Christian College Offers Incoming Freshmen a Choice: iPad or MacBook

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Students who enroll at George Fox University for 2010-11 year will have their choice of computing devices.

We honestly don’t know everything about it. But by doing this, we’re opening the door to innovation. What we learn can influence the future of technology as it pertains to higher education.

Incoming freshmen who enroll at George Fox University this fall will have a choice to make before they arrive on campus in August: iPad or MacBook?

With Apple’s unveiling of the iPad in January, George Fox, a Christian college in Oregon, has opted to give new students the option of choosing the new device or selecting its current offering, the Apple MacBook. For more than 20 years, George Fox has supplied a computer for each incoming undergraduate student to keep upon graduating. The cost is included in tuition.

The decision to offer a choice puts George Fox on the cutting edge of technology in higher education circles, according to Greg Smith, the university’s chief information officer.

“With this, we’re basically asking students ‘What computing system will work best for you?’” Smith said. “By giving them this option, they can choose between the iPad, a mobile device known for its networking and E-textbook capabilities, or the laptop, which offers more computing horsepower.”

The iPad features a 9.7-inch, LED-backlit IPS display with a multi-touch screen. At just one and a half pounds and a half-inch thick, it’s light and easy to transport. Like its mobile WiFi counterparts, the iPhone and iTouch, it is ideal for social networking and browsing the Internet. And, Smith adds, it could prove ideal for referencing E-textbooks, a trend whereby students can access their college textbooks electronically, with a goal for richer content and lower cost.

“The trend in higher education computing is this concept of mobility, and this fits right in with that trend,” Smith said. “At the same time, we realize there are a number of uncertainties. Will students struggle with a virtual keyboard? Can the iPad do everything students need it to do when it comes to their college education? These are the kinds of questions we really won’t know the answer to until we get started.”

For that reason, Smith stressed the importance of offering a choice.

“It would be reckless to make a switch and only offer the iPad,” he said. “We honestly don’t know everything about it. But by doing this, we’re opening the door to innovation. What we learn can influence the future of technology as it pertains to higher education.”

To accommodate the offering of a mobile device, Smith said plans are in the works to expand WiFi coverage in university dormitories. The service is already offered on most of the Newberg, Ore., campus, including on its main campus quad and academic facilities.

Ultimately, the goal of the Connected Across Campus program is to offer the most innovative tools that promote teaching and learning.

“The issue for us is the changing landscape of educational computing and the value dilution of a laptop for a traditional undergraduate,” Smith said. “George Fox happens to find itself at the crossroads for both of these issues, so we felt it best to offer this alternative.”

Smith said students may choose the iPad either because they already have their laptop of choice or because they believe the iPad is truly the more functional computing device for them to be a successful student. Smith suspects the MacBook will be the more popular choice for students in professional programs such as the engineering major, film major or computer science major who need that extra computing power.

“How the numbers work out will be interesting, but no matter what I think we will see many iPads, iPhones and iTouches throughout the undergraduate population,” Smith said.

To learn more about George Fox’s Connected Across Campus program, formerly known as the Computers Across the Curriculum program, visit

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes as one of the top 100 colleges in the country and highest among Christian colleges. George Fox is the only Christian university in the Pacific Northwest classified by U.S. News & World Report as a national university. More than 3,300 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem, and Redmond, Ore., and Boise, Idaho. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 12 master’s and doctoral degrees.

Greg Smith
Chief Information Officer
George Fox University


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