Ohio State students learning on their iPads

Ohio State University has figured out how to teach hard and soft skills

Through a digital initiative, OSU is meeting students where they are in order to take them to the next level

More than ever before, colleges are figuring out how to help students enter the workforce with the most up-to-date hard and soft skills possible.

For Ohio State University (OSU), that meant launching the Digital Flagship Initiative last fall to teach technology and coding skills. Understand that this isn’t a device initiative—it’s a student success initiative to blend learning technology throughout the university experience and increase student engagement and learning transformation.

The program takes a three-pronged approach:

  1. Student technology consisting of an immersive and engaging collection of shared tools, platforms, and learning experiences
  2. Coding curriculum in the form of university-wide opportunities for students to learn coding and enhance career-readiness in an app-based economy
  3. iOS Design Lab to help students, faculty, and staff explore app development from ideation to prototype to market

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As part of the program, 11,000 first-year students at OSU’s Columbus and regional campuses were given an iPad.

Embedding technology to advance learning

“We know our students are using technology, and all of us are expected to use technology in whatever career track we pursue,” says Liv Gjestvang, OSU’s associate vice president of learning technology in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning. “We’re thinking about how we integrate those devices in meaningful ways to advance learning … [and] about how we create equitable educational opportunities for students. A common device helps, but it also opens doors for faculty on the pedagogical side.”

OSU focuses on common technology tools, a coding curriculum, and app development to give students a well-rounded chance to improve academic and professional success.

“We have a really strong commitment to thinking about how we integrate devices and build a program that does make students’ lives better, not just in the classroom, but in more broad and meaningful ways,” says Gjestvang.

The difference between using a device and learning with a device

Students are often characterized as tech-savvy, but this doesn’t mean they know how to use technology for career advancement or skill building. Digital Flagship recognizes this and builds in ways for students to strengthen technology literacy.

“With this generation of students, there seems to be a mindset that they just know how to use technology really well,” says Cory Tressler, director of Learning Programs & Digital Flagship in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning. “They know how to use aspects of technology really well, but in academic and professional settings, we’re seeing that they aren’t super strong users of technology for collaboration, information literacy, financial literacy, and organization.”

Laura Ascione