The 2010 Fall semester is going to be huge if you're a college or university student. Whether it's for distribution in classrooms and dorms, research, e-reading, or as a collaboration tool, the iPad is going to be an interesting experiment among participating schools as they determine whether or not the iPad can be appropriately used for academic use.
Duke in particular will introduce students with iPads for student field research as a part of Duke's Global Health Institute. The devices are expected to be used worldwide among students, in countries such Bangladesh and Vietnam. The goal is to give students the opportunity to collect more data in areas with limited resources, giving students a new, digital insight into the information they collect.
Educational technologies consultant Marc Sperber says, "With an iPad a student may collect, organize and display data while in the field, allowing them to immediately engage in analyzing and interpreting that data when and where it has greatest meaning."
Campus Technology writes:
The project, which will have the students work in groups of three, will have eight iPads to share through the semester. Participants will be trained on the device and given a local fieldwork assignment to practice using them, with the goal of preparing them for the limitations they'll encounter when working in a remote, low-resource setting as part of their global health research project in summer 2011.
Though we can expect the iPad to fulfill more traditional needs as well. Ars Technica reports on how colleges and universities could save money by using digital e-books over textbooks, though I'm guessing if they've only found one book at this point, this isn't as promising as it sounds.
Though an iPad starts at $499 and can cost as much as $829 for the top-end model, there is potential for cost savings, as well. The university has already identified one class where the textbook in ePub format costs $100 less than the dead-tree version. With a typical class load of five courses, it could be possible to completely offset the cost of a device like an iPad in textbook savings alone.
Before the iPad, the Kindle did have its chance to shine but didn't perform where expected. While it's nice, there were numerous problems in actually getting material on the device, as well as having to deal with problematic input and the slow refresh rate of the e-ink displays (a complaint of mine as well). Hopefully the iPad will meet all of those expectations, but I do expect file transfers to continue to be a problem.
The iPad can certainly address the speed and input issues that students complained about, and offers accessibility features for vision-impaired users. However, the device may suffer from similar problems with loading documents over the air and viewing more than one text at a time. But by combining its speed with the multitasking capabilities that will come in a fall update to iOS 4, the iPad may still prove to be a workable solution.
You can read plenty more about the how the iPad is planning to make a big impact in school via the source links below.