IBM Canada and the Sheridan College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning have renewed a contract for Delta3, the school’s mobile computing initiative.

Started

in 1998, Delta3 gives laptop computers to students at Sheridan’s Oakville and Davis campuses who are taught in specially-designed classrooms that are fully wired, said Stephen Hawkins, CIO at Sheridan College in Oakville.

Hawkins said the curriculum has been redesigned to make use of the facilities. For instance, much of the lecture material is posted on Web sites in a sophisticated “”information management infrastructure that sits behind this program,”” he said, and added this method of delivering information freed up class time for discussion and problem solving.

Delta3 began with one class of 32 students and has since expanded to 40 programs and 5,000 students. The project spans Sheridan’s four academic schools and touches students enrolled in everything from educational assistant programs to those in international business.

Hawkins said the faculty that initiated the mobile computing program was interested in collaborative and activity-based learning, and wanted to shift the curriculum from basically a “”stand up and lecture type of mode.””

Sheridan is not employing Delta3 in every program across the college, however, because “”technology doesn’t necessarily always add a lot of value depending on what you’re trying to teach,”” added John Kutcy, general manager, education industry, IBM Canada Ltd., in Markham, Ont. He added 50 per cent to 60 per cent of classes are involved in Delta3.

One example is computer science classes, in which students can work on programming exercises continuously because they have a computer in hand, said Hawkins. “”It really has a big impact on students who might not get it quickly. If you had to work in a general-purpose lab and fight for lab resources, you may not”” finish assignments at school, he explained.

A “”high level of collaboration”” among students has resulted as they’ve form work groups to examine problems and complete assignments during class and at a distance after school hours, Hawkins said. “”That’s one of the intriguing things to watch.””

The students participating in the program have the opportunity to “”work with technology all the time,”” so that graduates become adept users of technology in their fields of study, Kutcy said.

Employers in areas like early childhood education are often surprised when new staff educated at Sheridan come to class ready to use computers, said Hawkins. “”It’s an unusual skill to have, so they’re highly sought after.””

Delta3 is the largest managed mobile program in a Canadian post-secondary institution because of the number of students involved, said Kutcy. He said IBM Canada also has had similar mobile computing arrangements with dozens of secondary and post-secondary schools since 1996.

In June, Sheridan will host the seventh annual IBM Think Tank conference for educators and staff working in laptop environments. “”A World of Collaboration and Learning”” will focus on best practices in merging technology with teaching and learning.

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