An Ohio State freshmen begins setting up the iPad given at orientation on June 11, 2018. The iPads will be distributed until the end of July at the Columbus campus. Credit: Jake Rahe | Managing Editor for Multimedia

Incoming freshman Noa Breitman looks into the camera on her new iPad and smiles for the picture.

She laughs, saying that it isn’t a great photo, but her Digital Flagship educator tells her she can change it later. For now, she just needs it for her lock screen.

“It’s so nice,” she said, looking through the apps on her iPad.

Like many incoming freshmen at Ohio State, Breitman was unaware that she was going to be receiving an iPad until shortly after accepting her offer of admission. Now, joining about 250 other students Monday for her orientation, she began the process of customizing her iPad.

Cory Tressler, the associate director of learning programs for the Office of Distance Education & eLearning, said students are informed shortly after being accepted to Ohio State about how that they would receive an iPad Pro and “all that entails.”

Students are notified early how this process will begin, and after checking in at Morrill Tower for orientation, they head to the Drake Performance and Events Center to receive their iPads. At the beginning, the students and parents split up with the students going to receive the iPads and the parents learning about student life at an academic fair.

There are roughly 25 student assistants at different stages of the process, helping to guide the freshmen through the orientation of their iPads. Those student assistants were hired back in April and had multiple days of training with each being given an iPad to familiarize themselves with the device. They then helped train the 80 faculty who were given iPads in May.

“It was a nice initial sort of go-through orientation before we had 250 students a day,” Tressler said.

He added having students be the ones who teach the freshmen how to use the iPads helps make everyone more comfortable.

The setup process takes about 20 minutes for each student. The students are handed a manilla bag containing their 10.5-inch, 256GB iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, smart keyboard and STM Dux Shell Case.

Once inside the room, the students are asked to show a form of ID to confirm their identity. Hanna Kim, a student assistant for ODEE learning technology, said the students are searched in the system to confirm they are eligible for the iPad. She said the other student assistants confirm the ID both in the system and with the gray folders the freshmen are handed at orientation.

“So it’s like an extra wall of defense,” she said.

Only first-year students are eligible for the iPads, but Kim said some transfer students also allowed to have them and there there is often a gray area that requires someone to come in and sort out the eligibility process.

After a student has their name, dot number and student information inputted into the iPad and the device is customized, the student heads over to the next room where there are 10 tables with five other freshmen to learn about how to use the devices. There, the students are introduced to the apps on the device.

The Discover app is one of the more prominent features on the iPad. Students are able to view maps of the campus, follow orientation instructions, learn about and sign up for different organizations on campus, create four-year plans and view account balances. During the school year, the students will be able to view course information, check grades and see their schedule.

Kim said these features make scheduling classes much simpler, where her advisor told her “It’s a lot less work for me” and that the students “have like a clear plan in front of them.”

The iPads are distributed from 7 a.m. until 9:45 a.m. every Monday through Thursday at the Columbus campus, Tressler said. Kim added that if students arrives late, they will be able to receive the iPads at Thompson Library from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and receive a similar introduction to their devices.

In the future, Tressler said he hopes the iPads will be able to make orientation completely paperless. Since this is only the first year, he said there is a bit of a learning experience for everyone involved. The Discover app currently lists the optional sessions for students on Day 2 of orientation, but that it is “not 100 percent yet.”

Going paperless is, of course, one of the overall goals of this initiative. One of the stated objectives by the University is to put all syllabi, textbooks and other course work on the iPads so students don’t have to go through paper.

Breitman has already started to plan out how she hopes to use the iPads during her time at Ohio State.

“I’ll probably mostly use the Drive,” she said. “Just like take notes on the Drive, and I’ll use those apps that they showed.”