Lets give everyone an iPad ….

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post, the advent of the summer holidays and the completion and submission of my PhD has been the immediate priority. More to come on my relief that my PhD is now done and dusted, just awaiting the viva date!

However today I wanted to write about something a little different. In this blog post I want to talk about my own anecdotal experiences on the key advantages and disadvantages of buying everyone in an organisation iPads.

A few years ago the Dean of the Business school purchased for every employee an iPad, which at the time was a significant investment. It was not an off the cuff purchase, there was a clear implementation plan and all staff were fully trained on how best to utilise the iPads as part of their workflow.During the implementation phase and just after the training phase I monitored the usage of 10 academic members of staff to try and understand how they have benefitted from using an iPad.

Initially there was the novelty phase. For the first few weeks many staff liked having the iPads and a lot of time was spent in getting used to the screen and the different types of apps available. This time was spent in downloading the BBC iPlayer and perusing candy crush etc. Here experimentation was the key element with academics and admin staff trying to find a happy medium. This initial experimentation lead to academics finding some novel apps to help with research and teaching, apps such as EasyBib and Evernote were found to be especially useful.

The next stage was what I like to call the “why can’t it do this” conundrum. Once academics and admin members of staff became comfortable with the system the next issue was changing the mindset of the user to understand that tablets do not work in the same way as normal desktop PC’s. Some of the main complaints include:

  • How do I get Microsoft Word? – while this is no longer a problem, two years ago Microsoft and Apple were in fierce competition with each other and hence there was no office.
  • Where do I put my USB stick? – Apple in its quest to minimalise everything removed all USB drives. This makes the tablet lighter and thinner. Hence the focus is now on cloud based file systems. For some academic members of staff this was a deal breaker and they struggled to understand how systems such as dropbox and Google drive could replace the USB.

The final stage was the everyday usage of the iPad. Once the dust has settled I noticed that 90% of the academics and admin settled on the usage of three main apps, this was the email, calendar and the notes applications. Now one of the most common complaints by staff is that they feel they are constantly switched on and they have a compulsion to continually check their email on weekends, evenings and while on annual leave. This also had the negative effect of academics checking emails in meetings.

Hence the conclusion is that while staff initially enjoyed having iPads this became a problem after a few months. The portability of the iPad made it difficult for academics to switch of in the evenings and during their own time, Ipads do require a certain level of discipline.

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