Oklahoma State students, faculty tout iPad in classroom

The state university conducts successful pilot testing of iPads in its classrooms, finding that the tablet offered benefits all around.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
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The iPad 2 is the latest (and greatest?) learning tool.
The iPad 2 is the latest (and greatest?) learning tool. James Martin/CNET

Apple's iPad could prove to be a must-have tool for colleges around the country, a new study from Oklahoma State University has found.

During the fall 2010 semester, five sections of two courses on two campuses used Apple's tablet as part of the university's iPad Pilot Program. The goal was to determine the impact the iPad would have on both students and faculty, and decide if it should be rolled out across the university at some point in the future.

According to OSU, it found that student expenses went down in the classes featuring iPads, since students were able to use cheaper electronic textbooks, rather than hard copies. Moreover, the university found that if all the students' textbooks were available electronically, they could save enough over two semesters to cover the cost of buying the iPad, which retails for between $499 and $829, depending upon storage requirements and connectivity options.

Students also benefited greatly from Apple's App Store, OSU found. They were able to find "thousands of educational software possibilities" in the App Store to help complement Web-based tools they employed. Students also used Apple's tablet as a "substitute for paper and pen."

The iPad's touch-based functionality has proven useful in other educational institutions around the U.S., as well. Last year, Pennsylvania-based Seton Hill University announced that starting in the fall semester, all full-time students would receive an iPad for their course studies. Last month, a superintendent of schools in Auburn, Maine said that every elementary student in the district would receive an iPad 2 to aid them in their learning. He said at the time that the tablet is "even more important than a book."

Whether or not OSU students agree with that sentiment is unknown. But the vast majority of them--75 percent--do believe that the iPad "enhanced the learning experience" in their respective course. When OSU drilled down into the results a bit, it found that 92.8 percent of Mac owners believed the iPad helped them in their coursework, while 70.4 percent of those who owned a PC believed the same. Just 3 percent of students would opt out of a course that would require the use of Apple's iPad.

"We put this powerful and creative tool in the hands of faculty and students and the end result reached beyond enhancing the academic experience of our students," OSU President Burns Hargis said in a statement. "The report outlines a possible decrease to student and administrative expenses, increased productivity, and how the iPad crosses between academic and personal barriers."

Given all those benefits, both professors who used the iPad in their classes recommended that OSU roll out the tablet across the university.