The Digital Flagship initiative brought a new level of technology to Ohio State classrooms in the fall and will continue to be expanded.
Credit: Courtesy of Grace Buchholz, OCIO

The Ohio State University Board of Trustees Academic Affairs & Student Life Committee and Finance committees met Thursday to discuss the Affordable Learning Exchange and Digital Flagship program at Ohio State.

The Digital Flagship program, which provides students and instructors with technology and relevant training, aims to introduce additional technological tools to classrooms in an increasingly digital world.

“Digital Flagship provides every incoming Ohio State freshman a common set of learning technologies that they will carry with them throughout their academic career,” according to Board documents.

In Fall 2018, Ohio State supplied incoming freshmen with more than 11,400 free iPad Pros, Smart Keyboards, Apple Pencils and protective cases through a partnership with Apple. The iPads also came with applications already installed and designed to advance education at Ohio State.

One of the many applications available to students with iPads is the the Ohio State: Discover app, which launched in May 2018. The app, which was created by students and staff in partnership with Apple, focuses on providing students with the technological support they need to best utilize their iPads. It also provides access to activities through student organizations as well as a new degree planning tool.

“The app offers access to a brand new degree planning tool so students could actually plan their degree and then email that to their advisor and get feedback,” Michael Hofherr, Ohio State’s vice president and chief information officer, said. “There have been over 8,000 articles and tutorials used in that app to date.”

Hofherr also spoke of future plans for application development, which include an app focusing on mental health and crisis prevention resources that will be available to students in Fall 2019, as well as an online course sequence focused on coding. The first portion will be available May 2019.

“[The course will] provide students the opportunity to learn skills-based coding certification from both Ohio State and Apple. It targets Ohio state students, faculty and staff that want to learn to code regardless of previous experience at no cost,” Hofherr said. “The full certificate program will be available next academic year.”

Bruce McPheron, university executive vice president and provost, told trustees that spring meant it was time to reup the initiative.

“Digital Flagship has been just an incredible success,” McPheron said. “But this is the time of year when we have to actually commit to the contract to buy the next class-worth of iPad devices.”

McPheron said next year will be the first year that all incoming students on all campuses, including freshmen and transfers, will receive the complementary technology. A few extra iPads will also be purchased to account for other faculty members being introduced to the initiative.

As part of the initiative, a new mobile design lab is set to launch in March 2019 to provide more training and hands-on learning for students, staff and faculty.

Also discussed in the two committee meetings was the Affordable Learning Exchange, which aims to reduce the cost of course materials for Ohio State students. As of Spring 2019, ALX has funded more than 70 projects across all Ohio State campuses, amounting to $5.5 million in savings for students, according to Board materials.

“What we’ve done to date is a million-dollar reduction to the students in those particular courses in just one year in textbook costs,” McPheron said. “So, this is a project that’s growing from just a couple of years ago and one of the things we’re doing to enhance learning.”

It is also expected that by Fall 2019, CarmenBooks will be fully implemented as an online delivery system of textbooks directly into CarmenCanvas. Through this rollout, savings of up to 80 percent have been negotiated with several textbook publishers.

Also mentioned in the Board materials for ALX, Ohio State, along with North Central State Community College, Ohio Dominican University and the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, “received $1.3 million to create open educational resources in partnership with OhioLINK libraries consortium.” This amount received is a grant that will help facilitate an adoption of free, high-quality course materials that are compliant with Ohio’s Transfer Assurance Guidelines.