IKnow Initiative: Freed-Hardeman Announces Partnership With Apple, Inc.

<ed.note>I was encouraged to see that the new prez, Joe Wiley, at FHU, where I did my undergrade work, is a techie. ( Abilene Christian, where I did my grad, is also mentioned. ) This article was in the latest "Alumnogram".</ed.note>

Freed-Hardeman President Joe Wiley has only been in office for a week, but he is already among the driving forces of Freed-Hardeman’s biggest technology announcement in its history.

Effective by the fall 2008 semester, Freed-Hardeman will give all students an opportunity to have an Apple MacBook and an iPhone or iPod Touch. Freed-Hardeman becomes one of three universities in the nation to combine the MacBook and iPhone/iPod as part of its academic curriculum. But according to FHU administrators, this is not about the equipment; it’s about the overall campus experience.

It’s about the FHU experience

“I have always tried to look at new, innovative ways of learning,” said Wiley. “I am a big believer in using technology to enhance learning.”

Following the traditional Apple products’ names, the university decided to call the program iKnow, releasing videos to the students on Friday in chapel similar to the Apple advertisements.

iKnow, which will cost students the equivalent of one additional hour per semester, has been in the works for about three years, according to FHU’s Chief Information Officer, John Bentley.

“We’ve been researching different solutions/programs for the last three years. We got serious about implementation for the fall semester when we saw that Apple was releasing their iPhone SDK and support for Exchange this past spring,” said Bentley.

With a post-doctoral fellowship in computer science, Wiley believed the program was an obvious choice.

“It isn’t something that I made up when I came here. IT has been working on it for a long time. The program is very well-thought-out,” Wiley said.

The program was designed to improve the students’ academic, social and spiritual experience while they are on campus. In an annual survey conducted by the university, the satisfaction for student technology had fallen over the past year. To improve satisfaction on campus and meet their growing expectations, the program was developed. While this will be a great tool for students, the iKnow initiative will also outfit the faculty of Freed-Hardeman University with the tools necessary to provide the best academic experience possible. The first year of the program, one quarter of the faculty will also receive MacBooks and the iPhone or iPod Touch.

“I believe this to be a great way to unite our campus community and help our students be competitive,” said Ashlee Hirsh, instructor at Freed-Hardeman University. “More importantly, it will challenge us as faculty to meet students where they already are and push us to provide an education that takes advantage of our students’ ability to multi-task and utilize technology. Beyond that, these tools will allow us to administer paper-less tests, take attendance, survey our classes and things I have yet to even think about. But what I think it will do that sometimes goes overlooked is it will allow us to stay in touch with our students personally, which continues to be a foundation of the Freed-Hardeman University experience.”

“The thought of every student having a laptop with the ability to be on the same level playing field is exciting for me,” said Dr. LeAnn Self-Davis, associate professor in the department of chemistry and engineering sciences. “While we have wonderful computer lab facilities on campus, knowing that I can now, without hesitation, make assignments with a heavy computer requirement makes this program wonderful.

“I think I may be more excited about the iPhone or iPod Touch part of this initiative. I love the idea of being able to survey our students and have instant feedback that will appear on the screen in our classrooms,” said Self-Davis. “When I am teaching a class of 40 to 50 freshmen chemistry students that are shy or intimidated about speaking out, this approach provides a much more interactive environment and provides a way for students to participate and make a difference in the learning processes in each class room.

Why Apple?

In a national survey by Student Monitor’s Lifestyle and Media Study in the fall of 2007, 31 percent of college students believe that Apple has the best laptop computers, compared to only 25 percent who preferred Dell, the next highest vote-getter. In another survey by Lifestyle and Media Study, 49 percent of students said they plan to buy an Apple computer in the next 12 months. Coming in second to Apple was still Dell, with only 11 percent of the votes.

“Going with Apple products seemed to be the best choice to provide the students with a better computer, better support, fewer problems and more peace of mind,” said Bentley. “It’s the technology the students want.”

The Information Technology Department believes the program will improve the student experience, as well as improve their learning outcomes, strengthen relationships and communications while building the university’s academic reputation.

The Specifics

Through iKnow, the students will receive a MacBook laptop computer, a choice between an iPhone or an iPod Touch, a protective computer sleeve, one replacement battery and the Information Technology Department will pre-load Apple’s Leopard operating system as well as Window Vista to meet the needs of every student. The computers will also have Office for Mac (2008) and Microsoft Office (2007). Each student will be given upgrades and additional software throughout his or her time at FHU. Upon graduation, they will receive CDs or DVDs of the current operating system and the current versions of Office. The students will keep the computer and phone when they graduate. They will also have the option to upgrade the MacBook to a MacBook Pro for a one-time additional $795.

“Research of traditional programs shows that there is a gap between providing technology and improving student learning outcomes,” said Bentley. “That is a gap that needs to be bridged.

“Just providing technology changes the way a teacher prepares to teach, but it does not change the way they teach. This program will enable FHU to do the research and provide the tools and the training necessary to enable teachers to fundamentally change the way they teach,” he said.

As the university continues to develop the iKnow program, they will work toward using it for social clubs, intramurals, library searches and a way to schedule and register for classes. They will try to develop applications to enhance security, admissions, advancement and IT’s help desk. They also plan to integrate with iTunesU.

Fifty percent of Freed-Hardeman’s students already have AT&T, the network provider for the iPhone, so students who do not have AT&T will be able to have an iPod Touch instead, which does not require a cellular network. The programs will cost incoming freshmen $349 per semester.

“Ninety-six percent of FHU students have cell phones, and the overwhelming majority of students already have cell phones with them in class,” said Bentley. “If those phones were iPhones, we would really have an opportunity to leverage that platform to advance some forward-thinking functionality.”

Current Freed-Hardeman students will have the opportunity to opt-in to the program. For example, students with four semesters left will pay a one-time $951 opt-in fee, then the standard $349 per semester to cover the cost of the computer, phone and all the benefits included through the university. The opt-in price will vary based on each student’s graduation target.

Freed-Hardeman is also having two of its IT workers, Chris Hodges and Eddie Anderson, certified by Apple, giving them access to Apple Support and certifying them to work on the computer on site rather than sending them off to Apple if problems occur.

The university plans to have at least 400 MacBooks ready for the Crow Hop Festival on May 2. The festival, which will feature the Avett Brothers on FHU’s campus, is designed for incoming freshmen to have an opportunity to come on campus for an event just for them. New students who choose to participate in iKnow will sign a contract at the Crow Hop Festival and be permitted to take their new computer home with them.

On Saturday, May 3, current students who choose to opt in will be able to pick up their MacBooks on a first-come, first-served basis. All iPhones/iPod Touches will be distributed at the start of the fall semester.

“This is a program designed to open avenues for the faculty and the students to communicate effectively and that will allow faculty to provide an environment that will benefit the students’ learning experience, and that really is the ultimate goal,” said Wiley.

Freed-Hardeman was able to create the program with the help Oklahoma Christian University, which offers its students MacBooks and will, like FHU, begin providing the iPhone/iTouch option for all this fall. Information was also received from Abilene Christian University who will be implementing a similar program.

For information about this press release, contact Caley Newberry at 731.989.6023 or 731.608.7747.

For information about the iKnow Initiative, please see http://www.fhu.edu/iknow