(From L-R): Shayal Mishra, Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Christine Keshwan and Mia Kami with the new tablets.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) has started giving free tablets to its students at the Laucala Campus.
Every new full time undergraduate student who has paid their first semester fees will be given a fully setup Dual SIM Android tablet including a leather case with keyboard, a power adaptor, a USB to micro USB cable, and a USB to micro USB extension cable. These tablets have USB ports as well as capabilities of functioning as phones.
While launching the distribution of the tablets on 28 March 2017, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra said that the tablets will be provided to the students throughout their study period and they are expected to return the tablets in between semester breaks.
Professor Chandra said that, “we are excited about the step we are taking because this marks a fairly bold signal that the University is decisively moving towards a mobile learning and teaching platform.”
The University has invested around FJD 700,000 in the tablets and has a total of 2,500 tablets for the first year students.
Professor Chandra said that in 2013, USP started an experiment, recognising that learning was becoming more mobile and shifted its provision of IT platforms and learning support towards more mobile platform.
This experiment was conducted by the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) and proved to be very successful.
One of the surveys on the tablet learning during that time showed students were leaning towards the use of technology for learning purposes.
Contrary to the idea that students want leaning materials on printed copies, the experiment showed that the students preferred to receive these materials on tablets.
“From then, we wanted to extend that but we could not because the University needs a sophisticated system to make sure we can connect all these devices to our system without posing security risks. At that time we did not have a Network Access Control system and we waited until we were able to install that system, which cost us about half a million dollars,” Professor Chandra said.
Now, he added, USP can actually manage a large number of devices without clogging the system, introducing new viruses, and bringing the network into difficulties.
The Vice-Chancellor and President highlighted that there was a need to support USP students with such devices and supporting facilities and services, so that so they do not necessarily have to go to the computer labs, have the ability to use the connections at home, and carry their learning materials with them, and, this, he added is the future of new learning and pedagogies.
Professor Chandra thanked the support from Information Technology Services (ITS), the team from Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL), FSTE Dean, Dr Anjeela Jokhan and her staff for this pioneering effort.
First year student, Mia Kami thanked USP for the initiative and said that she was honoured to be a part of this.
The device, she added, will help her and the students excel in their studies. “Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your vision,” Mia said.
Distribution of tablets at some of USP’s regional campuses have already begun.
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