Bowdoin to Provide iPads to All Students During Pandemic

By Bowdoin News
In response to the COVID-19 crisis in which Bowdoin College will be conducting nearly all fall semester classes online, the College is committed to providing an excellent digital experience—one that is fully accessible to all students.
iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard
iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard

To ensure this broad accessibility and the equity in the learning process and universal design advocated by the College’s faculty-led Continuity in Teaching and Learning Group (CTLG), Bowdoin will issue fully equipped Apple iPad tablets to each student in the coming weeks.

“This really levels the playing field for the students for whom internet access has been unreliable or non-existent,” says Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Michael Cato.

“This is one example of how Bowdoin can really step into doing online learning well for the fall.”

Students will receive an Apple iPad Pro with available Wi-Fi and cellular data connectivity (activated and covered by the College for those students who have internet connectivity needs), an Apple Pencil 2, and the Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad, which includes a trackpad.

All interested faculty members and the staff who support teaching and learning will receive iPads that use Wi-Fi only to connect to the internet.

Cato says the iPad Pro model was chosen for its overall functionality—coming closest to a laptop experience while including built-in cellular internet for students who need it—and because apps for the iPad are much more universally available.

He also cited the Pro’s superior camera and processing power to support video conferencing, recording, and editing.

Students will have the opportunity to connect to their classes, build community with each other, and run the same apps and software, at the same performance level, and also receive the same support, regardless of their economic situation.

Faculty will be supported in seeking teaching approaches that make use of the iPad platform, including the high-end cameras, microphone, digital ink—technology that digitally represents handwriting in its natural form—and the ecosystem of apps.

The College’s iPad program in support of online learning is the brainchild of the CTLG, whose findings included the recommendation that completing computational problems in chemistry, math, physics, and economics—and teaching languages, especially those that do not utilize the Roman alphabet—in online courses would benefit dramatically were instructors and students to have access to tablet devices.

The plan came to fruition with the help of the Bowdoin Online Learning Team (BOLT), which was formed to develop a framework to support faculty in the design of online courses for the fall semester.

“With support from Apple’s Professional Learning Specialists, BOLT will provide opportunities for faculty in a wide range of fields to explore how the iPad can enhance their online teaching,” says Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Pritchard.

While some students may already have iPads, the intent behind providing the latest model is to ensure consistency of experience, whereby students will have the same access to fall 2020 online classroom activities, some of which will have been designed specifically for this unified platform.

“Bowdoin-issued iPads will be able to run all of the applications the College licenses for this platform without students having to buy them on their own,” says Cato.

Additionally, this latest iPad platform has an array of assistive features to better serve students with vision, hearing, mobility, or learning needs.

Bowdoin will cover the cost of the iPad’s internet service for any student who needs that assistance. The iPads are for each student’s use throughout their time at Bowdoin. If, upon graduation, seniors express a need to retain the devices, they may do so for one dollar but are otherwise encouraged to return them so they may be used by other students who will benefit from them.

Learn more about Bowdoin's iPad Initiative.

Bowdoin in the News

Check out coverage of Bowdoin's iPad program:

WGME/CBS 13 (July 26, 2020)
"Bowdoin College providing iPads to all students"

University Business (July 27, 2020)
"Bowdoin College connects students with iPads, Wi-Fi"