The University of Adelaide is ditching paper-based textbooks in favour of iPads and will hand out free devices to students enrolling in a science degree in 2011, claiming the new Apple tablets will revolutionise the way science is taught at the institution.
"I believe this approach will revolutionise the way science is taught at the University of Adelaide. We will be the first university in Australia to teach in this innovative way," Faculty of Sciences Executive Dean, Professor Bob Hill, said in a statement.
"Our teaching material will be more accessible, more relevant and more frequently updated, providing the flexible learning environment that students are looking for."
Hill said it would take several years to phase out all of the printed textbooks the university currently uses and transfer the content to Apple's platform, describing the iPad push as "a long-term initiative".
"By 2012 onwards, we expect to roll out fully online versions of our first-year Science courses. Students enrolling in a Science course in 2011 will be the very first to see the significant benefits of the iPad enhanced curriculum," Hill said.
Hundreds of science students will receive the Apple tablet at the start of 2011. The students will be able to access a variety of online material, ranging from lectures notes to audio, background documents and textbooks, all through "tailored web-based apps" — in addition to student services already available through the MyUni website the institution operates.
Don't think, however, that you'll be able to enrol briefly in a science degree, then quit and take your new iPad home. The iPads will remain the property of the university until 31 March 2011.
"This is the cut-off date for students to decide whether or not they want to continue with their studies. After that date, if the student continues to study science, the ownership of the iPad transfers to the student," the university said. "Students who discontinue their science studies prior to 31 March 2011 will need to return the iPad."
Teaching staff will also be provided with an iPad, but the university stressed students would still be able to complete their degree without one of the Apple devices using their existing laptop. The iPads will be 3G-capable models, but students will need to pay for 3G access if they want to use the functionality.
Educational institutions around Australia are increasingly trialling iPads as enhanced multimedia teaching tools. The Victorian Government, for example has bought 500 iPads and is trialling them in schools throughout the state.