Northwest will try out tablets [St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.]
(St. Joseph News-Press (MO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 20--MARYVILLE, Mo. -- A school with a history of providing students with the latest technology has begun preparations for the next leap forward.
Northwest Missouri State University began a pilot program this year for a small group of students who will use tablet computers for everyday coursework.
The university currently issues every student a laptop computer. With the contract with its laptop provider set to expire at the end of the school year, the university's Board of Regents heard a briefing Friday on a pilot program to try out new technology.
Members of the student senate, freshman honors students and a handful of others will use tablets this school year, to evaluate the pros and cons of making the switch from laptops. Students will use HP Elitepads, which come with a protective sleeve and keyboard attachment.
Dr. Roger Von Holzen, vice president of information technology for Northwest, said the keyboard provided a key advantage over the popular iPad.
"The problem with an iPad is you can't write a research paper on it," Dr. Von Holzen said. "We had to have something students could use to write a paper."
Student Senate President Cody Uhing has used the tablet since August. He said he was able to perform all work he previously did on a laptop, with the smaller size and decreased weight of the tablet providing an added benefit. Even so, he acknowledged an adjustment process.
"I know some students find it a little difficult to get used to the smaller keyboard," Mr. Uhing said. "It just takes time."
University President Dr. John Jasinski provided a moment of humor when the regents asked university staff to compare the durability of tablets to laptops. After hearing a vendor had dropped the tablets three to four feet onto concrete with no problem, Dr. Jasinski suggested an additional test.
"Can we just throw it out the window to see?" he joked.
Dr. Von Holzen said the current batch of tablets cost about $750 apiece. However, the cost could drop if the university decided to make a bulk purchase to provide tablets to its entire student body.
After the presentation, Mr. Uhing returned to the front of the room to update the regents on the student senate's business. In the process, he let the board in on a secret that showed students still need the old-fashioned ability to think on their feet, regardless of how advanced their technology may be.
"I came to give a report this morning on tablets, and I forgot the tablet that had all my notes on it," Mr. Uhing said.
The regents will make a decision next spring on whether to switch to tablets starting with the 2014-15 school year.
Clinton Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPThomas.
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