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I’m a big believer in 1:1 (one-to-one) technology programs. In my experience, good things happen when everyone is working with the same tools.

This enthusiasm for 1:1 programs goes against the dominant edtech ethos of BYOD (bring-your-own-device). Educators, including edtech people (who are really just especially nerdy educators), tend to be suspicious of mandating a particular device. We believe in voting with our feet, in ecosystem diversity, and most of all in the power of our judgments. The last thing we want is anyone - especially central IT - to tell us what tools we can use.

The experience of Maryville University , a highly regarded mid-size comprehensive private institution in St. Louis, should cause all of us (or at least you) to re-examine your conclusions about 1:1 technology programs and the value of using a single device for all students.

You can learn all about Maryville’s Digital World program, which includes a 1:1 iPad initiative, at the school’s Digital World Program website.  

Some of Maryville’s early outcomes since starting this 1:1 iPad program in 2016 include:

  • Inquiries rising from 11,250 (2015) to 17,800 (2016).
  • For the fall 2017 application season, student inquiries more than doubled to 37,500.
  • Traditional enrollment is up 17.7% over two years.
  • 2016 freshmen enrollment finished 45% ahead of fall 2015. 

For students who came to Maryville in the fall of 2016, fully 28 percent indicated that they “agreed” or “agreed strongly” that the Digital World / iPad program was a “major decision factor” in their choice to attend.

Internal survey data of Maryville faculty, generously shared with me by the good folks at Maryville, indicate that 94 percent of  faculty are integrating the iPad into their courses. Two-thirds of this iPad course integration is academic related work.  

What surprised me the most from the faculty survey data on the iPad program that Maryville shared is how iPads are being used in the classroom. What would you guess is the biggest academic use for iPads? Surprisingly (at least to me), the number one response for Maryville faculty was student group work (73%), followed by student and faculty presentations (both 68%).  

Student’s self-reported experience with the 1:1 iPad program at Maryville is equally strong. In a representative survey of 474 Maryville students, more than eight-in-ten reported that the program contributed either “a lot” or “somewhat” to their learning experience. Almost 90 percent of students report using their iPads for academic related work.  And fully 87 percent of students agree that technology has been “instrumental” to their success at Maryville.

Maybe I had you with the jump in “interest and application to Maryville.” Or perhaps you are more interested in the high levels of faculty uptake.  Or maybe you are intrigued by the impact of a 1:1 iPad program on learning.

The point is that Maryville is a data point - if only a single data point - in our discussion about the merits (and drawbacks) of 1:1 technology programs.

We have a paucity of research on the effectiveness of our educational technology interventions. All too often, we draw conclusions based on our gut feelings or on limited data. 

The Maryville case does not conclusively demonstrate that other institutions should consider 1:1 programs. However, the experience at Maryville suggests that at least all of us should think about whether a 1:1 program is appropriate for our institution.

Does your school have a 1:1 technology program? 

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