, it is our obligation to remain relevant.”
The Office of Academic Affairs will fund the Digital First initiative. The university did not release a budget as to how much these upgrades will cost.
Whereas Digital First is using iPads and Apple products, Hofherr said the university is not limiting itself to Apple-only products. iTunes, which is an Apple product, can be accessed through PCs and other tablet devices.
“We know that mobile technologies are not going away and we know that Apple is a leader in those technologies,” Hofherr said. “What we really wanted to try and do is build a program enhancing our teaching, learning and research through education opportunities for our faculty, staff and students.”
Matthew Stoltzfus, a chemistry lecturer, has been a leader in using the technology in his class. Stoltzfus posts his lectures on iTunes U and offers the textbook as an e-book. Students can download and access his class lectures on iTunes. Stolztfus also uses Poll Everywhere, a program where students can text, visit a website or use Twitter to answer class lecture questions and participate in class without additional cost to the student.
Despite the possibility to access lectures and notes on iTunes outside of class, Stoltzfus said attendance has increased in his class.
“We are using the ‘clicker’ technology, and it is worth part of their grade to use that. I think that is the main reason why they come,” Stoltzfus said. “I am also seeing that rather than sit there and writing what I write on the board, you are actually working and interacting with your class and trying to solve a problem.”
Currently, professors are able to create quizzes and polls and create a dialogue with their students on Carmen. Digital First will not replace Carmen, but Carmen will become an additional element to the university’s overall plan, Hofherr said.
Stoltzfus said he believes Carmen is restricting and that Digital First opens up to more access and more possibilities.
“One of the drawbacks that I think Carmen has in place is that you can only access course materials if you are in my course,” Stoltzfus said. “One of the exciting parts that I see is that if we deliver content here on this devic,e then it is available to anyone all over the world, 24 hours a day. So I am not restricting the content to be available to just my students.”
The university encourages faculty and staff to use the technology available on iPads, but the initiative will be strictly voluntary.
“(Digital First) is in response to President Gee’s challenge to meet students where students live,” Hofherr said. “That means we need to meet you where you want your education space to be and our faculty need to rally to that call … We’re in this really cool time in education where there is plenty of opportunities for faculty to get involved, and we need to provide them with the resource they need to do that.”
Other forerunners for the Digital First initiative have been the College of Social Work, the university’s Student-Athlete Support Services Office and OSU’s Wexner Medical Center. The College of Social Work has provided iPads to its faculty and staff to use technology in the communities they serve, and David Graham, assistant provost at the Student-Athlete Support Services Office, is developing an iBook so student-athletes can access athletic department resources, course materials and coursework on mobile devices, according to a press release. Apple’s iPad 2 retails at $399 and up.
The Medical Center is piloting a program using iPads to educate clinicals, faculty and patient care, Hofherr said. In addition, students can listen to lectures by podcasts on their iPod’s, iPad’s and iPhones.
Many students think that education is moving in a technology-advanced direction, yet they are not necessarily ready to purchase an iPad and use all the available technology.
“I guess it’s a good thing. It is the direction things are going,” said Lindsay Wheeler, a fourth-year in psychology. “But what’s the difference than (downloading lectures) and a professor putting slides up on Carmen?”
Sarah Rhodes, a third-year in environmental policy, agreed that there is a relation between technology and education, but is hesitant to use all of its capabilities. Rhodes does not own an iPad, but does own a Kindle and will occasionally use it to download her textbooks. However, Kindles do not have access to some of Digital First’s capabilities.
“I think it’s cool and it’s the way things are going, but I’m not sure it is for everyone,” Rhodes said. “If I was starting college, I would probably invest in (an iPad).”
Matt Bear, a fourth-year in computer information science, said he is indifferent toward OSU’s technology initiative.
“Online lectures are OK, but a 40 minute-lecture is probably too much,” Bear said. “iPads are way too expensive. I would think about buying one if it would save me money later on.”

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