Hands-on learning with iPad.

Teachers and students at Northwest Kansas Tech find a common touch point in iPad.

The inspiration

Since 1964, Northwest Kansas Technical College — a two-year school located in Goodland, a farming community of 4,500 people in northwest Kansas in the US — has developed highly skilled workers for the technical industries that maintain the nation’s infrastructure. The school does this by rigorously training its students on the same technology they’ll use in the workplace.

The school’s programs are ideally suited for the workforce needs of the state and region. On its 20-building campus, Northwest Kansas Tech offers 15 programs and more than 40 online and evening classes in construction, health and human services, information technology and transportation. Recently it has added cutting-edge training in hybrid vehicle technology, biodiesel process and ‘going green’ carpentry. And the school is developing programs in emerging technologies such as mobile apps.

But two years ago, Northwest Kansas Tech was dying. After a decade of precipitous declines in enrolment, the school’s president, Dr Guy E Mills, knew he needed to make immediate changes to reverse the trend. In 2010, after consulting closely with staff and faculty, Mills decided to put iPad in the hands of every student, instructor and administrator at the school. The idea was to build on the school’s tradition of hands-on instruction by using a device that was rewriting the rules for interactive learning.

“iPad and AirPlay allow us to demonstrate a procedure just once, record it, and play it on the big screen for all the students to view and discuss.”

— Greg Unger, Diesel Technology instructor, Northwest Kansas Technical College.

The introduction of iPad and selected apps has opened up many new learning opportunities. Thanks to AirPlay technology built into the iPad, auto technology students now watch video demonstrations of repair techniques streamed wirelessly by their instructors from iPad to a large flat-panel display connected to an Apple TV. A respiratory therapy instructor uses iPad to highlight lessons in a collaborative textbook app that students can access in the classroom or from remote labs and clinical sites. Cosmetology students use an iPad app that lets them comprehensively track and manage clients.

The benefits of the iPad program are visible across the campus. Students use iPad to access the school’s iTunes U content, to collaborate with teachers and other students, and to develop their own video learning projects with the built-in iSight camera. Students with low reading, writing and maths scores use iPad and apps to achieve better learning outcomes. And graduating students use iPad to create digital portfolios, which they bring to potential employers to demonstrate what they’ve learnt and what they can do.

The implementation

Because more than half of Northwest Kansas Tech’s budget comes from the state of Kansas, it was important to convince the Kansas Board of Regents to continue that funding. The college did it by re-establishing the value of the school to the community and region — and iPad implementation was key to the plan. The school used a local fundraiser and donations from local businesses to provide an iPad for each faculty member. Financial aid contributions from the community and alumni helped students purchase iPad devices as part of their tuition. The success of the iPad program has led to a growing enrolment of students from the local school district.

Because hands-on training in technical education traditionally means putting hands on machines rather than digital devices, there was some concern among faculty about how best to use iPad for instruction. So the school gave each instructor an iPad six months before students received theirs. In-service training sessions by Apple Professional Development facilitators helped faculty members who were already great technologists fine-tune their iPad skills to enhance their teaching. Other training focused on using iWork and iLife to script and develop video teaching materials that students could access on iPad. Faculty members who adapted most quickly mentored other instructors on how to best incorporate iPad into their curricula.

The Northwest Kansas Tech campus uses Mac computers and iPad devices exclusively, so technical support is simple. The chief information officer and a staff of one are able to maintain all the Apple equipment on campus, including more than 500 iPad devices.

The results

With the success of its iPad implementation program, Northwest Kansas Tech has nearly doubled its enrolment from 252 full-time students to just under 500 in 2012.

The school’s overall licensure exam passing rates have improved since the iPad was introduced in the classroom. The pass rate in developmental classes has increased dramatically to well over 75 per cent. And pass rates for board exams among respiratory therapy students has risen from 62 per cent to 87 per cent, the highest rates the college has ever recorded.

“The learning potential with iPad is just endless.”

— Dr. Guy E. Mills, president, Northwest Kansas Technical College.

Students leaving the school are finding excellent employment opportunities. Since implementing the iPad program, Northwest Kansas Tech is graduating 90 per cent of its students and placing about 90 per cent of graduates in jobs.

Products they use


This revolutionary mobile device introduces a whole new way of teaching and learning. Learn more about iPad

Apple TV

This device makes it easy to stream lessons, photos, videos and more from iPad to a large-screen TV using AirPlay. Learn more about Apple TV

MacBook Pro

This notebook computer is great for learning both inside and outside the classroom. Learn more about MacBook Pro