iPad Study Results

Study Overview

In August 2010, Pepperdine University launched a three-term study to assess the iPad's potential in the education sector. The fall 2010 and spring 2011 academic terms were used for exploratory research to inform an experimental research design. An experimental research design was used in fall 2011 to assess the iPad's potential to enhance student learning outcomes.

Throughout each term, this study compared technology use and engagement for students in two sections of the same course; one section was loaned iPads and while the other section used various computing devices. Undergraduate and graduate courses were included in the study as well a variety of disciplines including religion, math, business, law, and health.

Data was collected throughout each term with pre and post-term student surveys, classroom observations, and focus groups for every iPad and non-iPad course section. The research team also conducted interviews with each participating faculty member after the term to collect anecdotal information to qualify the quantitative results.

Key Findings from the Fall 2010 Term

How helpful was the iPad for sharing information with others in class?

Across all three of our fall 2010 iPad classes, nearly 75 percent of all students said that the iPad was very helpful or slightly helpful for sharing information with others in class. During focus groups, students in the iPad class confirmed these data points with comments like: "We'll try to help each other to make sure we're all at the same page." and "You're more likely to help each other when it's portable and you can see what each other is doing." During classroom observations, the research team saw students sharing images, reference content (from apps and the Internet), and notes they took in class.

What is the value of the iPad?

One of the questions the research team asked itself was simply, "What is special about the iPad in education in relation to changes in technology?" The simple answer to this question is that the iPad can do everything. It is not just a clicker or an e-reader. The iPad has the capacity to be a communication, productivity, and gaming device all in one convenient, mobile platform.

What is the iPad's purpose?

Unlike other technologies that have been introduced to the classroom environment, the iPad does not have a specific purpose until the faculty member gives it purpose. When laptops entered the classroom they were known for being productivity tools. Computers were first introduced for business purposes and that reputation still carries through to their use in today's classroom setting. The iPad had no such reputation to give it purpose. The research team found that purchasing productivity apps such as Pages and Numbers are not helpful to most students until a faculty member encourages or guides the use of these apps, thereby turning them into learning tools. Gaming apps, such as Hotel Tycoon, have the ability to be learning tools from the start, but the learning must be informed by classroom instruction and reflected upon by the student after the game is used.

Key Findings from the Spring 2011 Term

Our findings from the spring 2011 term centered on three topics: support, compatibility, and integration.


What works? What doesn't? Why Evidence
Student peer pressure
Faculty require students to use apps (must be used on a test, homework assignment is to learn to use the app)
Faculty encourage use of apps
Apps can be used for homework
Most students will not take time to learn something new unless they have to - Classroom observations
- Focus group feedback from students:
"iPad was not used enough in our class." - iPad class student
"It was our option to use it for note-taking, the professor never used it with us." - iPad class student
- Quantitative data from end-of-term surveys
Faculty member knows the apps well, encourages students to teach each other with class activities Faculty member does not know how to use the apps they require students to use for their course If a faculty member is frustrated with an app, most students won't even bother trying to use it, especially if they can learn the material elsewhere - Focus group feedback from students:
"Because there was no training on the apps I had to fend for myself and was confused much of the time. The professor was unable to help as they were just as confused. The iPad was ineffective because no one knew how to use the apps." - iPad class student
"You're more likely to help each other when it's portable and you can see what each other is doing." - iPad class student
- Quantitative data from end-of-term surveys
Encourage use of the iPad with everyday apps for note taking, email, PDF, e-readers, etc. Ease students into using the device. Jumping right into complex app use or assignments when students are not comfortable with the iPad. There is a learning curve to using the iPad. - Focus group feedback from students:
"I just finished the news brief in Keynote. It took longer than I expected. Keynote is not hard to use, but takes awhile to get use to just like using any new program." - iPad class student


What works? What doesn't? Why Evidence
Choosing the right app for the teaching style for a specific learning objective Choosing apps without considering teaching style Faculty know how they like to teach content. No matter how cool the app is, it must fit with their teaching style or they need to acknowledge that they need to change their teaching style, to make it work for their class. - Post-term interviews with faculty members
- Classroom observations
Having/creating iPad-friendly course materials Using course materials that are not iPad-friendly (java, Windows-base applications, video incompatibility) Students become very frustrated and see using the iPad as a hassle and hindrance to learning - Focus group feedback from students:
"iPad was effective for notes, journals, and presentations. But ineffective for many class assignments as they require java." - iPad class student


What works? What doesn't? Why Evidence
Integrating the apps into the course curriculum, attaching them to specific learning outcomes, using them purposefully Apps are somewhat relevant, but students are not sure why they are using them or what they should get out of using them Students are paying to learn, not to use interesting apps - Focus group feedback from students:
"I think we were never properly taught to use the iPad to improve our learning." - iPad class student
"iPad was used ineffectively due to lack of services including video, scripts, and java. It was not used for class. Just entertainment and reading." - iPad class student

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