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ODU Distance Learning Offering Courses on iPad

In an effort to marry on-the-go technology with its diverse catalogue of distance learning courses, Old Dominion University is now offering select courses through Apple's iPad.

By this fall, the larger, portable devices will allow students enrolled at ODU through distance learning to have access to just about every course offered remotely by the school. And Miguel Ramlatchan, interim assistant vice president for technology in the office of distance learning, said that could be the start of a revolution of how distance learning courses are made available to students.

"Portability is such a plus when you're talking about distance learning," Ramlatchan said. "We are pushing the envelope with what these devices can do. Our faculty on campus are very high on the idea of video conferencing. That's what we'd like to offer with these devices … the ability to have a true, two-way distance learning experience."

That will require the new iPad technology, which features cameras on the same side of the device as the screen, something planned with Apple's next generation device. Ramlatchan said distance learning staff will experiment this summer with a tablet PC called the Archos 9, and work to integrate it with the school's existing Polycom video conferencing and Acrobat Connect web conferencing systems.

Ramlatchan said students and faculty members who are using the services are giving very positive feedback. The move to Apple portable devices started last winter, when select courses were offered through Apple's iPhone.

Other schools have university lectures available on iTunes, but Ramlatchan said ODU prefers to use the iPhone (and now iPad) because of concerns of the proprietary nature of some of the lectures being downloaded.

However, plans are being worked on to extend the technology to other mobile devices.

With the iPad interface, students can view the lectures anywhere there's Internet service, stopping and starting them at their convenience. Ten minutes on a bus? Why not watch some of that physics lecture?

The move to iPad offers, obviously, a larger screen so students can better see overhead slides and details being written on the board. Ramlatchan said the sound from the iPad's speakers is also better than the iPhone's. "It makes it that much more effective for our adult learners," Ramlatchan said.

Currently, there are 39 summer classes being offered on iPad, representing every one of ODU's colleges. That's about 30 percent of the distance learning courses offered at ODU. A total of 277 students are enrolled in these classes.

By the fall, ATS will offer it as an option for all 200-plus distance learning courses available at ODU.

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick said the move to Apple's mobile technology makes sense because of how far flung, and busy in the military and other areas of service, that ODU students are.

"Our students are around the world, living their lives in many interesting and accomplished ways. Any way we can provide access to our diverse, innovative, real world courses to these students is really win-win," Broderick said.

This article was posted on: July 9, 2010

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