Tablet PCs have changed the way we view computers. Instead of having to tote around a bulky laptop, it’s now possible to enjoy all of the laptop’s functionality in a wafer-thin computer that fits easily in a purse or the side pocket of a briefcase. Yet despite all of the benefits that come along with having a smaller computer, some may question how functional such a machine really is when it comes to providing easy access to online education.
According to a paper presented at the 25th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, Penn State University set out to study the affect that tablet computing technology had on online mathematics courses. The results were mixed, with tablets, and their PC counterparts, presenting problems related to the rendering of mathematical symbols. This is because most are geared specifically towards the written word, meaning that students of online courses related to mathematics should be particular careful when selecting a tablet PC.
Although tablets may pose problems for math and science students, they can be a great alternative for many other students and even faculty members. An study published in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology points out the ease of use that is inherent in tablet PCs has the ability to make faculty interaction with students much more fluid. When the faculties the of science and engineering departments at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology tested using tablets in an educational capacity they found their computer usage skyrocketed and e-mails were answered more promptly. Similarly, the teachers speculated that tablet PC usage by students would lead to enhance instructor-student interaction and would improve students’ note taking ability, as the would be able to handwrite notes rather than rely on the sometimes faulty input of typing.
Ultimately, it seems that tablet PCs will become an essential element of class design, be it a traditional or online class. While more research is needed to further understand the importance of tablet PCs and their impact on online classroom learning, it is possible to speculate that their portability, ease of use and versatility will lead to enhanced student-faculty interactions and increased understanding of subject matter.
==== About the Author ====
Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.