College student interest in tablets high, ownership low

OSU officials says the iPad can save students money.

Tablet computers aren’t exactly flooding campus lecture halls, as fewer than one in 10 college students own the mobile devices. Still, students are enthused about tablets’ educational potential.

Seven percent of college students said they owned a tablet, and 15 percent said they would buy one in the next six months, according to research published May 24 by the Pearson Foundation.

While tablet ownership on college campuses hasn’t skyrocketed since the release of the popular Apple iPad, most students said they would like to own one. Only two in 10 college students said they had no interest in buying a tablet.

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About 30 percent of high school seniors surveyed said they were “not at all interested” in tablets.

The few students who own iPads, Motorola Xooms, or other tablets, believe tablets can be useful in the classroom and during test preparation, according to the survey.

Eighty-six percent of respondents said the “devices help students study more efficiently,” and 76 percent said tablets “help students perform better in their classes.”

The Pearson survey, which measured student ownership and preferences for digital devices, was conducted in March among more than 1,200 college students and 200 college-bound high school seniors. All respondents were between the ages of 18-30, according to Pearson.

Tablet computers haven’t become pervasive among faculty members, either. Two in 10 students said some of the professors used the devices in class. Nearly nine in 10 tablet-owning students said “professors at their institutions should integrate tablet-based activities into their courses.”

Pearson’s tablet survey comes three weeks after Oklahoma State University (OSU) released results from its fall semester iPad pilot program – one of higher education’s first iPad pilots after the product’s release in April 2010.

Five OSU class sections on two campuses used the Apple tablet during the fall 2010 semester. Cost savings stemming from iPad use was “difficult to fully quantify,” according to OSU’s tablet summary report, but through “maximum integration,” costs could be cut.

Students, for example, were able to buy cheaper versions of their required textbooks on their iPad. Buying these eBooks for two semesters could cover the iPad hardware costs.

Universities that distribute iPads to students could slash printing costs, the OSU report said.

“The most important consideration is the device must be truly integrated,” said Bill Handy, visiting assistant professor in the OSU School of Media and Strategic Communications. “Simply distributing the device without evaluation of how the course might be modified for its use limits the impact.”

Students used the iPad to watch pre-recorded professor lectures before they came to class. Students would then spend class time asking questions about the video lecture.

OSU students who participated in the pilot program said they didn’t read on the iPad nearly as much as they anticipated.

“On the one hand, students liked using the iPad to house their textbooks and suggested it promoted more reading,” the report said. “On the other hand, reactions from the beginning-of-the-semester expectations of planned use to the end-of-the-semester actual use saw eBook reading exhibiting the greatest change, a substantial decrease.”

Tracey Suter, an associate professor of marketing at OSU who led with iPad pilot with Handy, said students using the iPad reached long-held course benchmarks weeks in advance of previous classes.

“The increased pace is likely attributed to the mobile functionality of the device which allowed students to work in any environment, the change to the classroom environment, and the ability of all students to have complete access to the same technology, creating an equal and level playing field,” she said.

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