Local university provides all freshmen with tablet computers

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

CARBONDALE, Ill. - We all know our society's become more data-driven. Between tablets and phones our devices are with us all the time.

Now a local university is handing out gadgets of its own to incoming freshmen with the hope that they will increase student success.

Move-in weekend is always stressful. This year at SIU-Carbondale, freshmen have a new table to visit. It's the one where they pick up their tablet computer.

"I was surprised. It's a shocker," said Semaj Rodgers of Chicago.

Administrators tested the tablet program with Dell earlier this year. In April, they decided all incoming freshmen would get one, paid for by technology and course fees.

"I was just kind of blown away by it. I didn't think that was going to happen," said Madi Harrison, another new student.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the students will keep the tablets all four years of school, through the "Mobile Dawg" program. There are four pre-loaded textbooks on them, and the university will add more.

"Learning on the computer, more hands on in writing and in math increases success. So, the tablet is at your fingertips," she said.

The tablet isn't just for schoolwork. Students can check other things, like what's on the menu at different spots around campus or even which laundry facilities are busy.

The technology comes with one of the university's largest freshmen classes in recent history, pushing more than 2500.

"We went over the 20-year mark yesterday, and we're still growing in enrollment," said Cheng.

The devices work with a regular-sized keyboard and mouse. The university will give out the tablets to each freshman class from now on.

"You save money on books and computers. I was going to buy a new computer, and you don't have to," said Destiny Newson, a freshman.

The chancellor anticipates students will save about $250 in textbook costs during the first year of the program.

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