The college has spent $111,000 on tablets since April.
By Sergio Medina
The number of iPad Air tablets and academic departments that use them has been steadily growing over the past few years under the oversight of information technology Director Usha Venkat.
In an interview Feb. 16, Venkat said the college owns about 900 iPads that are spread across campus in academic departments.
In December 2015, Venkat had estimated the number to be 400, according to reporting in The Ranger.
Launched in 2014, the iPad Air pilot program was started under the belief that younger generations are more technologically inclined and consequently more expectant of technology-embracing environments in the classroom, she said.
In its first couple of years, the pilot program was implemented into courses such as CRIJ 1301, Introduction to Criminal Justice, GOVT 2305, Federal Government, and GOVT 2306, Texas Government, and ASTR 1303, Stars and Galaxies.
“We’re trying to use iPads with more programs than what we had before,” Venkat said.
She said that while the program is still under its pilot phase, it has spread into more academic programs, such as speech communication, mortuary science, education, business and allied health.
Speech Instructor Esther Pais, who teaches SPCH 1311, Introduction to Speech Communication, and SPCH 1321, Business and Professional Communication, said in an interview Feb. 20 that the iPads add variety to her lessons.
“We use it in some standard ways when they are doing research for projects coming up,” she said. “Sometimes we use them to take quizzes in the classroom.”
Pais said they also use apps through the tablets to work on projects.
One of these apps is called Videolicious, which allows students to create and edit video presentations through their iPads.
“I think the students enjoy doing something different in the classroom,” she said. “Many of them are so well-versed in technology.”
Pais has given mid-term evaluation surveys in the past to her students and received generally positive feedback about the iPads.
“That makes me feel like it’s a nice addition,” she said.
The availability of iPads in the classroom makes classes more interesting, Pais said.
“I could say that it makes students think about different ways of presenting themselves, which is an important marketable skill,” she said.
Similarly, education Coordinator Ann Weesner said in an interview Feb. 19 that the iPads help enhance student learning in the education program.
“What we want to do is emphasize the digital learning environment for our education majors,” she said.
Weesner teaches courses EDUC 1301, Introduction to the Teaching Profession, and EDUC 2301, Special Populations.
President Robert Vela approved $111,000 to purchase 175 iPads in April, Venkat wrote in an e-mail Feb. 19.
“We are continuing still with the pilot,” she said. “We really haven’t had that much funding to launch it collegewide for me to say we are full scale now.”
Venkat said iPad models are iPad Air Wi-Fi with 16 GB.
She said the nursing, education and English programs are provided with what she referred to as loaner models, iPads students in these programs can check out for the semester.
The remaining departments in the pilot program use what Venkat referred to as shared device models, which are iPads used only in the classroom.
The ability to check out iPads in certain departments as well as the increase in tablet units and academic departments using them are signs that the iPad Air pilot program is finding success, she said.
Thanks to the iPads, students are able to access software such as Microsoft Office, e-books, assignments and ACES.
“Having an iPad will allow students to have content at their fingertips,” Venkat said.
“We have a limited number of iPads,” she said. “We distribute based on first-come, first-served model.”
Venkat also said currently the office of technology services has “no plan to individually check out iPads to students,” but that it is something the office will consider when more funding becomes available.
Venkat said faculty interested in iPads as a resource in the classroom should contact instructional technology supervisor Yvonne Galindo at email@example.com.