Idaho State University takes open approach to faculty and student use of iPads in the humanities.

ipad-college-liberalOffering a realistic glimpse of what it’s like to try and use mobile technology in undergraduate and graduate courses in higher education, one rural, liberal arts college says the only way to effectively implement an iPad program is if the technology has no usage hiccups and comes second to pedagogy.

Another key element of making a mobile tech program work? Start the program as an open experiment for faculty members to use as they see fit.

“By leaving the experiment open, the instructors had an unbounded creative space to do what we demand of our students: critically think our way through the existing problems to find novel solutions,” said Mark McBeth, associate dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Idaho State University (ISU), and lead author of the College’s case study report. “Theory and research informed this project, but much of the success required simple trial and error with faculty and students in classroom experiences.”

The iPad Pilot Project (iPP), which started at the College in spring 2013—thanks to the support of its dean, associate dean, and director of development—began as a response to both the national emerging interest in mobile technology in the classroom, as well as the supposed notion that liberal arts institutions and technology don’t mix.

Two years later, the College has put together a report detailing four case studies from faculty, which aims to offer an honest look into how the implementation fared in their classrooms, as well as begin to answer the question: Can mobile technology truly enhance liberal arts learning in higher education?

(Next page: How the program is designed; pedagogical challenges)