Lynn University in dialogues with Apple to enhance students' learning experience

Apple experts to present their assistive technology at the 2012 Transitions conference

Published Sep. 21, 2011

Several members of Lynn University’s senior management team, both academic and non-academic, recently visited the headquarters of Apple for an executive briefing and exploration of areas where Apple’s innovative technologies can help enhance students’ learning experience.

This is the school’s second meeting with Apple experts and the conversations have already produced two results—the launch of Lynn’s iTunes University (iTunesU), and Apple experts will present their adaptive technology at Lynn’s Transitions conference on Jan. 27, 2012.

"We learned about their whole ecosystem of digital technology and explored ways to utilize their innovative suite of products to enhance our students’ learning experience inside and outside of the classroom,” Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross, said. "I think our philosophies are aligned in terms of the potential for everyone to learn.”

Apple provides iTunesU to educational institutions as, according to Apple’s website, “a powerful distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs and audio books to tours.” The system is meant to get rich, layered, multi-media educational content into the hands of students no matter what device they are using, even PCs.

Lynn is committed to populating its iTunesU not just with a professor’s address or a few papers, as some schools currently do, but with specifically tailored content associated with the school’s academic units. For example, all video associated with campus conferences and events will begin to migrate to iTunes U. The school is looking into securing the rights to post presentations from its Dively lecture series, debates, forums and other intellectual exchanges that occur at Lynn. These items will complement existing courses and show prospective students the kind of thought traffic and content they will experience at Lynn.

The school’s leadership is also considering how to make classroom content come alive and put people first in a simple, living, flexible and sustainable way. The idea is to find solutions that would enable students who arrive at Lynn, to be given an electronic device with all their textbooks and course work pre-loaded so they can consume media-rich items that will not replace face-to-face discussions but enhance them.

“What impressed me most was Apple's true interest in student learning,” Gregg Cox, interim vice president for academic affairs, said. “In fact, a great deal of time was spent discussing classroom techniques that involve very little technology but drew from content delivered by technology, and I am very excited about the impact this will have on student learning at Lynn.”

The 2012 Transitions conference —an international gathering of educators, parents and students that examines how to best move students with learning differences from high school to higher education—is the perfect setting for Apple personnel to present their cutting-edge assistive technologies.

Apple has tools and technology that can help students who need special services obtain content that works with the different ways they process information. Their devices can process visual texts that help students with learning differences understand the words. They can also easily process and read whole books with a few swipes of the finger in voices that sound human and even incorporate breathing patterns.

Marsha Glines, dean of Lynn’s Institute for Learning and Achievement, an internationally-renowned center for students with learning differences, is examining ways these assistive technologies can be leveraged to help her students.

“Accessibility features have been baked into Apple products forever,” Glines said. “There are so many applications being developed by the Apple higher education folks which will positively impact student learning. For example, actual tactile programs for students with graphomotor challenges are already available. The applications are easy to utilize and many combine voice and visual/reading programs that allow for one application rather than one reading app and a separate voice synthesizer.”

The launch of Lynn’s iTunesU and Apple’s involvement with the school’s efforts to help students with learning differences are a continuation of a plan set down five years ago that focused on making Lynn one of the most innovative schools in America—part of the Lynn 2020 strategic plan.

“How do you stoke the fires five years into our plan to make our school one of the most innovative in the U.S.,” Ross asks. “You take your senior leadership to Apple to expand on discussions related to innovative applications of technology to the learning experience. Their whole learning suite of products and their dedication to human potential lines directly up with what we focus on, and I can’t think of a better way to enhance our innovative approach to learning."

More on the possibilities

All of the school’s senior leadership agree that Apple’s technology will be perfect for Lynn nationally-recognized core curriculum. Especially, Katrina Carter-Tellison, the current dean of Lynn’s College of Liberal Education and chair of the core curriculum, "Dialogues of Learning."

“Apple’s innovative technologies have the potential to bring the Dialogues of Learning to life in a way they haven’t been before,” Tellison said. “By having the ability to integrate various forms of multimedia content with courses, the Dialogues of Learning can now more easily draw on various forms of knowledge and information. The collaboration of Apple technologies with the Dialogues creates a synergy that will foster the interactive, engaging classroom environment our faculty consistently strives to create.”

David Jaffe, dean of Lynn’s Christine E. Lynn College of International Communication, is also excited about the possibilities Apple technologies will bring to campus.

“Discussions between college educators and key figures at leading-edge corporations such as Apple are indispensible in this era of rapid changes in communications industries,” Jaffe, said. “At our school, we are committed to providing students with a solid foundation in digital media, as well as a window into the immediate and long-term future of communications technologies and services.”

The academic leaders are not the only ones to see the value of continuing to explore ways to leverage Apple technology. Christian Boniforti, Lynn’s chief information officer, shares the same enthusiasm for a future with Apple on campus.

“The use of iTunesU as digital repository and vehicle for content delivery is one item that we will definitely be looking to implement on our campus,” Boniforti said. “I was really impressed in the way Apple utilizes and incorporates technology. They think about the human impact first and then find a way to provide transformative solutions.”