UVa-Wise program bears fruit for student/faculty technology use

Mike Still • Jul 12, 2019 at 7:00 PM

WISE — The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is getting ready for a fall crop of Apples.

College officials on Thursday announced innovate2eleVAte, a $1.6 million privately funded project that will issue an Apple iPad to every full-time student, faculty and staff member on campus in August.

“UVA-Wise has many first-generation college students, and more than 85 percent of our students receive financial aid,” Chancellor Donna. P. Henry said Thursday. “As a result, many lack resources to bring laptops and other devices to campus and lack consistent access to technology. Putting an iPad in their hands will help level the playing field and give them a tool for achieving academic success.”

The iPads will include an Apple pencil and smart keyboard along with academic applications, according to college spokesperson Kathy Still. Student, faculty and staff users can also download a variety of other apps, and professors can take advantage of no-cost, open-source textbooks that students can download to cut expenses.

Students who receive the iPads and graduate from UVa-Wise can purchase them for a dollar.

Henry said the iPads could help link students in a broad campus academic environment though group work sessions, cooperative research and improved communication among students and faculty.

Faculty can share information in real-time during classes, Henry said, and the iPads can help with turnaround time in grading assignments.

Part of innovate2eleVAte will be an on-campus Mac lab where students can learn Apple’s programming language, Swift, to learn coding skills and create their own apps, Henry said.

“The possibilities are vast,” Henry said. “We are excited to begin the new academic year, and we look forward to seeing how our faculty will use iPads in the classroom.”

Henry said the iPads can also be used for routine tasks like scheduling and administrative work.

The program is rooted in a 2018 fall semester trial run, during which faculty and staff received 50 iPads to try as an aid to teaching and student interaction. The college got another 30 iPads to supplement the trial, and student teachers from the college’s teacher education program used some iPads in their field work.

“They used iPad for lesson plans, research, grading, and student review,” said Teacher Education Program Chairman Andy Cox. “The iPads were a tremendous benefit. I can’t wait for the program to go campuswide.”

Psychology professor Alexandria Reynolds, who participated in the iPad pilot project, said innovate2eleVAte will level the classroom field and improve technology access for UVa-Wise students.

“It helps open the door to new and useful teaching methods, like easy class polling, apps that help students better visualize and understand complex topics, and allows for more integration and sharing of ideas in a palatable way that students are familiar with technology-wise,” Reynolds said.

College Associate Provost for Information Services Scott Bevins said, “The use of such technology by our students, faculty, and staff creates a more competitive, innovative, and entrepreneurial environment, essential qualities for providing a strong academic experience.”

The $1.6 million i2eleVAte program funding will be paid in installments over the next four years. A portion of the funding will be used to enhance technical support for implementation.

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