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For the third year in a row Wharton executive MBA students will receive an iPad as one of their first packages from the school.

This year marks the third time Wharton Computing will provide executive MBA students with iPads loaded with digital textbooks instead of physical textbooks. Starting this April, over 200 iPads will be shipped to the incoming class of Executive MBA students in the program at both the Philadelphia and San Francisco campuses.

“It’s been very well received,” Wharton Chief Information Officer Dan Alig said.

Executive MBA students go to the Philadelphia or San Francisco locations from different states and parts of the world, with classes on alternating weekends. The extensive traveling involved in the program was one of the reasons the vice dean of the program at the time first launched this initiative.

Emmelene Lee, an executive MBA student, agreed that convenience is one of the main advantages of having iPads.

“I think it’s a great option that Wharton is providing EMBA’s by providing iPads,” she said in an email. “Most of us travel quite a bit for work, so it allows us to bring our schoolwork with us in a compact medium.”

Wharton Computing has been working closely with Apple to make the experience as seamless as possible for students. Recently, Wharton was selected by Apple as an “Apple Distinguished Program” for educational excellence in recognition of their pilot program using iPads as a predominant learning tool.

The tuition fee of the executive MBA students is all-inclusive and covers the cost of the iPad and any related course materials. Alig said that the cost of handing out iPads ends up being about the same as using physical textbooks, after factoring in the cheaper cost of digital textbooks and the money saved on printing costs.

Wharton Computing is constantly improving the iPad experience for students based on their feedback. The school utilizes GoodReader, an iPad app, for students to read handouts, and also recommends a number of free apps to facilitate the learning experience.

Last year, Wharton Computing did an evaluation of the many tablet options that have emerged in the market, but found the iPad to provide the best applications and most mature service at the moment.

Wharton is not the only school to roll out such a technological innovation. Last September, incoming medical students of the Perelman School of Medicine each received a 32 GB iPad at the start of the school year as an effort to digitalize and innovate the learning experience.

Alig said that the deployment of iPads went smoothly last year, but there is still a long way to go.

“The iPad itself is a very personal device, and when you think about what could be in that world, there is so much more we can do,” he said.

Similarly, Lee pointed out that the integration with Canvas or Webcafe could be improved to make the Canvas app less clunky.

Wharton Computing currently has no plans in place to expand the rollout to other student populations. However, Alig sees value in utilizing the experience they have accumulated in digital learning to improve the school-wide digital learning experience.

“We do, however, hope to leverage the resources developed for this program to support other populations using digital materials on tablet devices that they purchase themselves and bring to campus,” he said.

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