Connie Malamed’s posting First iPad University Course drew my attention to the mini MBA course being put together by Rutgers University and Apple’s higher education team. Connie describes how “Rather than placing all the course content online, the program will take place in the classroom, but will provide students with iPads loaded with all required reading material, videos and custom applications.”
First thoughts are, at least for me, a sense of excitement at such a bold new use of new technology. Then I engaged my brain. Would this announcement have attracted any attention if Rutgers had provided their students with ready-loaded netbooks? What if they had stuffed the content onto a memory stick or a DVD? Would that have caused any great interest? And would it have provided students with any less of an experience? Of course not. There’s nothing that I can think about an iPad which means that digital content is going to behave any differently compared with any other computer with a half-decent screen and a headphone socket. Unless, of course, the sheer excitement of using an iPad enhances the learning experience to such an extent that other devices couldn’t possibly compete. Perhaps for some students, but are these the people you’d want to imbue with business skills.
The other aspect of this story which I find unsettling is the idea that it is a step forward to pre-load content rather than accessing it online. Surely the whole idea of online content is that it’s current and up-to-date. Doesn’t that apply to business studies? And how do you interact with offline content by leaving comments and forwarding to peers? Perhaps that’s not part of the educational model in this case.
I know it’s a story when the iPad is first used in an educational context. It’s just that there is absolutely nothing I can detect in this application which exploits any unique iPad feature. Am I missing something?