MIS Department pilots iPad-driven honors course

October 14, 2011 //

On the first day of class, Carey O’Donnell’s Honors Information Systems in Organizations students were told they were required to have two course materials: a textbook and an iPad 2. Expecting to spend nearly $1,000, the students did not react well.

Responding to the uproar, O’Donnell said, “Tell you what—you work with me and I’ll work with you. Textbooks and iPads are on me,” and handed each of his 24 students a brand-new iPad 2.

After jaws dropped and the excitement settled, students were told that they just walked into O’Donnell’s pilot study, “Digital Textbook Delivery & Content Management System Synchronized with iPad Devices: The New Classroom Learning Experience.”

The concept is to teach material in a new way. Through the use of Courseload, an integrated platform that delivers course materials through web-enabled devices, O’Donnell hopes to save his students money and introduce what he believes will eventually be the only option for textbooks.

O’Donnell, an assistant professor who has been teaching at Temple for 10 years, developed the program after repeated frustration due to students having different editions of required textbooks. Research and business connections led him to Courseload, which worked with O’Donnell and his colleagues in Fox’s Management Information Systems (MIS) Department to create a portal for Community, the social media site MIS students use for classes and electronic resumes (e-portfolios).

“To create a collaborative environment, to give them powerful tools for presenting information—that’s where the iPad came in,” O’Donnell said.

The pilot study was made possible by a generous grant given by a group that “sees the program could be a game changer in terms of economics.” O’Donnell said the textbook required for the course costs $195, but the Courseload version brings the price downaround $40. A program like this can end up saving students between $600-$800 per year.

“The financial aspect is impossible to ignore,” he said.

Along with iPads and e-books, O’Donnell is offering his students a new course structure. He decided it was time to let the students take over the classroom, so he split them up into five teams, each responsible for teaching two chapters of the textbook to their peers.

“Part of the thinking was that I want to see how these honors students want to learn,” O’Donnell said. “They are our best and our brightest, so I wanted to challenge them to show me how creative they can be in terms of using all forms of multimedia to deliver content.”

By mid-September, two teams had presented their designated material, incorporating video and social media to keep their fellow students engaged. Some of the most important factors of the program are peer feedback and developing professional development skills through public speaking and effective presentation practices.

Using Courseload, students are able to annotate and highlight sections of their e-books, and sync their notes with their group members, professor and entire class. O’Donnell can annotate a student’s book individually, allowing him to give students personalized attention without having to work around hectic schedules and office hours.

“The flexibility it gives the instructor is phenomenal,” O’Donnell said.

At the end of the semester, the iPads will be returned to the department and hopefully distributed to a new group of students in the spring.

“What we want to do is make sure people know the potential—share the information, share the things we’ve learned so that everyone can eventually take advantage of this technology and opportunity,” he said.