Home' Campus Technology : June 2014 Contents CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | June 2014
Mobile Dawg has justified itself many times over, accord-
ing to Crain: Last fall's freshman class increased in size by
13 percent from the previous year --- SIU's largest fresh-
man class in 20 years. And fall-to-spring retention of the
freshman class is up 3.6 percent. "That's a huge one-year
jump," said Crain --- although he recognizes that Mobile
Dawg is just one of many efforts to improve SIU's student
An Impact on Learning
Crain advised that any tablet program must be well
thought out and comprehensive in order to impact stu-
"We've studied other programs that provide technology
to students but don't incorporate that technology into a
student's campus life," he said. "This type of project inev-
itably fails." If a school is going to launch a similar program,
Crain cautioned, "Make sure it has a positive impact on
student learning, and thus on the whole university.
"Our goal is to become the first research university to
provide tablet technology and electronic course materials
to all of our undergraduate students," concluded Crain,
who intends to stay well ahead of the curve.
Toni Fuhrman is a writer and creative consultant based in
Enhancing a MOOC
cost-sensitive as possible. "We make it more affordable
by adding small amounts to each fee. It's a combination of
technology surcharge and course fee. The tablet costs the
student as little as $100 to $125 per year, prorated over
a four-year period."
Crain and his team chose the Windows 8 tablets based
on such factors as total cost of ownership (including the
price of the unit and its expected lifespan) and integration
with the university's existing management infrastructure.
The other deciding factor was the ability to run all of the
applications needed, including Flash-based electronic
course materials and Microsoft Office as the productivity
suite. (For more on SIU's choice of tablet OS, see "Can
Windows 8 Play With the Big Boys?")
Preliminary user feedback, however, revealed that most
electronic course materials were not designed for the Lat-
itude 10 touch interface. The university switched to Dell
Venue Pro 11 tablets this spring (distributed to 150--200
new students). The Pro 11 has an optional soft-cover key-
board, and the system is twice as fast as the Latitude 10.
Next fall, SIU plans to distribute the Venue Pro 11 tablet
to all incoming freshmen. The following fall, both freshmen
and transfer students will receive the device.
Now 48 classes, in addition to the foundation courses,
are committed to using electronic course materials for the
next academic year.
additional devices, and has added network redundancy
and additional servers to its infrastructure.
Other challenges centered around SIU's student popula-
tion. "One of our problems was that, as an access univer-
sity, we have a lot of students who come from lower eco-
nomic backgrounds," continued Crain. "We also have a
large percent of students who are first-generation college
students: 45 percent to 47 percent, depending on the
year." Typically, a significant percentage of students could
not afford to purchase course materials until late in the
semester (if at all), which hurt their success rate, as well
as SIU's retention and graduation rates.
As part of the Mobile Dawg initiative, SIU adopted elec-
tronic course materials for freshman-level foundation
courses, paid for by a course fee. "This not only saves
hundreds of dollars for the student," explained Crain, "but
the course fees are included in their financial aid, so they
don't have to pay for the materials out of pocket." This
academic year, the course fees saved $272 per student
for the four foundation courses, which include English,
speech, math and University College 101. "Now," he said,
"on Day 1, students have electronic access, on their tab-
lets, to their course materials for our foundation courses."
Cost has been one of the most challenging factors in
building this program. "We had some reserves available,"
said Crain, but for now the institution is trying to be as
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