Four months after Apple Inc., announced its initiative into interactive electronic textbooks on iTunes,
Ohio State is working in collaboration with Apple, using its iTunes and iPad technology to enhance
learning and teaching through digital outlets.
OSU’s plan, called Digital First, will integrate modern and new technology to promote interactive digital
learning in and out of the classrooms. Professors and students can access lectures, notes, quizzes, and
practice problems through Ohio State’s iTunes U page to assist class dialogue.
“By all indications, the modes of learning in higher education continue to evolve,” President E. Gordon
Gee said in a press release. “In order to prepare our students for a fully wired digital world, we must
integrate leading-edge technologies throughout our college campus- from the classroom to the
operating room. To be sure, it is our obligation to remain relevant.”
Digital First began its formation with the university’s decision to switch from quarters to semesters. The
university will implement the two-year plan starting July 1 in conjunction with the semester switch by
beginning to upgrade classroom equipment and expanding wireless access points around campus, Mike
Hofherr, senior director of learning technology at OSU, said.
“To enable the success of this program, we need to make upgrades to the infrastructure to this campus
as well and this program includes the upgrade necessary to ensure success,” Hofherr said. “So we will be
expanding the wireless capacity in 75 percent of our teaching space, our top 30 classroom buildings.”
The university will expand the wireless capacity that each student in lecture halls will be capable to
function three mobile devices at maximum performance as opposed to only one. The university will
increase internet access points and access to OSU’s bandwidth, Hofherr said.
In addition to expanding wireless capacity, classroom podiums and equipment will be upgraded,
The Digital First initiative will be funded by Office of Academic Affairs. The university did not release a
budget as to how much these upgrades will cost.
Whereas Digital First is utilizing iPads and Apple products, Hofherr said that the university is not limiting
itself to Apple-only products. iTunes, which is an Apple product, can be accessed through PCs and other
“We know that mobile technologies are not going away and we know that Apple is a leader in those
technologies,” Hofherr said. “What we really wanted to try and do is build a program enhancing our
teaching, learning and research through education opportunities for our faculty, staff, and students.”
Matthew Stoltfus, a chemistry lecturer, has been a leader in utilizing the technology in his class. Stoltfus
posts his lectures on iTunesU and offers the textbook as an eBook. Students can download and access
his class lectures on iTunes. Stoltfus also utilizes PollEverywhre, a program where students can text, visit
a website, or use Twitter to answer class lecture questions and participate in class without additional
cost to the student.
Despite the possibility to access lectures and notes on iTunes outside of class, Stoltfus says attendance
has increased in his class.
“We are using the ‘clicker’ technology, and it is worth part of their grade to use that. I think that is
the main reason why they come,” Stoltfus said. “I am also seeing that rather than sit there and writing
what I write on the board, you are actually working and interacting with your class and trying to solve a
Currently, professors are able to create quizzes and polls and create a dialogue with their students on
Carmen. Digital First will not replace Carmen, but Carmen will become an additional element to the
university’s overall plan, Hofherr said.
Stoltfus believes Carmen is restricting and that Digital First opens up to more access and more
“One of the drawback that I think Carmen has in place is that you can only access course materials if you
are in my course,” Stoltfus said. “One of the exciting parts that I see is that if we deliver content here on
this device then it is available to anyone all over the world, 24 hours a day. So I am not restricting the
content to be available to just my students.”
The university encourages faculty and staff to utilize the technology available on iPads, but the initiative
will be strictly voluntary.
“[Digital First] is in response to President Gee’s challenge to meet students where students live,”
Hofherr said. “That means we need to meet you where you want your education space to be and our
faculty need to rally to that call…We’re in this really cool time in education where there is plenty of
opportunities for faculty to get involved and we need to provide them with the resource they need to do
Other forerunners for the Digital First initiative have been the College of Social Work, the university’s
office of Student-Athlete Support Services, and the Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. College of
Social Work has provided iPads to its faculty and staff to utilize technology in the communities they
serve, and Assistant Provost David Graham at University Office of Student-Athlete Support Services is
developing an iBook so student athletes can access athletic department resources, course materials, and
coursework on mobile devices, according to press release.
Wexner Medical Center is currently piloting a program using iPads to educate clinicals, faculty and
patient care, Hofherr said. In addition, students can listen to lectures by podcasts on their iPod Touch or
Many students think that education is moving in technology-advanced direction, yet they are not
necessarily ready to purchase an iPad and use all the available technology.
“I guess it’s a good thing. It is the direction things are going,” Lindsay Wheeler, a fourth-year in
psychology, said. “But what’s the difference than [downloading lectures] and a professor putting slide
up on Carmen?”
Sarah Rhodes, a third-year in environmental policy, agrees that there is a relation between technology
and education, but is hesitant to utilize all of its capabilities. Rhodes does not own an iPad, but does
own a Kindle yet and sometimes downloads her textbooks on her Kindle. However, Kindles do not
possess the access to some of Digital First’s capabilities.
“I think it’s cool and it’s the way things are going, but I’m not sure it is for everyone,” Rhodes said. “If I
was starting college, I would probably invest in [an iPad].”
Matt Bear, a fourth-year in computer information science, is indifferent toward OSU’s technology
“Online lectures are OK, but 40 minute-lecture is probably too much,” Bear said. “And iPads are way too
expensive. I would think about buying one if it would save me money later on.”