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Tablet PCs Go To College

Microsoft is launching a pilot project at the University of Virginia utilizing Tablet PC hardware that links students and professors.
Microsoft is launching a pilot instructional project at the University of Virginia utilizing Tablet PC hardware that links students and professors through wired and wireless connections.

The project, unveiled Wednesday, will begin in the fall and will reach more than 400 students in biochemistry, psychology, and statistics. It's scheduled to run for at least two semesters. Thomson Learning, a division of the Thomson Corp., is teaming with Microsoft and faculty members to develop the digital course materials.

"As the academic environment continues to evolve significantly from the perspective of how students learn, how faculties teach, and how course materials are produced and used, our goal is to institute pilots like this to explore and expand how more traditional approaches might be reinvented to better serve our students," Edward Ayers, the university's dean of arts and sciences, said in a statement. The three partners said they were encouraged to undertake the program because technical and pedagogical trends are converging on college campuses.

All of the university's classrooms have wired and wireless Internet access, enabling students and professors to communicate with one another in real time. The Tablet PCs will operate Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and OneNote. Students, who will be able to take lecture notes and save them electronically, will also be able to access online exercises and simulations in the classroom. Course materials, such as chemical structures and statistical models, can be embedded in their notes.

The project has a three-pronged goal: first, student learning is expected to be improved; second, by integrating technology into instruction, faculty productivity is expected to increase; and, third, a better understanding of the process of designing digital learning materials is expected to be gained.