University to require handhelds
- By Nicholas Morehead
- May 16, 2001
The University of South Dakota has become the first public institution of
higher education in the nation to require handheld devices for students.
Beginning with the 2001-2002 academic year, the Vermillion campus of
the state's university system will provide freshmen, as well as first-year
law and medical students, with handheld computers. About 1,300 students
will get the devices.
Roger Kozak, vice president of university relations, said that the program
is something of an experiment.
"We're confident that it will enhance students' educational experience
here, but also we believe using these devices will come to show us other
ways to improve education that we aren't aware of yet," Kozak said.
Kozak said that personal digital assistants, or PDAs, are a logical
tool to provide to students because they are portable and can be made to
interact with existing university computer systems or students' personal
The university is working with Palm Inc. to provide the devices and
software for applications, such as financial calculators, reference books,
literature books, coursework organizers and word processors.
Such applications will enable students to access course materials, do
homework, communicate with professors and conduct research from virtually
Besides the mobility, the university likes that PDAs cost less than
laptop computers. PDAs usually cost from $200 to $300 while laptops often
cost more than $1,000.
Students will pay about $30 a year for the devices, with the rest of
the funding coming from the University of South Dakota Foundation, a separate
entity that raises money for the university.
Mary Fallon, director of higher education for Palm, credits the relationship
between Palm and USD to the university's president, James Abbott. "He went
from business to academia and was an avid user of his Palm and thought it
would be a great tool to benefit students," Fallon said. "He's a pretty
Palm is talking with several other universities about similar partnerships.