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An Inside Look at Student Experiences with iFisher

October 15, 2021

Beginning this fall, all undergraduate students received their own iPad, keyboard case, and Apple Pencil as part of iFisher: Next Generation Learning Initiative, stemming from the College’s commitment to providing students with transformative experiences designed to help them achieve their educational goals and early career outcomes.

A student uses an iPad.

The initiative aims to provide all students with access to high quality and multimedia technology, resulting in a more collaborative learning experience. The access to iPads also benefits the campus sustainability goals of reducing paper usage on campus.

Dr. Michael Boller, associate professor and program director for sustainability, said his students use their iPads in the classroom for group work. He has had students work in Jamboard, Keynote, and Numbers to collaboratively create documents in small groups and then easily share with the class. Additionally, one of his classes began a project specifically designed to take advantage of the iPads. Students have the option of creating videos, podcasts, animations, or other products using the devices. “They are all addressing a common question but have the freedom to bring in their tech skills or try something new and expand their skill set,” said Boller.

Katie Sabourin, director of the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence, said that collaboration and ease of sharing is one of the goals of the iFisher initiative.

“The idea that all students have access to the same hardware and software, and faculty have access to the same technology as well, means we can develop really interesting and engaging activities in courses that utilize these tools to their fullest potential,” Sabourin said.

She also praised the faculty and staff who volunteered their time to make the deployment of 2,500 iPads and accessories a smooth process for students. When she walks by a classroom full of students using the technology she sees another of the Center’s goals in action.

“Graduates will leave Fisher not only being confident in their use of the tools, but also responsible users of technology as they go out into the community,” she said.

Now one month into their first semester with the iPads, current students are finding the technology to be an essential part of their daily classroom activities.  Madison Rooksby, a junior marketing major and professional sales minor, said she uses her iPad in every class. She uses it to take notes, take tests online, and complete her homework. She loves being able to keep all of her school-related content in one place, especially now that a majority of the content is digital.

Freshman finance and accounting dual major Dylan Stoller says his favorite thing about having the iPad is that he can download all of his professors’ slideshows on to Notability and follow along, highlighting and taking notes while they lecture. Stoller feels like the iPads add a significant benefit to his learning experience for his first year. “The utility of the iPads is extremely useful in and out of the classroom for work,” he said.

In addition, the iPads have proven useful across classroom settings and majors. Early childhood education major and sophomore Haley Dinolfo said she has replaced her laptop almost completely with her iPad. While a laptop can be preferred when it comes to typing longer pieces like essays, the iPads have replaced traditional notetaking for many students. This results in less things to carry and a reduction in paper usage.

“I used to use a notebook to take notes, however my iPad has taken over that responsibility, more specifically, Notability. I do not think that I need my laptop anymore, although it is still useful in some cases,” Dinolfo said, also mentioning that the lightweight nature of the iPad makes carrying a backpack much easier.  

Thomas Minehan, junior biology and sustainability dual major and women and gender studies minor, found the iPad helped him acclimate to a new class.

“I walked to a class I had just registered for before I was added to the BlackBoard course. I turned and told the person behind me what my iPad’s name was and asked if they could airdrop the syllabus,” he said. “The whole process took 15 seconds and made my transition into this new class incredibly easy.”

Minehan also mentioned how simple it is in the classroom when it comes to working together in groups and being able to share documents across the various applications. “In terms of classroom experience, the uniformity is really where the iPads are exceptionally useful. Working collaboratively with other students has never been easier,” he said.

This article was written by Leslie Noble ’21, a marketing major and PR Writing Intern with the Office of Marketing and Communications.