(Left to Right) Chair of Academic Senate and Faculty member of Agricultural Business Lynn Williams discusses the implementation of iPads into the CSU system with Fresno State President Joseph Castro. Katie Eleneke / The Collegian
Fresno State President Joseph Castro officially kicked off the university’s tablet program Monday by handing out free iPad Airs to the first group of professors who will teach with them.
“Today I will invest our first 40 faculty members who are going to be our pioneers in that program, and together with 1,000 or more students we’ll get that program started in the Fall,” Castro said.
Although the tablet program won’t begin in earnest until fall, over the next eight months faculty participating in the test program will be trained in effective ways to teach with the new technology and how to adjust their courses to make them more tablet compatible.
“What you will see this spring is you’ll see professional development programs that we’re launching with our faculty because we have to get them ready to teach these classes and redesign our courses,” Castro said. “So you’ll be able to see them getting ready for that. Then we’ll have an intensive summer program so that by the time they start in August, they’ll all be ready.”
Some of the finer points of the program are still in development.
One of those points is the unknown cost that students will be required to bear. Castro said a buy-or-lease option for tablets may be the policy in the future.
“We have purchased the initial tablets for the faculty members, and they will use those in their work, and we’re going to give students the option to purchase or lease. We’re still working out those details, but my intention is to make those as accessible as possible, especially for our students from lower income backgrounds,” said Castro.
He also announced that Fresno State’s initial purchases of tablets will be with Apple due to its “accessibility.”
An iPad purchased from the Kennel Bookstore costs anywhere from $300 to $630, depending on the model. However, Castro said that students will also be able to use tablets with different operating systems, which may present a cheaper alternative for some students.
“We’re building the program to be nimble and agnostic, which is not platform specific. And that way we will be open to technology as it emerges,” Castro said.
Castro also addressed improvements scheduled for the campus’ wireless network in preparation for tablets.
“In the administrative services division, initiatives this spring will include technology services planning additional upgrades to enhance student success. These include implementing the necessary upgrades to wireless classroom technology to support the tablet program.”
Another question is the effect the tablet program will have on the Kennel Bookstore.
“At this point, as far as we know, it’s [the tablet program] going to be deployed through the bookstore,” said Curt Parkinson, director of the Kennel Bookstore. “We’ll basically be the hub for that, and the hub for support issues. We do any sort of the in-warranty repairs. We’re all set up for that kind of stuff.”
A greater reliance on eBooks and the slimmer margins when selling tablets could make profits harder to come by.
Parkinson said, “We make so little on the tablets themselves. As far as economically, I don’t foresee it being a big huge boom. It will be a huge boom as far as sales dollars. But as far as bottom line there’s really no margin to work with at all.”
He doesn’t see that negatively affecting student employment in the bookstore, which employs about 50 students, paying them over $285,000 annually.
“Actually, we’ll probably have to beef up the staff. Absolutely. We’re here to serve the campus community. So if we don’t make any money on this initiative as far as this part of it, we’re hoping to make it on the back end part of it,” he said.