UWS students to get iPads

About 11,000 iPads will be given away to staff and new students by the University of Western Sydney in the coming weeks — but not everyone is happy about it.

Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, the vice-chancellor in education, said the giveaway was part of a $35 million IT program at the university.

‘‘The iPad will be a way for students to access more online and web-streamed material from wherever they are, but then attend class for high value-added interactive and face-to-face learning,’’ she said. 

‘‘This strategy also helps to prepare our students with skills for the workforce. 

‘‘The use of mobile devices like iPads is integral to the skill set that graduates need.’’

About 9500 of the tablets will be distributed to in-coming first-year students and another 1500 will be provided to academic staff.

Professor Krause said the university was committed to the program for the next two years before it would assess its future.

Uses for the technology would continue to evolve, she said, as staff developed new ways to deliver their courses.

First-year business and law student Carli Heald, 18, said news of the iPad hand outs was ‘‘a bit of a surprise, and very generous’’, when she was offered a place at UWS.

''I think it will allow me to be more mobile with my studies,'' she said.

''This is leading-edge technology; I think it will definitely put me ahead of a lot of other students.''

But not everyone is happy about the iPad program. 

The 16GB iPads with retina display retail for $539 but current students will receive a $50 subsidy on textbooks.

On the Student Representative Council’s Facebook page, Rhiannon Storm said: ‘‘why would they be giving away 11,000 iPads when students that have been here longer only receive a book voucher worth less than half the price? Not a good way to start the second year of my degree!’’

The university has also been criticised by a teachers union for introducing the expensive program when it has just cut staff and courses. 

Dozens of courses have been cut from the university, including those in the bachelors of arts, communications and economics programs after a drop in the number of enrolments. 

On the academic website The Conversation, National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Genevieve Kelly said the university should reverse its plans to cut courses.

‘‘Technology, however trendy, is nothing without content,’’ she said in reference to the course cuts.

Others have commented that it could be more cost-efficient for the university to purchase a variety of tablets other than the Apple product.

‘‘Why an iPad?,’’ reader Dale Bloom asked. ‘‘They are almost double the price of other tablets now available, and someone is basically paying for the name by buying an iPad.

‘‘Android now has almost 300,000 apps available and Android requires less proprietary programming than iPad.’’

Professor Krause answered the criticism citing data collected by the university.

She said 80 per cent of students who logged in to the university’s e-learning site used an Apple device.

In a survey 45 per cent of students said they would like to use an iPad or tablet device for learning.

‘‘All the evidence confirms that the iPad initiative is far from being a superfluous program.

‘‘Rather, it confirms that this important investment in technology as part of the university’s broader, longer-term blended learning strategy over the next four years is paramount to the student experience.’’

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