The university is collaborating with Apple to provide not only iPads, but also an iOS laboratory, which will be introduced to Ohio State’s Columbus campus Spring 2018. Photo Illustration by: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

Every incoming freshmen at all Ohio State campuses will receive a 10.5-inch, 256GB iPad Pro from the university — for free — beginning in Autumn 2018.

The university is collaborating with Apple to provide not only iPads, but also an iOS laboratory, which will be introduced to Ohio State’s Columbus campus Spring 2018.

The total retail value of providing all first-year students with the device next year is more than $10 million. The university will pay a discounted rate, given the scale of the agreement with Apple — the first of its kind for each entity — but the two still finalizing terms, Chris Davey, an Ohio State spokesman, said.

The iPads will be funded through the university’s administrative efficiency program.

The iOS laboratory will be a location for students to learn Apple-specific coding called “Swift,” develop apps and collaborate with Apple employees on tech endeavors, University President Michael Drake said Wednesday.

He said the collaboration with workers from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, could occur, as well.

“The idea is to really have the collaborative, working together opportunity for people to learn and develop apps,” he said, though it’s not entirely clear whether the university or the tech company would own the apps created.

The lab location, which has yet been determined, will be in a temporarily space for Spring 2018 and move to a permanent location in 2019, Drake said.

A course will be open for students to learn Swift coding Spring Semester, while other extracurricular options such as appointments to learn the computer language are still under development, Davey said.

In addition to the courses, students and faculty could be hired on to work at the iOS lab, Drake said.

The roll out of iPads on campus will be gradual, Drake said. Incoming freshmen will be given the device, and the next three incoming classes after them will, as well. Those already attending Ohio State will not, because Drake said providing iPads to all students at once is “cost prohibitive.”

“This is a big start and this will be enough,” he said. “This phase is really a four-ish year phase until we have all entering classes [with iPads].”

Though the iPads are technically under university ownership, students will be given a training course on how to use various apps and features.

Professors will be trained on how to implement iPads in their courses by other faculty members with knowledge on the matter like Nicole Kraft, an assistant professor in journalism who teaches incoming athletes how to use their university-provided iPads for academics and teaches mobile reporting with the device to journalism students.

Theodore Chao, an assistant professor in the college of education and human ecology also incorporates iPads in his curriculum; he trains prospective teachers in practices they can use on the iPad while teaching.

“There is no device that has more accessibility built into it than the iPad,” Chao said. He said his students with an iPad can immediately upload video footage, move files around, create interactive lessons and easily share documents.  

“I see a lot of potential [in the Apple partnership],” Chao said. “Swift is so intuitive — a platform that children can use to code, but also doctoral students and adults can use to build out apps.”

Ohio State has been involved with Apple for several years, most notably in 2013 when the marching band purchased 45 iPads and began using the devices to choreograph and plan its halftime shows.

The partnership has evolved over many years, Drake said. He has been in discussion with various Apple executives such as CEO Tim Cook, who was seated next to Drake during President Donald Trump’s technology council meeting in June.

“At Apple, we believe technology has the power to transform the classroom and empower students to learn in new and exciting ways,” Cook said in a press release. “The unique program will give students access to the incredible learning tools on iPad, as well as Apple’s new coding curriculum that teaches critical skills for jobs in some of the country’s fastest-growing sectors.”

Drake said the two discussed plans in June, but the details of the partnership have just recently been set in stone.

“The work is beginning as we speak. The procurement and distribution, the working with the faculty, all those things will be rolled out so we can start with the program by next summer,” Drake said.

“This is an incredibly innovative company with an incredibly broad platform with capabilities that we think can help us a lot, so we think that this is going to be a good partnership,” Drake said. “A close collaboration with truly one of the most innovative companies in the world is something that we see as an advantage.”