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Survey finds Ohio State students see iPads as valuable academic tool

Student success at heart of Digital Flagship initiative

New research at The Ohio State University finds students believe their university-provided iPads are a valuable tool for their education.

The Student Life Survey, administered annually by Ohio State’s Center for the Study of Student Life, examined the impact of the Digital Flagship initiative. The results show students are using the iPads as intended and are meeting the goals of the program.

“The data shows that [Digital Flagship] is having a purpose and impact for our students and that was always our goal. It was about creating this access through technology, but promoting digital skills to enhance the academic experience,” said Cory Tressler, director of learning programs and Digital Flagship.

Ohio State launched the Digital Flagship initiative in 2018. The program provides an Apple iPad to every first-year undergraduate student who attends Ohio State. Students keep the iPads as they progress through their academic career.

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • 96% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the iPads were useful for academic purposes.
  • 94% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the iPads were a valuable tool for their Ohio State education.
  • The most popular uses of the Digital Flagship iPads were checking Carmen, the university learning management system, for grades or class information (94%), checking e-mails (90%) and class work or activities (89%).
  • The most popular apps used on the Digital Flagship iPads were Canvas Student, the student interface with Carmen (96%), Notability (90%) and Microsoft apps (i.e., Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Word) (76%).
  • 27% of students agreed that “greater acceptance of/more encouragement to use iPads in class” would be the best way for instructors to supports students’ use of iPads for academic success.

Melissa Beers, program director for Introduction to Psychology, inspired the survey project. Introductory psychology classes are among the largest and most diverse classes offered at Ohio State, and Beers saw Digital Flagship as an opportunity to enhance the program.

Beers and the instructors in her program quickly incorporated the iPads into the planning and delivery of the course. It was a learning experience for both the students and the instructors, and questions about iPad usage were included in the course end-of-semester student assessment survey.

“I was just very curious. We wanted to understand students’ experience in our course so we could better support students in following terms,” she said. “We weren’t sure how students would adapt to using the devices for academic work. But I was very pleasantly surprised because students are really using these tools in the classroom. It’s not just for Netflix. They’re really using them.”

The Student Life Survey incorporated her questions into the annual survey and distributed the questionnaire to a random sample of 8,200 Ohio State students in January. This sample comprised 4,000 undergraduate students on the Columbus campus, 1,000 graduate and professional students and 3,200 undergraduate students attending Ohio State regional campuses. A total of 1,329 students responded.

“It’s huge for us to have students saying that … it was enhancing the academic experience at Ohio State,” Tressler said. “It helps them to be more organized. A lot of things with organization directly lead to study skills and then academic success. Those are the things we talk to students about when they first get their iPad and that’s why we offer workshops on how to be digitally creative and to communicate and do all these things that we know will enhance your skill set.”

Tressler and Beers pointed out that the survey indicates students want to see more iPad usage incorporated into the classroom experience. Tressler said the Office of Distance Education and eLearning and the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning continue to offer workshops and advice for faculty working to include Digital Flagship concepts into their curriculum.

“Students are really benefiting from the technology,” Beers said. “Everybody benefits from having good technology, but now the next step is we still have to keep working on the faculty development piece. We need to continue working on instructors understanding how the technology works so we all can support our students better.”

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