Notre Dame Students Respond to the iClassroom

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It’s two weeks into Notre Dame’s foray into their iPad-piloted class, and students and professors claim that the new interface is easier and better to use. The project management class led by Professor Corey Angst is part of the university’s eReader study and Notre Dame’s first paperless class. All materials for the 40 students are available on the iPad.

That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some drawbacks to the new technology.

“It can be a little frustrating at first and it even took me a little getting used to,” said Dylan Bailey, a 21-year-old who is taking the class. Even though he is a self-proclaimed Mac person, there were some notable differences from his other devices and traditional college materials.

Textbooks are expensive to begin with, but an iPad is something students don’t expect to splurge on. Although e-textbooks for the iPad can be cheaper and potentially pay for itself that way (for this class, it was about half the price of a hardcover textbook), the e-text can only be used for six months and cannot be resold.

“I would say the books aren’t relatively cheaper,” Bailey explained. “I don’t think you would lose money. We don’t make back half as much as we paid (when we resell our textbooks.) You are paying a realistic price.”

Plus, you can’t highlight, doodle or take notes in the margin. Vince Montalbano, a 21-year-old senior also enrolled, said there’s plenty of apps that mimic the pen on paper note taking experience, but it’s definitely a change from tradition.

But, both of them said they were willing to make the switch permanently if more classes had books available for the iPad. The majority of their required reading was still only available in the print edition. “It’s still lighter than a textbook,” Montalbano said. “I can just lie down on a couch and start reading.” Also, for people like him who have messy handwriting, it makes it easier to type his thoughts than have illegible notes  — and easier to sort through them thanks to the search function.

Bailey’s previous solution to this problem was using a laptop in class, but his short battery life made it hard to use his computer the whole day. Now, he only charges his iPad once a week. “The battery life has been actually really incredible,” he remarked.

The students admitted it was easier to get distracted in class. Although Bailey said it would be hard not to get caught playing motion sensitive games like Doodle Jump, a game that requires you to maneuver your iPad to get your character around the screen, he’s often tempted to use email or surf the internet in class.

“For me, I don’t like that stuff happening in class, but I’m not terribly concerned about it,” said Professor Corey Angst. He’s a fan of the iPads for his classes because there’s certain apps that directly correlate with what he’s teaching, but he isn’t sure if it’s right for all classes. He said the university hopes to test other eReaders.

“I’m not convinced that professors per say are going to be the ones that dictate (moving all class materials to eReaders),” Angst admitted. “A student can buy an e-text book for a different class and read it on the device, and I don’t know if it’s going to change the dynamics of the course.”

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