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Dakota Wesleyan unveils Digital DWU, partnership with Apple

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At center, Dakota Wesleyan University junior MaKayla Kilber, shows off features on an iPad following the Digital DWU announcement on Tuesday morning in the school's Sherman Center. (Matt Gade / Republic) 2 / 2

As President Amy Novak announced all students would receive an iPad and no tuition hike this fall semester, the room erupted in noise.

Dakota Wesleyan University students and faculty applauded Novak’s announcement on Tuesday morning, which unveiled a university-wide initiative called Digital DWU and a partnership with international technology company Apple.

The initiative will provide every full-time, on-campus student with an iPad on the first day of class this fall. Novak also announced tuition will not increase next school year, but students will see a technology fee.

“Digital DWU is our comprehensive, university-wide digital learning initiative that will be at the forefront of educational innovation,” Novak said. “ … It is our commitment to a model of learning that combines innovation and analysis, knowledge while leveraging the power of a digital revolution that changes the way we teach, learn and work.”

The partnership with Apple is the first of its kind in South Dakota, according to university officials, which will give students the “real-world experience and tech-savvy skills needed to compete in tomorrow’s market.”

“(Technology) is expanding our world in ways we couldn’t have imagined, even a decade ago,” Novak said. “ … It’s fundamentally changing how we learn, how we work and how we communicate.”

Novak said the initiative comes after the campus hosted an Innovation Summit last fall. Nearly 100 leaders from various industry sectors told Wesleyan officials that technology was changing the workplace. When officials heard that, Novak said she and the campus knew they had to change the way students were learning.

“We will be, here at DWU, only among a few universities in the country who are at the forefront of using technology, combined with a more intentional focus on experiential learning, to improve your preparation for life after college,” Novak said.

Students can expect a personal iPad, Apple TV in classrooms across campus, faster bandwidth and an engaging education, Novak said.

More interaction in the classroom

For the past month and a half, Morgan Ziegler has been creating her own textbook for class.

Ziegler, a junior in the athletic training program at Dakota Wesleyan, is one of several students participating in a pilot class as part of Digital DWU. In January, she and her classmates were given iPads to use in class, ultimately creating their own textbook.

“We include pictures, videos, article links and everything really that helps us learn. It’s better for us, because we’re not just reading out of a textbook,” Ziegler said. “It’s very interactive and it sticks in your brain.”

And as university officials announced the beginning of Digital DWU, Ziegler was right there celebrating with her classmates, sharing with them what she has already experienced.

“I don’t think DWU’s ever done anything like this and it'll help a lot with learning styles,” Ziegler said. “I’m just excited for the campus. It’s big.”

And her professor, Lana Loken, agrees.

Loken, along with Bethany Amundson, have both been teaching the pilot classes this semester. And for Loken, who is the clinical education coordinator and professor in the athletic training program at DWU, it’s entirely changed the atmosphere of the classroom.

“I’ve always tried to get interaction in the classroom, and this has made it a lot easier,” Loken said. “I don’t feel like a talking head in the classroom. I feel like I’m guiding them.”

Loken said in the past month of the course, as the students have focused on creating a textbook to suit their needs, she’s been surprised by how enjoyable it has been.

And the students have been “loving it,” too, she said.

“It gives us freedom to do so many different things. Every professor will interpret it differently,” Loken said. “The ways you can use some of the tools available with the iPads … students will learn how to use the technology and use it in tons of different ways.”

Digital DWU at a glance
  • All full-time, on-campus students will receive an iPad on the first day of school this fall.  Students at the junior level will receive a new iPad that becomes their personal property upon graduation.
  • Dakota Wesleyan’s partnership with Apple is the first of its kind in South Dakota, creating a one-to-one program on campus.
  • This spring semester, there are two pilot programs: world music and athletic training.
  • The increase of technology on campus will not increase next year’s tuition. Instead, students will pay a technology fee.
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