05:57 AM

Pilot program helps test-drive Digital Flagship initiative

The largest digital learning initiative in the history of The Ohio State University officially starts in August, but work on the launch is well underway.

Starting in autumn 2018, new first-year students at the Columbus and regional campuses will receive an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard as part of the Digital Flagship initiative. But students and faculty are already using the technology in a series of pilot courses for the new program.

“I think students are benefiting from this sort of new energy coming to the classroom,” said Department of English graduate student Brittany Previte. “More students are engaging with these digital devices and are excited to come into the classroom with them.”

Previte teaches a first-year composition course. It is one of five courses selected to participate in the Digital Flagship pilot, including independent learning and study skills through the Dennis Learning Center, two sections of English, a physics class at the Marion campus and “The Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court,” the class President Michael V. Drake co-teaches with Moritz College of Law Dean Alan Michaels.

Gabby Colavecchio, a third-year law student, is a teaching assistant in the class taught by Drake and Michaels. She said the iPads are making teaching and learning more engaging in and out of the classroom.

“Student can have [the iPads] on them at all times and they also have access to the readings, and any video or podcasts that we put up at any point during class,” she said. “They can reference it whenever they’re at home or on the move. They’ve always got information from that class at their fingertips.”

The Digital Flagship initiative is more than using devices, and iPads are only one part of the collaboration with Apple. An iOS design laboratory on the Columbus campus will support faculty, staff and students in the development of new apps and new tools in the Swift coding language. Swift workshops are already underway at Ohio State.

Ohio State will acquire the iPads through a four-year lease that will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval. The university will pay $2.8 million per year to provide incoming students with the learning-technology suite.

Previte said she has redesigned some of her assignments to include a multimedia approach. Faculty are part of the learning process as well. Each instructor met with Digital Flagship staff before spring semester to improve their digital skills, discuss potential issues and concerns, and develop a plan to use the iPad in a meaningful way.

“A lot of students already have digital devices, but this is showing students where our priorities are in terms of helping prepare them for the digital work in the future,” Previte said.

Digital Flagship is a major undertaking aligned with the university’s new strategic plan: It enhances teaching and learning as well as research and creative expression while also serving the goal of leading in access, affordability and excellence.

Colavecchio said putting iPads in the hands of all students bridges a technology gap that can exist across campus.

“When not every student has access to the same technology, that’s when you can see some students maybe being at an advantage,” she said. “So making the choice to give every student an iPad evens that out and it ensures more equality between the students here so that they can work with the same kind of technology in the classroom and outside of it.”