Starting next fall, all new students at Ohio State University will be receiving an iPad Pro, along with an Apple Pencil, a Smart Keyboard, a case, a suite of apps, and Apple Care+.
Ohio State told Mashable that the iPads will be completely free for students — the cost will not be rolled into tuition or fees. Apple is offering the university a discounted rate for the iPads, but the parties are “still finalizing terms.” The university valued the deal at over $10 million.
The free swag is part of a “digital learning initiative” that OSU has implemented through a collaboration with Apple. The university claims that many faculty already integrate iPads into their courses, and that the initiative will grant them greater ability to do so.
OSU is also committed to establishing an iOS design laboratory, where students will learn Swift, Apple’s programming language, and be encouraged to develop apps for iOS.
The OSU initiative is just the latest step in Apple’s extended push for iOS development education. Over the past few years, Apple has provided coding curricula to a number of state and community colleges, and a few high schools. It also released Swift Playgrounds in early June, an app that teaches Swift through games and puzzles.
But while iPad Pros may be shiny and cool, this unique collaboration between a tech giant and a state university begs a number of questions. Most pertinently: Why?
While there’s no questioning the fact that technology is important in today’s workforce, the examples of classroom iPad use cases provided by OSU (such as watching lectures online, publishing iTunes U courses, reading online textbooks, and taking digital notes) are all tasks that could presumably be accomplished just as well on the $250-cheaper iPad Mini or, let’s be honest, a computer in the library.
So why the iPad Pro specifically? “The particular model and package is similar to the ones already successfully in use, and were identified by or[sic] team as the ideal system for our educational goals,” OSU said.
In short: because OSU officials said so.
While many types of smart device sales are surging, with tablet sales (yes, even iPad sales) low across the board, and it’s unclear whether becoming proficient with the iPad is the best preparation for the modern technological world. And while programming experience certainly won’t hurt students’ job prospects, fluency in the Swift programming language will only help students develop apps for iOS. Spending time learning it will trade off with learning other, more versatile computer programming languages.
And finally: Does anyone actually think students aren’t going to use these to play Candy Crush in the back of lecture? Only time will tell, but we’d bet that addictive (and time-sucking) iOS games will likely make their way onto these free devices.