Best apps for university administrators?

Which are the best apps for administrators?

This does presuppose that every university administrator is equipped with an iPad. Which is not necessarily the case. Anyway, if you are fortunate enough to be issued with an iPad in support of your administrative duties there are a number of key apps you will want to get hold of. Most of these are general productivity apps rather than higher education specific but nevertheless very useful in my view. So, these are my favourites:



One of my most used and most useful apps. I use it for note taking in most meetings and for recording all sorts of notes and clippings from web pages. It synchronises across iPad, desktop and iPhone and I really find it thoroughly indispensible.

And it’s free.

The simplest way to share files. Just very straightforward.



An essential, obviously, for the tweeting administrator (although not to be used in meetings).



A straightforward but also rather feature-rich word processing app which does cope with and enable export of Word documents. Transferring files does require a little effort but worth it.



iAnnotate PDF

A really useful app which I use for most meeting papers – enables you to scribble, highlight and add typed notes to pdfs. Very handy.




Simple, straightforward to do list with no frills.




Er, for reading books. Occasionally even higher education related ones.



Plus a couple of others:

UKHE stats

A very handy summary of some HESA data – total student numbers in the sector, by country and by institution broken down by student type.




A really lovely app which is effectively a personalised, custom-built on-line magazine.




Heaps of podcasts and videos from lots of different institutions and covering many disciplines.



Are there other apps you use which are useful for the university administrator with an iPad?

More on iPads in the classroom

Another report on experimentation with iPads

Have posted before on the use of iPads on campus and for teaching and learning. An article in the Chronicle reports on some recent experiments involving iPad use in the classroom.

Pepperdine University, for example, has been experimenting in a few courses, where some students are given iPads loaded with reading materials and applications, and others stick with laptops and traditional printed books. The initial findings show that iPads increase engagement and collaboration, acting as a facilitator for more easily sharing information, rather than the clunky barrier that a laptop can sometimes be in a group setting.

When observing classrooms with and without iPads, the difference ranged from barely noticeable to a stark contrast, said Dana K. Hoover, assistant CIO for communications and planning at Pepperdine. The most noticeable difference was how students in the iPad classes moved around the classroom more and seemed to be more engaged in the material.

“The goal is specifically to see if the iPad has the potential to impact student performance on learning outcomes in the classroom,” says Ms. Hoover. “Our secondary goal is to see if we can produce some sort of formula for success.”

The study, which began last fall, is now in its third and final semester and is in the data-collection phase. At the conference, Ms. Hoover and a colleague will be presenting some of the preliminary results from their study. The main findings they will discuss, which they did not have when Ms. Hoover was interviewed, will be results from a quiz comparing students in sections with and without iPads.

So, some mixed results, and not entirely clear that they answer these 10 essential questions to ask when designing a teaching and learning techonology project, but interesting nevertheless. I do think that part of this is perhaps wishful thinking – we all think iPads should be really useful in educational settings, but it’s just a bit hard to decide what to do when we have the solution to an as yet unidentified problem.

iPhones and iPads on Campus

The search for killer apps goes on

Follow up to an earlier post on Abilene Christian University providing iPhones to all students and a follow up on implementation a year later. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a conference looking at the use being made of smartphones and tablets in different parts of university business, again drawing on Abilene’s experiment:

At Abilene Christian, one of the most popular uses of iPhones has been to turn the devices into so-called “clickers,” using an app that lets students use their phones during classes to buzz in answers to quiz questions or discussion prompts. But even fans of that approach acknowledge that turning classes into something like a game show is not appropriate for every subject, and that a clicker app makes more sense in large lecture classes than in small seminars.

The simple answer is that no one “killer app” has emerged that fits every professor’s teaching style, every research discipline, or every administrative office on campus, according to several people who attended the meeting. (And of course, many professors have no interest in the smartphone craze—at Abilene Christian some professors turned down free iPhones.)

Instead, college professors around the country are finding unique ways to use smartphones, as well as highly portable tablet computers like the iPad, that work well in certain situations but do not represent a revolution in educational practice. At least not yet.

So, no killer app but does there need to be? As the remainder of the article notes, there are many ways this technology can be used to enhance the student experience, to help with classroom delivery and to support university professional services. There is a vast range of possibilities and it is this, rather than any single app, which is perhaps the most exciting thing.

Value of iPads for teaching and learning?

iPads: “Bane or Boon”?

An earlier post commented on the use of iPads in the classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education notes two contrasting reports of the value of iPads for teaching and learning, the one referred to in the previous post and the other in the FT. The latter was much more positive about the value than the former:

How could this be? The two articles even reported on some of the same studies. One possible reason for the differing conclusions is that the FT story focused more on students’ reactions—the devices are great for reading, and just plain cool—and less on teaching.

For instance, both articles quoted Corey M. Angst, an assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame who tested the tablets in class. The FT reported, correctly, that students felt the iPad was easy to use and hard to give up. The Chronicle, however, also noted students’ complaints that it was hard to use iPads to take notes—the finger-touch interface isn’t good for writing. And one more telling fact: “For their online final exam, 39 of the 40 students put away their iPads in favor a laptop.”

Mr. Angst felt the iPad was an overall plus, but other professors who use computers in class to highlight material and respond to students’ questions said the iPad couldn’t do what they wanted.

No doubt iPads aren’t for everyone but, as the article also notes, iPad2 is arriving and may well address some of the issues identified in the piece.

Replacing Textbooks With iPads

Another interesting experiment

Story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about an interesting experiment at University of Notre Dame where they have tried replacing textbooks with iPads:

It was quieter this past fall in Corey Angst’s project-management course at the University of Notre Dame, but it wasn’t because he and his students were talking less.

Every student was given an iPad to use during the seven-week course, which meant fewer of them brought laptops to class to take notes.

“There was no clicking,” said Mr. Angst, who is an assistant professor of management at the university. Even external keyboards that some students used for their iPads were silent.

Mr. Angst’s class was the first of several at the university to replace traditional textbooks with iPads as part of a yearlong study by the university’s e-publishing working group into the use of e-readers. Many colleges and universities are in the midst of similar experiments, but Notre Dame is one of the first to report results from its effort.

The professor said students were more connected in and out of the classroom because of their use of the tablet device.

Laptop screens can create barriers between professors and students during class, Mr. Angst said: “Students think they can hide behind a laptop.”

Students were surveyed several times throughout the course and said that the iPad made it easier to collaborate and manage group projects.

OK, it’s probably not a panacea but it is interesting that the iPad seemed to promote collaboration rather than isolation. And that it looks like something other than e-reader functionality was the real value of it.