Apple has done more than any other company to popularize tablets, but Seton Hall University was on the bandwagon years before the first iPad shipped in the Spring of 2010.
Located 15 miles outside of New York City, Seton Hall is a private, Catholic university in New Jersey, with 450 full time faculty members and about 5,200 undergraduates and 4,400 graduate enrollments. It was ranked the 5th most-connected campus in the country last fall by U.S. News & World Report.
The school's first tablet project was back in the fall of 2006 and it ran a series of pilots and select deployments for the next few years. Shortly after the iPad launched in the Spring of 2010, Seton Hall began its first iPad pilot project in Education and Health Sciences.
That same year the school started to investigate Android tablets as well. Some of these, as well as iPad, continues to be used selectively, but Paul Fisher, Associate CIO at Seton Hall, says Windows tablets have become the de facto standard.
Seton Hall was approached by Microsoft to be part of a first wave of testers of Windows 8 and Fisher says he jumped at the chance because so much of the school’s IT infrastructure was already powered by Microsoft software.
We were the first institution to deploy 450 Windows tablets to students in June of 2012 and then another 500 or so in September when the Juniors returned to class,” recalls Fisher, who spoke at the recent TabletBiz conference.
Currently, he says the university has over 2,000 seats of Windows 8 “in the wild.”
Seton Hall initially deployed Samsung Series 7 slates running Windows 7 that Fisher says “didn’t have a great touch experience,” but the upgrade to Windows 8 has been an eye opener.
“With Windows 8 our students have that one device that really joins a laptop and a tablet,” says Fisher. “The student takes it out of their dock, walks to class, it’s pen-enabled and they can do all the tasks they need to accomplish. They go back to their room and put it in the dock and they have a keyboard and mouse and all the power they need for the 20-page paper they need to write.”
Tablets from an IT perspective
A company or organization not vested in Microsoft technology, might not be as gung ho as Fisher is about WIndows 8, but he says it’s been a great fit for Seton Hall.
“From the IT perspective we have all the Microsoft technologies in place already,” says Fisher. “From our institutional perspective, we can manage the devices, we can wipe the devices, we can push out updates and we can inventory the devices remotely.”
Another reason in favor of Windows 8 is that all of Seton Hall’s student services, email, Office and collaboration tools are in the cloud hosted by Microsoft and users can leverage the existing support structure for such applications as Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365.
Surface next? Why hardware isn’t a primary decision
Some have already asked Fisher if he’s considering switching to or adding Microsoft’s own Surface tablets to the mix for this Fall.
“I don’t know at this point, because the hardware doesn’t matter,” he says. “For us it’s about the OS, the ecosystem, and the combination of getting our students to work together, to work with their professors and really driving down all those barriers.”
The feedback from students has been mostly positive:
- 75% say they like Windows 8 better than Windows 7
- 80% are happy with the tablet’s screen size, weight and form factor
- 45% said they find it inconvenient to carry the tablet and keyboard around.
But as Fisher points out, at least with the dock back in the dorm room they can have a more desktop-like experience.