In an age of rising educational expenses, increasing reliance on technology, and growing socioeconomic gaps, it has become harder and harder for the less fortunate to compete with their peers in higher education- if they can attend at all. Many courses now use expensive computer programs and have mandatory online components; while this increases pedagogical freedom for faculty and educational opportunities for students, the use of this technology creates a gap between those who have it and those who don’t.
“When I was studying as an undergraduate student in the early 80s… they gave you a week to gather information; now they might give you an hour,” David Harrison, Senior Director of the Office Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach within the Fisher College of Business said.
Education is moving at a faster pace and leaving those without it behind. Technology allows students to work faster and learn more, with the caveat that the student can afford it.
Recently Ohio State has matched this increased reliance on technology most notably through the distribution of 11,000 Apple iPads to all incoming 2018 freshmen across its various campuses. This $11.1 million master lease agreement is an attempt to level the playing field for all students.
Although the iPads are not a magical device that ensures education, they do help students learn.
“Technology is necessary but not sufficient to get students all of the way there,” Steffanie Wilk, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion said.
By providing technology to all students, according to Michael Papadakis, Interim Senior Vice President and CFO in The Office of Business and Finance, the University not only hopes to help level the educational playing field that already exists, but also to improve education overall. Primarily, this can be done by increasing the technological freedom professors have.
“One of their limitations is not knowing what everyone has access to” Papadakis said. “They [professors] didn’t necessarily utilize as much technology in their classes as they wanted to.”
This sentiment is echoed by Wilk who also teaches Management and Human Resources at the Fisher College of Business,
“It informs me as an academic or professor to know what technology students have access to,” Wilk said.
This initiative does more than just provide financial aid. By putting technology in the hands of every freshmen, there is a net benefit to all. Instead of an equivalent annual tuition decrease of $250, Papadakis argues this deal is far more influential. “We could have done that,” Papadakis said, “But, we think [that] on the teaching and learning side there is a real impact.”
Alongside its clear benefits to education, this initiative also closes financial gaps for students in a unique way. Technology increases education, but it can also increase the costs of education. Such costs are simply too expensive for many students.
While some professors like Wilk actively attempt to cut costs by lowering the costs of her course material, this is simply impossible for all disciplines. The iPad deal, however, is funded entirely through efficiency initiatives and does not include a tuition increase. This initiative is a university providing for its students. OSU maybe be one of a few schools to have such an initiative, but, “At the end of the day, an institution has a duty to ensure that all of its students have a level of competence” Harrison said.
While both the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Business and Finance both agree that the effectiveness of this program is still largely undetermined, for both students and faculty, “With resources, additional opportunities exist” Harrison said.