After ballyhooed debut, some schools see problems with iPad

Some schools say despite connection problems, their networks will be ready for the iPad.
Some schools say their networks will be ready for the iPad this fall, despite early connection problems.

The euphoria that greeted the Apple iPad on college campuses has waned somewhat in recent weeks, as technology officials at a handful of universities have issued warnings that the much sought-after eReader might not be compatible with school web networks or could overwhelm campus bandwidth capabilities.

Education technology officials on campuses that can’t currently support the iPad say their networks and internet security will be iPad-friendly by next school year. Meanwhile, some other institutions—such as Rutgers University, George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., and North Carolina State University—embraced the popular eReader just days after its release.

George Fox’s incoming freshmen will receive a new iPad when they come to campus next fall, and North Carolina State students and faculty can rent the device for four-hour intervals from the school’s library.

Despite some technical troubles at George Washington University and Princeton University, eReader experts said higher-education officials will find ways to incorporate the iPad into their campus curriculum, partly because college students trust Apple’s brand name enough to make the eReader a surefire hit among 20-somethings.

“Schools are looking at them and saying, ‘We want to be cutting-edge,’” said Jay McGoodwin, CEO of, an online learning service used on campuses nationwide, including the University of California, Berkeley. “It has all the attractive features that Apple is so well regarded for—great, crisp graphics, nice size. It’s what makes the iPad the flavor of the day.”

A survey conducted by financial services firm Morgan Stanley in April showed that the iPad was most popular among consumers ages 25-34. Nearly three in 10 respondents from that age group said they were “interested” in buying an iPad, and 20 percent of respondents who own an iPhone, iPod, or Mac computer are “extremely interested” in buying Apple’s latest release, compared with 4.6 percent of respondents overall.

Apple announced the sale of its one millionth iPad on May 3—28 days after its introduction. Apple is projected to sell up to 5 million iPads in the U.S. during its first year on the market, according to the Morgan Stanley report.

“I think the iPad has made it very difficult for [other eReaders] to be competitive in the school setting,” McGoodwin said, adding that the Apple device won’t be “the panacea that some in education hope it will be. But it’s hard to argue against the iPad as a more compelling device.”

Growing pains for iPads on campus

George Washington University officials said in April that iPads can’t connect to the school’s internet network, because the eReader doesn’t pass university security standards. IT officials “believe iPads will work on our wireless network this summer,” although the network won’t support the iPad’s “full functionality” until spring 2011, according to the university’s announcement.

Laura Ascione