Trinity iPad trial recommends wider rollout


A detailed report into one of Australia’s first iPad rollouts in an educational setting has recommended the popular Apple tablets be rolled out to all staff and students at a university college, following positive results from a trial involving limited numbers of staff and students.

The trial conducted by University of Melbourne residential college Trinity College over the past six months saw some 44 university students allocated an iPad to assist with their work, as well as several dozen academic staff. At the time, Trinity set up a blog, mailing list and wiki server to foster discussion around the trial, which could foster a wider deployment to some 700 to 800 students if it went well.

The aim of Trinity’s so-called ‘Step Forward’ project was to test the iPads in an educational environment, as well as to evaluate whether a wider deployment would be appropriate. Apple’s tablet was chosen for a number of factors such as educational flexibility, cost, weight, battery life and so on, although a number of other devices such as netbooks, laptops, eBook readers and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet were also tested.

In a report on the trial published on Saturday and available online, the college found that both staff (72.2 percent) and students (80 percent) overwhelmingly recommended the iPad for use by others. “iPads are effective, durable, reliable and achieve their educational aims of going further, faster and with more fun,” the college wrote.

Trinity found through its trial that iPads were not a replacement for desktop or laptop computers — or even other educational technologies — but were an “enhancement”.

The report — which was published under the names of Trinity academic and IT staff Glen Jennings, Trent Anderson, Mark Dorset and Jennifer Mitchell — recommended that iPads be rolled out in 2011 to all staff involved in Trinity’s Foundation Studies course, which prepares overseas students for undergraduate university entry.

In addition, the quartet recommended iPads be rolled out to all staff and students at the college in time for the August 2011 student entry — with the rollout to all students in the Foundation Studies program to take place in 2012. It has previously been reported that this could see some 700-800 students receive iPads.

Such a rollout would mirror a similar initiative by the University of Adelaide, which in September revealed it would give hundreds of students enrolling in a science degree in 2011 iPads, in an attempt to kill off the humble paper textbook.

However, the report wasn’t all praise for the iPad — it also contained a number of recommendations for other institutions looking to follow in Trinity’s footsteps.

For starters, the college noted that high-quality audio-visual equipment such as flat-screen TV monitors and document cameras, along with timely IT support, “are required to enable full integration and best use of the iPads”. “Such equipment and support are crucial if the educational aims of the iPad use are to be realised rather than thwarted,” the college wrote.

Other issue raised by individual educators included the inability to transfer information across applications on the iPad without connecting the device to another computer — which they noted was “a frustrating and unnecessary limit” on the iPad. Complaints about the iPad’s lack of support for Adobe Flash also popped up, and one educator found the iPad’s virtual keyboard too small. The issue of student distraction also came up.

Despite these problems, Trinity’s evaluation found the iPad was currently the “superior” device on the market for this kind of educational use. The college also tested Apple’s iPod Touch and MacBook Air, Dell’s Inspiron Mini 10 laptop, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle Reader, but preferred the iPad over all.

In general, schools and universities right around Australia have jumped headfirst into iPad trials as they rush to discover exactly what the device’s use will be in the educational field, although other sectors such as public health have not been as fast to start trialling the devices.

Image credit: Apple


  1. I have relatives in the education sector who introduced iPads into their classrooms (high school) about six months ago and have said that it’s one of the best things thats ever happened. I wish we had them when I was at school…

  2. Thanks for the article on our Pilot Report. The comments from individual educators and students were reported as received. However, we are aware that it is possible to transfer information across applications without connecting the iPad to another computer – Email, Dropbox and WebDAV being simple examples. Comments are welcome on the blog.

  3. @Jennifer Mitchell:
    Email, Dropbox and WebDAV are all methods of connecting not to one but to a NUMBER OF “another computers” in order to transfer information from one app to another.
    Also, all of those require network/internet support.

    But hey, it is nice to see that the shiny factor is more important in education than the practicality.

    • “But hey, it is nice to see that the shiny factor is more important in education than the practicality.”

      A somewhat inflammatory and inaccurate comment.

      • Aaaaaand it boils down to this:
        “BUT,” I hear the whiny voices already saying, “we can do all that with a laptop”. My answer is, “but why would you choose a laptop when you can use an iPad?”
        So, your reason is “I like it, so it rules” – which is not a valid argument.
        “Why use an X, when you can use Y” never is. What it IS though is an often used phrase in marketing.
        So, your “argument” is basically an advertisement. By you. For the product that you like.

        And then you give us this as an explanation:
        “They’re cheaper to buy, easier to maintain, require less IT intervention, no virus software to update, and can go 3G in a second.”

