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One semester in the Digital Flagship era

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

Noa Breitman walked to McPherson Laboratory during her first day of classes on Ohio State’s campus. She went to room 1000 for general chemistry, sat down and pulled out her iPad.

The iPad had been provided to her and all first-year students in 2018 by the university as part of the Digital Flagship initiative. From the time she opened the box at orientation in June to sitting in her first class in late-August, it gave her the feeling of awe only a new piece of technology can — like getting a new phone.

The Digital Flagship initiative brought a new level of technology to Ohio State classrooms in the fall with both students and professors excited about the impact, but also aware of room for growth.

“The first day when I saw this would be the new way of taking notes, I was so excited,” Breitman said.

The Digital Flagship initiative is a partnership between Ohio State and Apple that was announced in October 2017 to support “educational innovation for students and economic development opportunities for the community,” according to Ohio State’s Digital Flagship website.

The initiative not only brings iPads to students, but also introduces coding curriculum and iOS design labs to campus.

Cory Tressler, director of learning programs in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, said that the number of faculty and staff trained and integrated across all of Ohio State’s campuses will soon reach 300 and continue to grow. The initial 300 will serve as a bedrock to help their colleagues use the newly available technology options.

Meanwhile, as staff learn the best ways to incorporate the technology into curriculum, students like Breitman, a first-year in biology, are finding an immediate practical impact.

Breitman said the app Notability, which allows students to import and take notes directly on presentations, has been especially helpful to her. The iPad allows her to switch between platforms like Carmen and TopHat — an interactive education software —and back to her notes with much more ease than a laptop.

Breitman said while she has already gained a lot from the Digital Flagship initiative, she sees where it could grow in the years to come. Right now, teachers provide materials and the students use the technology, but in the future more teachers could actively use the technology along with students.

“As more time passes I think more teachers are going to start using it. I think it will make a huge difference,” she said.

Clayton Funk, a professor in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy, has been integrating technology in his classes even before the Digital Flagship came along and sees how technology can be better utilized in the classroom.

Funk has used technology to enrich the classroom experience as well as ease the burden on students by offering textbook alternatives and said that all professors can strive to utilize technology better in the classroom, especially with the Digital Flagship now online.

“What I learned to do in the Digital Flagship was creative ways of using e-learning with the hardware people already had,” he said. “Before, the learning management system was just a machine and you just put things in it and people clicked through this difficult thing to use, but now it’s something you can actually work with and design with.”

The room for growth is not lost on those behind the initiative like Tressler, who said the Digital Flagship initiative will continue to grow.

The approach to improvement will not be one-sided and dictated from the administration though, as Tressler said feedback throughout the first semester was active and that it has and will continue to play a large role in maximizing the benefits of the initiative.

For now, Tressler said that immediate major goals are to get coding curriculum and design labs integrated.

“Once we get that done, we’ll feel like we’re fully online,” he said.

One comment

  1. We are in a digital age and need to embrace the technology completely. Those of us in the working world have seen the dramatic effect technology has been in our business. Some of the biggest advantages are the elimination of volumes of paper, using digital signatures and, quicker response to service issues. To a college student, it can eliminate the enormous expense of text books and those heavy back packs. This young generation has a step up on us older folks because they grew up with phones and computers. Keep moving forward.

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