1:1 computing programs require tech upgrades, staff training
- Universities are increasingly offering students free laptops or tablets, but they should take into consideration their technology infrastructure and train professors to use the technologies before implementing such programs, according to EdTech.
- 1:1 programs have had varying degrees of success, with some institutions not maintaining the Wi-Fi bandwidth to handle all the connected devices. In addition, the technology may require other enhancements to the institution's network, all of which can be expensive.
- Such innovation requires faculty members to be aware their tech skills may be lacking. Maryville University in St. Louis solved that problem by offering instructors 80 hours of paid professional development so they could better use iPads in the classroom with students.
The planning and operation of a 1:1 program that involves a big investment in technology and staff requires an effective cross-functional group with representatives from various campus departments. According to management experts, those groups should be carefully structured, have direction and perhaps be guided by a core oversight panel.
Ongoing training of professors and staff will pay off if it is initially done carefully and it continues. After their effective training, Maryville faculty members reported that their confidence in using iPads went from 10% to 90%. In addition to the initial 80 hours of training, the university also offered instructors 90-minute training sessions every other week for a semester to learn more about the tablets and their applications and to build assignments for their classes that have students using the devices.
Experts say such common platforms help the professors more easily plan and deliver material using technology because everyone is using the same equipment and applications. As important, educators and administrators say the devices can level the playing field for students who can not afford to buy tablets and laptops. Maryville's 1:1 program is part of a commitment by the university's president beginning in 2015 to provide the tablets to students and all staff and use them collaboratively because it is the "future of higher education learning".
This fall, Ohio State University is providing all first-year students with an iPad Pro, an Apple pencil and a smart keyboard as part of a campuswide digital initiative. OSU said it wants all learners to start with the same technology, and a university official said training for faculty members is key. And at Lynn University, sophisticated use of the iPads given to all students is part of a broad strategic plan, and was designed to allow students and instructors to innovate and collaborate more readily. The tablets are being used in departments ranging from graphic design to business to athletics.