A revolution is underway at Jacksonville State University.
Because of the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a proposed course of action would put iPads in the hands of freshmen for the 2015-16 school year.
“The QEP is something we have to do,” says university President Dr. William Meehan. “It’s part of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges requirement that when an institution is reaffirmed for its accreditation that it must have a long-term plan, approximately five years, of enhancing the university’s interaction with the students and faculty in some way.”
The recently proposed QEP focuses on technology. The plan would be for freshmen students to receive an iPad from the university when they go to the school to have their student I.D. made. The iPad would come loaded with that freshmen class’ summer reading book on it. The summer reading book is incorporated into the course of freshmen English classes each fall semester.
Meehan says that there is an educational shift in which the focus moves from the lecturer to the learner.
“When I was teaching in the Biology department in the ‘70s and I walked into the classroom, I held all the knowledge,” Meehan says. “Everything that I was going to impart about human anatomy or physiology or general biology, I gave it out. Today as a faculty member, I would just direct that. It’s like going from the Ptolemy theory to the Copernican theory. The student’s now the center of our learning universe.”
Meehan says that all faculty members will be encouraged by the university to incorporate technology into their classes, but the decision is up to the teachers as to what extent they do so.
Although Meehan says that the cost of supplying students with the tablets will cost the school around one million dollars each year, the university would like to give the iPads to the freshmen at no additional cost to them. The exception would be if students are required to purchase Apple Care insurance.
“There will be a variety of ways that we can pay for it,” Meehan says. “It will be part of what you’re already starting to pay in a student fee. There’s a technology portion of that. Many corporations will donate for this. We’ve gotten an eleven-and-a-half million dollar grant already from the government to help assist with that type of thing.”
Over the course of the 2014-15 school year, faculty will be able to train on new technology and restructure their classes to incorporate it. Meehan says that faculty members will be able to meet with their peers for mentoring and helping each other with the new system.
“Faculty love learning,” he says. “This is just a new way to learn. It doesn’t mean it’s totally better the new way; it’s just a different way to engage today’s students.”