Remember the good old days, when you’d go to your lectures with nothing more than a pad and a pen? Well, those days may be coming to a close now that the University of Notre Dame has launched the first paperless class taught using Apple’s iPad instead of traditional textbooks.

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“This has become known as the iPad class,” Corey Angst, assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame (and a member of Notre Dame’s ePublishing Working Group) said. However there is a reason that students are using the tablets — and it’s not necessarily to cut down on paper usage. The course revolves around a unique, year-long Notre Dame study of eReaders, and Angst is conducting the first phase using iPads, which were released earlier this year with impressive sales figures.

On the university’s website, Angst wrote, “One unique thing we are doing is conducting research on the iPad.” “We want to know whether students feel the iPads are useful and how they plan to use them. I want them to tell me, ‘I found this great app that does such and such. I want this to be organic…We have an online Wiki discussion group where students can share their ideas.”

Several criteria that will be evaluated through the class, including creation, distribution, consumption and the usefulness of electronic course materials in an academic setting. It is hoped that such a study will lead to the creation of an “ePublishing ecosystem” that would serve all faculty students and staff by making the creation, distribution, sharing, reading and annotation of eMaterials simple and inexpensive.

eReaders are quickly being adopted for reading mass market literature, but also align well with the desire of higher education faculty and students to promote sustainability by reducing paper use,” says Paul Turner, manager of Academic Technologies in Notre Dame’s Office of Information Technologies. “But there are a wide range of issues we want to understand in order to decide when and where mobile wireless devices like the iPad can best replace textbooks and other paper-based course materials. Working with research faculty such as Professor Angst gives us the opportunity to study how students in multiple disciplines adopt and adapt to using eReaders.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that the 40 students in the class will NOT be allowed to keep the iPads after the course is complete, however they are encouraged to “show them off and play games and music with them, in addition to developing brilliant ideas to improve society.” Some students get all the luck…

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