LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 30, 2020) — The structure of higher education is rapidly evolving. Now more than ever, technology has become a crucial pillar in student success. As the novel coronavirus continues to plague the globe, institutions are heavily relying on technology to keep students, staff and faculty connected.
In preparing for the fall semester, the University of Kentucky has begun its second year of iPad deployment to incoming, first-year students, as part of a wider Smart Campus Strategy geared toward better leveraging technology in new and innovative ways.
Designed to build skills that prepare UK students for future success, the Smart Campus initiative has begun to reshape the learning and teaching experience for the campus community.
Throughout the summer, UK has mailed incoming students their Apple iPads, along with an Apple Pencil and keyboard. Starting with students who are taking summer courses, followed by students who attended Merit Weekend, then with students who attended "see blue." U orientations virtually, UK has made hefty adjustments to the deployment process to keep students safe.
During a time when such an emphasis has been put on remote learning, Abbie Loynachan, director of the Smart Campus Initiative, is enthusiastic to get the Apple gear in students’ hands.
“Deployment does look quite a bit different for us this year,” Loynchan said. “However, we are successfully mailing the devices to students, and many have already started using their iPads this summer for online courses. While we are proud of this accomplishment, we are most excited about the new app which appeared on the devices July 20.”
New to this year’s iPad is UK:Go, an app geared toward first-year students, providing them with student-specific resources.
“This app was developed by UK students and staff to help incoming students transition to the university and campus life,” Loynachan said. “Students can start using the app now to participate in student organizations and virtual events, manage important tasks that they may need to complete before arriving on campus and start reviewing articles about life at UK.”
A process that began last summer, UK students and staff traveled to Apple's Enterprise Design Lab to pinpoint challenges facing incoming students and discover ways that an app could alleviate those challenges.
“The Apple development team encouraged us to create a very tailored and personal experience for each student,” Loynachan said. “Created to help our students begin their journey at UK as smoothly as possible, UK:Go is specifically designed to guide students to their advisors for support; share a checklist of important tasks they need to complete during their first year; provide resources and timely articles for navigating campus life; and encourage participation in events and student organizations.”
Developers believe that the app has the potential to revolutionize the student experience at UK, increasing interconnectivity on campus and bringing more harmony and opportunity to the student body.
While Loynachan agrees, she also believes there is still room to grow.
“This is the first version of the app — and while we think it’s great — as with all technology, we can only expect it to improve,” Loynachan said. “Over the next few months we will encourage student feedback on their experience with the app and based on those reports — we will make changes. Perhaps some feedback will drive us to create more apps aimed at enhancing the student experiences at UK. We want to do what is best for the students and build on technology that will inspire a transformative, memorable and successful college experience.”
Although technology is not a replacement for or provider of teaching and learning, it has the ability to connect, enhance and deliver. Through harnessing its power, UK will continue adopting innovative practices that advance student success and lifelong engagement.
For more information on the app development, including demo videos and information, please visit www.uky.edu/smartcampus/ipad-initiative/app-development. To download the app for your iPad, click here.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.