The University of Texas at  Tyler Magazine - Spring 2011

UT Tyler Arms Students for High-Tech Revolution
New iPad-Assisted Curriculum First of Its Kind in State

UT Tyler students in classroom with iPads

Today’s students are a little different

It is not just a matter of fashion and appearance. More worldly wise than students of the past, today’s high school graduates thrive on communication, information and technology. They have never known a time without cell phones, the Internet and instant access . . . to everything.

And that is exactly what Dr. Ann Beebe, Dr. Hui Wu, Dr. Robert Sterken and other forward-thinking professors at The University of Texas at Tyler are counting on.

In the fall, UT Tyler will launch a brand new program called iPACC—iPad-Assisted Core Curriculum. It is aimed at utilizing mobile technology, or iPads, to improve learning and retention for incoming freshmen. UT Tyler President Rodney H. Mabry issued a challenge in the fall for faculty and staff to use the tools of technology to better reach this generation. 

“We’re serving students who have grown up with technology and use it as a natural way to communicate and learn. We should use more technology because students are immersed in it and expect us to use it. Most important of all, we should use it because it has been shown that students actually learn more,” Dr. Mabry said. 

UT Tyler student with iPad in classroom

UT Tyler has always been on the cutting edge of education through online courses, satellite campuses and podcasting. But information and communications technology is the new buzzword as educators explore new instructional options using mobile learning devices such as smartphones, e-readers, smartbooks, handheld gaming platforms. More and more colleges and universities are pushing the boundaries of traditional educational platforms for a generation of tech babies. And UT Tyler is leading the way. 

“We will be the first in the state and the first in the University of Texas System to use the iPad as a regular part of curriculum courses,” said Dr. Wu, author of the iPACC proposal and professor and chair of the UT Tyler Department of Literature and Languages. 

Dr. Beebe, associate professor and graduate adviser in the UT Tyler Department of Literature and Languages, said, “No one else is doing anything as sweeping as this.”

The iPad caught her attention immediately as a possible learning tool. She began the discussion with administrators and, along with Dr. Sterken, associate professor of political science, participated in a pilot program of the iPad last fall. 

“The iPad really knocks down the walls of the classroom and opens up the classroom to the world,” Dr. Sterken said. “There are a million different ways that students can use the tool to interact and to learn.”

Equipping Students for Achievement 

For Fall 2011, the iPad will facilitate course work in 26 different sections of core curriculum courses at UT Tyler, including freshman composition, literature, foreign languages and philosophy. More than 800 students could be involved in the program. Students will be instructed to purchase an iPad, but they can recoup the cost in books alone within one or two semesters, Dr. Beebe said. 

“This will help show our university as the best value in Texas,’’ Dr. Wu said. “We already have the best faculty teaching at a freshman level. And through the iPACC, textbooks will be cheaper for cost savings.” 

Because iPACC will impact core curriculum across the board, faculty members will be trained in the many benefits of incorporating the iPad technology into course work. These benefits include: 

  • Mobile connection to Blackboard student information modules for discussion, questions and answers, and peer reviews of papers.
  • Study aids for students to improve test results, do research, organize lecture notes and more.
  • Quick and convenient access to podcasts related to class, including UT Tyler’s own Patriot Podcasts.
  • Reduced cost for education through free and half-priced e-textbooks and inexpensive foreign language tutorials. (The iPad enables the user to read more than 200,000 literary books for free and buy electronic textbooks at prices 50 to 60 percent lower than those of the printed version.)
  • Instructors can post quizzes and exams on Blackboard and time them to open when needed.
  • Time management tools.
  • Long-term use for courses throughout higher education.

Successful Test Run

While iPACC is a first for UT Tyler, it is not a shot in the dark. In the fall, Dr. Beebe and Dr. Sterken participated in a pilot program using iPads in one section of their classrooms. A total of 56 students were in the program. They were issued iPads, which they were allowed to keep upon completion of the course.  

“We wanted to make sure the technology fit the goals of the class rather than making the class fit the technology,” Dr. Beebe said. “My goal was to help students become better writers, better critical thinkers and critical researchers. I thought the iPad could really help me enhance that.” 

Dr. Beebe chose to use the iPad for her 8 a.m. freshman composition class. “I got more work out of the students this semester than ever before. They didn’t realize they were doing work sometimes. They were there on time and with their iPad, which meant they had their textbooks and notes,” she said.

Dr. Beebe achieved a 100 percent pass rate in her class. “Over the 20 years that I’ve been teaching first semester college writing at 8 a.m., between four to six students typically withdraw from or fail the course. I think the fact that all of my 24 students passed the course, without the assistance of grade inflation, can be credited, in part, to the integration of the iPad into the course content,” she said. 

UT Tyler professor Dr. Sterken with UT Tyler students using iPadsOne student who was so empowered by the iPad wrote this on the course evaluation, “The iPad never leaves my side . . . and I feel lost if I accidentally leave it at home. It has just about everything I need to accomplish anything at school. All my textbooks are on it, my homework assignments, my teachers’ emails and my notes for class.” 

Another student wrote, “[This semester] the iPad has saved me almost $400 on textbooks as well as on other items such as planners, calculators, etc.” 

Dr. Sterken, who used the iPad pilot in his international organizations class, said technology is just an accepted part of the educational experience now. “I encourage all my students to bring their laptops and iPads to class with them from day one. It’s just what we do now . . . it should be,” he said. In this world of instant information, the iPad is an exceptional tool, he added.

“There are thousands of applications that run in the iPad,” Dr. Sterken said. “They range from course management to very specific learning applications. It is literally a world book with photographs and videos. It’s fantastic . . . an exciting, interactive way to learn.” 

During the pilot, students signed a contract that they had to complete the course with a C or better and have near perfect attendance in order to keep the iPad. “All my students finished successfully,’’ said Dr. Sterken. “The iPad was a great incentive for them. I will continue to use it in my classroom.” 

Leading the Way 

In addition to iPACC, UT Tyler is gaining momentum as a technologically innovative university for other groundbreaking programs. For years, instructors like Dr. Beebe and Dr. Sterken have provided podcast lectures through UT Tyler Patriot Podcasts. 

This year, UT Tyler also began using the Tegrity course capture and delivery software through which faculty can record lectures for students. Tegrity software allows faculty to capture certain lectures right at their desks and put them directly online. Faculty can meet fewer face-to-face classes that ultimately allows them to spend more time helping students individually or answering questions online.

This special technology initiative at UT Tyler, which includes Blackboard course management software and Tegrity, is intended to make the university a leader in the use of technology. The initiative is just one major element of the new Center for Faculty Excellence in Teaching and Learning developed by Dr. Peter Fos, former provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. 

Faculty members are also using the latest technology to explore the use of hybrid courses, which are comprised of about two-thirds traditional, face-to-face lecture and discussion sessions and one-third anytime online instruction.

Through these efforts and iPACC, UT Tyler is creating new, innovative solutions for greater student access, retention and success. Administrators say they will continue to look for new ways to connect with today’s digital generation.


Special Section: UT Tyler Arms Students for High-Tech Revolution


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 Last Published 5/3/11