Apple cornering the market on campus technology

Apple’s educational potential hasn’t been lost on the campus community.

The past 10 years have been somewhat of a renaissance period for Apple. After starting the new millennium as a niche player with a small assembly of loyal fans, the tech giant has now emerged as a leading name in both personal and professional computing. And as a recent infographic from Open Colleges recently reminded us, there are some segments in which Apple has already established a sizeable lead over the competition.

Captivating students
Apple MacBooks, iPhones and iPads are consistently finding a home for themselves at college campuses around the world. Not surprisingly, the brand’s fierce popularity among the younger demographic is fueling this fire. According to Open Colleges analysts, 40 percent of smartphone-owning college students are now holding iPhones. However, these pocket-sized gadgets are actually just a gateway to the greater Apple ecosystem.

Regardless of what patent registrars may say, Apple has been more or less credited with inventing the tablet form factor by the court of public opinion. With the company now achieving an unparalleled level of refinement in its latest versions, Pearson Foundation researchers expect 25 percent of college students to own a tablet by the end of the year – up from just 7 percent in 2011.

Whether it’s reading full-featured digital textbooks or simply achieving lightweight Wi-Fi connectivity between classes, iPads are quickly becoming a fixture on the campus quad. But perhaps more importantly, teachers are beginning to actually welcome their presence in the lecture hall as well.

Empowering teachers
While some students may find their iPads under the Christmas tree in a few weeks, a fair amount of college tablet use will be subsidized by schools. According to Open Colleges, the demand for iPads in the education sector is now officially double that of MacBooks. In fact, of the approximately 17 million sold this year, 1 million iPads were purchased by educational institutions.

What teachers are finding, according to analysts, is stronger support and motivation for outside-of-the-box lesson plans. The tablets have been particularly attractive to the creative corners of campus, facilitating everything from music composition to architectural design. But a number of applications, such as remote-controlled presentations or digital whiteboard collaboration, seem to transcend across all academic disciplines.

Finally, iTunes U is proving to be a vital educational asset for professors. According to Open Colleges, the platform could see as many as 700 million text, audio and video resources downloaded in 2012.

Miami University became the latest satisfied subscriber earlier in the month, opening the doors to a massive campus network for storing and sharing educational content. Foreign language instructor David Motta is already leveraging the platform to unlock new possibilities.

“[Students] were learning all of these nuts and bolts about sounds but they didn’t have any way of actually putting it into practice,” Motta told the Miami Student. “It was a really great way for my students to go in, record themselves and then drop it in my iTunes U course.”

Innovating responsibly
While this eager adoption of classroom technology is both exciting and encouraging, it must be done in a responsible manner.

First and foremost, professors and administrators must ensure that there is a clear use case before welcoming new gadgets and applications onto their networks or into their classrooms. As any lecturer will tell you, it’s no easy task holding the attention of millennials. To make sure technologies are applied to the extension – rather than distraction – of the learning process, tying devices into a central classroom management software platform may be a good idea.

Campus officials may also want to keep an eye out for emerging pilot programs and case studies coming out of other institutions. Particularly in the case of technology that evolves as quickly as tablets, any extra insights on procurement, protection and implementation could be invaluable.

Is Apple’s dominance of the education sector a good thing or bad thing for teachers and students? If the current pace of innovation keeps up, what might the college classroom look like in five years? How about 15? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.