InformationWeek's Education section is reporting on the South Illinois University's plan to hand new students Windows 8 tablets from Dell as they start. According to the university, they'll be at the centre of a project to support new styles of learning as well as save students money through e-textbooks (helping to reduce the average $1,000+ cost for textbooks for an American student*).

imageThe project, called Mobile Dawg, involves 300 students getting a Dell Latitude 10 tablet, running Windows 8, and access to a range of resources including a series of textbooks (through an Educause/Internet2 project), as well as integration with their existing systems including their Student Self Service system, and their learning management system from Desire2Learn.

The University will deliver a range of services that can be accessed by students on their tablets:

  • Residential life and dining - dining hours, menus, residence life programming
  • Athletics - event-streaming, calendars
  • Classroom and instructional technology - clicker applications, audio and video recordings, note taking, surveys, quizzes, assessment, homework, collaboration, assessment, placement tests
  • Campus events and activities - streaming, event calendars, notifications
  • Campus safety - emergency notification, access to police and reporting capabilities
  • Virtual desktop initiative - access to all applications, data and documents students need without having to visit a computer lab

But the university didn't start off with a plan to use Dell Windows 8 tablets. At first they had to make a decision about which tablets for students – and they weren't looking at Windows 8 at all. As David Crain, the university CIO told Information week:

  We started out with the perspective that it would be nice to give every student an iPad, partly because college students still think iPads are really cool. But once we started digging into it, we found a number of reasons to go with Windows.  

One of the reasons was cost – the university predicts that the Dell tablets will save them $3m through lower cost of ownership (on things like hardware, warranty and support costs over four years). And with the ability to manage the tablets using their existing Microsoft System Center software, it means they can be managed just like other Windows devices on the campus.

Another key reason was compatibility – in SIU's case, it was about being able to run existing tutorial and assessment courseware that wasn't able to run on the iPads.

They are one of four American educational institutions/systems Dell highlighted recently who are deploying tablets to support Windows 8 in education scenarios, including Fargo Public Schools, Spartanburg School District and Westwood Independent Schools.

Learn MoreRead more from the university on their campus-wide Windows 8 tablet initiative