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The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees has approved the purchase of Apple equipment to continue the Smart Campus Initiative into its second year at UK. The approval pushes forward the university’s information technology (IT) strategic plan, which includes the deployment of Apple iPads and accessories to first-year university students, designed to enhance pedagogy and innovative learning and build skills that prepare UK students for future success.

The university will purchase an additional 7,300 iPads and accessories from Apple for incoming freshmen enrolled in Fall 2020. These iPads will include a UK developed app geared toward first-year students that will ease the transition to UK by providing student-specific community activities, resources, checklists and easy access to their advisors.

The initial phase of the initiative began last fall, providing all incoming, first-year students with an iPad Air, Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Currently, more than 6,400 UK-issued iPads are on campus being used by freshmen, faculty and staff.   The project is an exciting component of UK’s transformation and a way the university is delivering on its promise to support student success. Bridging the technology gap, UK hopes to address student obstacles across multiple platforms with a cutting-edge digital suite of tools.

The relationship between the university and Apple has created a comprehensive, campus-wide approach to using technology to:

  • Refine and optimize student recruitment, retention and graduation efforts;
  • Enhance pedagogy for both in-class and online learning;
  • Better prepare underrepresented students for college;
  • Increase safety and mental health and well-being among students, faculty and staff that could be scaled to other audiences and for other uses beyond the campus;
  • Leverage access to financial wellness and online learning to increase opportunity for life-long success;
  • Enhance student skills in application development with Swift coding; and,
  • Assist interventions and programs in health care and, in particular, opioid and substance abuse disorder.

This initiative has been a historic pairing of a leading-edge technology company with a flagship, land-grant institution, reshaping the higher education experience for all and proving that innovative learning begins with innovative teaching. 

“The first goal of the iPad was to level the technology playing field for our students,” said Abbie Loynachan, Smart Campus Initiative executive director. “We did that just by putting the technology in their hands. We now have the opportunity to get creative on ways in which the faculty are teaching and the students are learning.”

To that end, the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) has been working with faculty to explore how iPad technology can facilitate active and collaborative learning in ways that increase student engagement, bolster digital literacies and promote equitable learning environments. 

“We’ve been excited about how this invites us to see our teaching, our students, and even our disciplines with fresh eyes,” said Trey Conatser, associate director of CELT.

After convening a group of early adopters last year, CELT continues to host a Smart Campus Series of workshops and recently launched a Teaching Innovation Institute focusing on the cultivation of faculty expertise and leadership around teaching with technology. 

“We’re eager to talk to any instructors about how they might integrate iPads and other digital platforms into their teaching in meaningful ways,” Conatser said.

“The Smart Campus Initiative is also hosting a speaker series highlighting our early adopters,” Loynachan said. “Faculty at these events explain how they used the iPad, show their colleagues projects that worked well, and talk through some of the challenges.”

Working on the basis that technology has the power to transform the classroom, UK is leveraging that power to meet the needs of the campus and state in a rapidly changing 21st century world. The Smart Campus Initiative is redefining what is possible at the university.