For students in the NYU Stern School of Business, beginning each semester by buying or printing course packs was a frustrating and inconvenient process. Accordingly, when the Stern Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) announced a pilot project to provide digital course packs at the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester, it was met with great interest.
Though many predicted a paperless age with the proliferation of computers, that promise has remained largely unrealized. However, with recent developments in mobile device and tablet technologies that enhance portability and improve interactivity with digital documents, the idea may at long last be nearing fruition.
Portable devices for reading documents, such as Amazon’s Kindle, have been on the market for several years. But, until recently, they lacked the power and functionality (such as annotating, note-taking, highlighting, and bookmarking) to make them a practical vehicle for delivering paperless course packs. With the release of the first iPad in the spring of 2010, however, Stern’s Assistant Director of Educational Technology, Maya Georgina, recalls assessing that the device was ready for prime time.
The more interesting evaluation, though, was how best to combine that functionality and mobility with the availability of high-value business content to support and contribute to the student learning experience. Within weeks of the original iPad release, Georgina reached out to long-time Stern partner, XanEdu, to discuss offering the MBA coursepacks on the iPad. In response to XanEdu’s enthusiasm, Stern MBA student interest, and feedback from NYU faculty, the CITL then launched the MBA iPad Pilot in August 2010.
As expressed by Stern’s Chief Information Officer at the time, Anand Padmanabhan, "Our goal at NYU Stern is to stay ahead of the technology curve. In reviewing all of the alternatives, we found XanEdu's solution and methodology to be the most comprehensive" [source]. XanEdu is a company that specializes in publishing academic materials in digital format. Using their CoursePack software, XanEdu produced 48 different digital course packs and made them available for purchase through the NYU Bookstore for the Fall 2010 semester.
In order to take part in the pilot, Stern students had to be enrolled in a participating course, purchase the XanEdu materials from the NYU Bookstore, own one of the required devices (iPad, iPhone, or iTouch), and have access to iTunes and the iBooks app. Ultimately, 150 students and 34 faculty members participated in the pilot. 76 MBA classes—about one third of the MBA classes offered—used the digitally published course packs.
Pilot participants partnered with XanEdu to co-develop the initial feature set of the iPad app, with MBA students proposing several key features, such as the ability to collaborate with team members and export and import team members’ notes. The XanEdu app was released for the Spring 2011 semester, empowering students to do more than just read course materials on a portable device; they were able to take digital notes, highlight text, and organize content. Notes and highlights could then be searched and shared with peers, allowing for a truly interactive experience. By the end of the semester, the CITL had created surveys, conducted one-on-one interviews, and established focus groups to gauge student and faculty reaction to the pilot. The response was overwhelmingly positive: 98 percent of surveyed participants recommended that the program continue.
Users particularly enjoyed the convenience and portability of accessing the digital course packs on their devices, which they found superior to lugging around printed pages or using a traditional computer monitor for viewing. The program was also hailed as a “green” solution, having eliminated the need for printed course packs. In addition, XanEdu used the Stern participants’ valuable feedback to implement a variety of improvements to the app for subsequent releases.
News of the success of the pilot quickly made its way outside of Stern. Much media attention was given to the project, including coverage in Bloomberg Businessweek. More recently, the project was recognized with the Campus Technology Innovator Award for our collaboration on designing a student-centered iPad App. Campus Technology annually recognizes visionary projects in the Teaching and Learning category for pioneering learning design/instructional design; immersive technologies; social software, Web 2.0 and mobile learning.
During the Fall 2011 semester, all Stern MBA courses that used a coursepack were offered the option to use the XanEdu App, including courses in the EMBA program and several undergraduate courses. Version 2.5 of the XandEdu app was just released, and some options to download content to Android devices are now available. The CITL is continuing to work with XanEdu to expand the materials offered, and to stay abreast of tablet technology and other innovations to help provide convenient and productive tools for Stern students and faculty.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Maya Georgieva is the Assistant Director of Educational Technology at NYU Stern, where she led the iPad pilot in partnership with XanEdu Publishing and has spearheaded a variety of innovations in instructional technology, learning space design, blended learning, assessment and faculty development.
Mark Macmurdo is a member of the Publications and Communications group at NYU Information Technology Services.