University staff on Monday explained to JSU trustees a program, expected to launch in the fall semester of 2015, that would see the university provide Apple iPads to all incoming freshmen.
Officials said they did not know how much the program will cost or how the program would be funded, but said the university would provide the devices at no cost to students, perhaps through scholarships.
"iPads are part of the plan, and they're still working on the funding," said Patty Hobbs, a spokeswoman for the university.
The officials said the technology plan is part of an effort to improve students’ critical-thinking skills. The iPads, the theory goes, would become the main disseminators of information, freeing professors and instructors to help students learn to evaluate and apply knowledge to real-world situations, according to Gena Christopher, a JSU English instructor who helped develop the plan.
"For us to be able to have the same device for every student, and for every student to be able to come into college with all the technology they need for these classes is an exciting thing," Christopher said. "It's very important to us."
Christopher and Mark Camp, a distance education specialist at JSU, are co-chairing the university's 30-member Quality Enhancement Plan Committee. The five-year plan they are developing is one factor that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will consider when it evaluates JSU this spring. The association is an accrediting body that evaluates JSU and other universities every 10 years.
Camp presented the plan to the trustees Monday. He said it's important to recognize that the devices are only one part of the plan.
"It's more the worm on the end of the hook," Camp said. "When all is said and done the iPads in the classroom don't mean squat if we don't have proper use of the technology."
To that end, the plan calls for 20 faculty members to receive a year’s worth of weekly training sessions on how to use the new technology in their classrooms.
"We're asking the teachers to use a lot of different newer methodologies," Christopher said.
She said instructors may use the iPads to develop their own textbooks and educational videos. In some cases, students wouldn't need to bring anything other than their iPads to class and wouldn't have to pay for books.
Camp said many students are coming to JSU from schools already using such technology and the techniques built on it.
"We don't want students to feel like they've dropped back a decade in technology just because they've come to college at JSU," Camp said.
In other business at Monday’s meeting of the trustees:
- Alicia Simmons, executive director of JSU’s office of planning and research, announced the university has received an $11.6 million federal grant to build a program that will teach regional universities how to train teachers to use technology in their classrooms.
- John Hammett, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, told trustees the university is working with the Florida-based Andrews Research and Education Institute to begin offering classes on sports-injury prevention.
- Charles Lewis, vice president for university advancement, presented an update on JSU’s capital campaign. Trustees in April approved a list of projects totaling $35.1 million they’d like to pay for with donations through the campaign. Lewis told the trustees Monday that the university has received $7 million through the fundraising effort, which is still in the early stages.
- Approved a non-binding agreement with Adventure Ride Systems & Concepts to explore the possibility of building an "educational zip line" system at JSU’s Little River Canyon Center near Fort Payne.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.