        I am sorry, but all those points can be compared to a very large quantity of bovine excrement.

        iPads are FAR more expensive than any other even remotely comparable device.
        They are so overpriced that the higher priced ones (64GB $829.00) cost almost the same as Apple’s own laptops (MacBook $999.00) – while having only a fraction of software and hardware capabilities.

        They are easier to maintain only if you consider having to ship it back to the manufacturer for any hardware problem as “easy”.

        Same would go for “require less IT intervention” (unless you considered “maintenance” above as something like cleaning and dusting) had you yourself not mentioned the “ease” of copying information between two applications.
        Which you then explain through the use of entire IT armies and infrastructure spanning continents as “simple”.
        Here’s an analogy… It is about as simple as taking a train from point A to point B instead of walking.
        Very simple if there already is a train line, and a train, and a railroad, and a landmass already in place and if you have access to it.
        VERY HARD and complicated if any of those are missing or if points A and B are comparatively close to each other – like in another room in the same building. Or an app on the same device.

        Here’s a mental exercise… Every time you send an e-mail to yourself think of laying down all the infrastructure in between and how much did it cost to set up and how much it costs to maintain.

        But I guess that since you are wasting money on 3G instead of setting up a local WiFi spot you don’t pay attention to costs anyway.
        Hey… You’re an Apple consumer. You don’t consider cost. You base you purchasing decisions on shiny and Steve Jobs’ image.

        And then you push that wastefulness as a selling point cause it “can go 3G in a second” – which is a rather subjective and a very silly observation.
        It’s like saying that your new (old) rotary phone dials faster cause you have replaced its cord.
        We are talking milliseconds here. Not something you can really feel.
        Or are you actually trying to push “I click on an icon and it connects” as a selling point? In 21st century?

        And the “no virus software to update” is a straw man the size of Canada, considering that there are no viruses or malware built for ANY “pad” device currently in the market.
        Sure, compare it to a decade old laptop running a Windows XP original edition and it is a somewhat valid argument – until you replace the OS with ANY Linux distribution.
        But hey… why go there… It is already comparable in price to Apple laptops. Those don’t need AV software either, right?

        Oh and… One more thing.
        Multitasking. How does it work?

  4. it’s amazing. I heard the whiny voices of teachers complaining about mobile phones in the hands of the kids – but there in the darkness is the LIGHT. A giant mobile phone. An Apple a day. A great educational torch….

  5. @Jennifer Mitchell

    Email, DropBox, etc. all reside on other computers and require a lot of infrastructure and support themselves. The issue here is purely one of device interoperability and an iPad cannot just talk to another iPad, or a network share. You MUST use a third party service (or iTunes on a computer locally) to make that happen, which of course will add to the cost.

    Then there’s the ambiguity of data ownership once you’ve put it in the cloud. It doesn’t seem from your report that this was even considered. Don’t put any research out there, you may not get it back without paying an massive fee for it. Using the cloud is fine for data you don’t care too much about, but data that needs to be protected (proprietary corporate information, research, etc.) will be best kept in your own data centre until these ambiguities are resolved.

    You’re report also says that timely IT support “is required…” Agree, but this will markedly increase IT’s support costs, so I’m curious if you’re increasing IT’s budget to cater for the extra support?

    Then there’s the issue of Apple themselves. iPad 2 has just been released with a couple of “new” features that could easily have been in iPad 1. By the end of this year, iPad 3 will be announced with even more features that should have been in Ipad 1 and you’ll be two versions behind in less than a year. Support for the previous versions will be waning and you’ll be stuck with already out of date technology.

    • Obviously the institution has decided that the cost of everything you mentioned is worth it, for whatever it is they get out of it in return. They’re all valid points, but at the end of the day, an institution like this doesn’t take an everyone-gets-an-iPad decision lightly. People will pay for a Calais even though they have to pay more not just upfront but for insurance, etc than a Barina even though they do basically the same thing. But if they get something out of it – remembering that different people get different things out of the same item and it’s not just about prestige – and it’s worth that money to them then why the hell not. So while everything you say might be true, that doesn’t mean the decision was wrong if it’s worth all that stuff to them.

  6. The iPad might be a handy ,flashy device ,but it is locked into Apple’s commercial system.

    For educational purposes it might be better to embrace a device running on open source software ie Linux or FreeBSD

    Also any Pad should have an SD card type of removable storage.

    The iPad is far to restricted in its usage.

    For a portable device ,personally I stick with a trusty SSD netbook ,running Lubuntu 10.4 ,be it without touch screen capability.

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