iPads, or more generally tablet computers, have received rapid and widespread uptake across higher education. Despite this, there is limited evidence of how their use affects student learning within this context. This study focuses on the use of a tablet by the instructor to support the annotation and in-class sharing of students’ work to create a collaborative learning environment within a first year undergraduate subject. This paper reports the results of an empirical study looking at the effect this tablet technology has on student performance using a sample of 741 first-year accounting students. The study uses data from enrolment and attendance records, end of semester examination results and student perceptions from a survey. Results indicate that class sharing of the instructor’s and students’ annotation of homework through the use of a tablet is associated with an improvement in student performance on procedural or equation-based questions as well as increased student engagement. However, contrary to expectations, the introduction of in class annotations was associated with a decline in student performance on theoretical, extended response questions. The authors argue that affordances of the tablet, when used in a student-centred way, can introduce a bias towards some kinds of interactions over others. This large-scale study of in-class tablet use suggests that though the tablets may be positively associated with student engagement and satisfaction, caution must be exercised in how the use by the instructor affects the classroom environment and what students learn. These findings have particular relevance to university learning contexts with equation-centric subjects such as those in Business and STEM.
Computer-mediated communicationCooperative/collaborative learningImproving classroom teachingPost-secondary educationTeaching/learning strategies