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At the end of March, we started an iPad Pilot for faculty at my university.  We had 20 devices to give out, but ended up having 30 people involved because other faculty and staff who had purchased their own iPads wanted to be a part of the group, too.  Our virtual discussions have been documented at the BCU iPad Pilot Blog, but we also met in person once a week to demonstrate and share apps that we discovered.

At the end of this post I included links to other iPad pilots from a variety of universities.  Each one is a little different, from who is included, how much training they received, to how much freedom the participants have with their devices.  In our iPad Pilot, the participants used their own iTunes accounts and synced to their own computers so they could add whatever apps or content they wished.  Pilot members were given a small iTunes gift card to help them get started with apps.

The first three weekly meetings were used as training sessions to get the group acquainted with iTunes, the App Store, the iPad, and set up access to their campus mail and calendars.  You can see very brief summary outlines of these sessions under the Training link on the Pilot Blog.

What would I do differently if I could do it over?  The biggest change I would make is in the assessment department — I wish there had been time to create some sort of “Before and After” survey instrument to give participants before the Pilot started and then again six weeks later when the Pilot ended for the summer.  Without that, the only real assessment tool we have is the blog, which did have contributions from about 60% of the group, but not consistent information.

The nice surprise benefit of the Pilot was the social interaction and networking that came about thanks to the weekly meetings.  These sessions were casual and open to suggestions from the whole group, which resulted in a lot of peer-to-peer teaching and learning.  Several of the participants have asked for such a group to continue in the Fall, even though the Pilot will be over.

Some outcomes of the Pilot:  lots of local media coverage for the university, classroom ideas for the iPads from several faculty members involved, more e-textbooks are being considered for upcoming classes, video interviews with Pilot members were shown to the university’s Board of Trustees, and many of the Pilot members will be involved in leading a professional development workshop for faculty at the end of the summer.  Given the very limited time, planning, and resources we had to put the Pilot together, I consider it a wonderful success.

My only advice for other universities or institutions considering a similar program would be:

1. Don’t underestimate the need for some training.  Basic tips and tricks can go a long way toward alleviating early frustration with this new device, especially for users who have no experience with the iOS interface.

2. Find at least 3 to 4 different ways to evaluate or document the progress and accomplishments of the Pilot participants, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.  Our main goal when we started the Pilot was to give faculty exposure to the iPad in order to start finding ways to implement it in the classroom, but we only have anecdotal information to show how things went.  I would suggest having some more concrete objectives in mind, if you can.

Have you started something similar?  I would love to hear about it in the comments or by email.  Thank you!

Some Helpful Resources: 

Apple AcademiX Webinar:  http://education.apple.com/academix/ 

Lafayette College – http://sites.lafayette.edu/ipad/

I especially like the assignments under “Pilot Tasks”

Reed College – iPad Pilot Overview     http://www.reed.edu/cis/about/ipad_pilot/index.html

Oberlin College iPad Pilot    https://sites.google.com/a/oberlin.edu/ipad-pilot-program/

Oberlin iPad Pilot Blog     http://octet1.csr.oberlin.edu/wp/ipad/

Trinity College     http://ipadpilot.wordpress.com/

Mobile Educause – Seton Hill University     http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume46/iMobilePerspectivesOniPadsibrW/226163

Faculty iPad Study at North Carolina State University — with individual blog posts from the participants: