IMD Business School Adopts iPad

IMD Business School, Switzerland welcomes thousands of visitors every year from all over the globe and is quite popular. Concerned about the large use of paper and deforestation, the people at the popular business school decided to take a step forward. They decided to use a device instead of paper and minimize the use of paper.

In this step towards growing green, the leaders were in the hunt for a magical product and what else could be as magical as the iPad. After much speculation, they finally adopted the iPad as their next business tool.

Like all iPad adopters, they too had to struggle to get the bulk deliveries for their program participants. With the right contacts mobilized unto the second level at Apple, it got what it wanted.

Here’s what IMD writes about the iPad:-

How can business schools save money on printing, contribute to environmental sustainability, improve networking opportunities among participants and bring cutting edge knowledge into the classroom? The answer – the iPad.

After having piloted the iPad in a partnership program with Allianz Global Investors, we are convinced that this device, thin enough to fit into a manila envelope and lighter than a notebook, will revolutionize education. Each participant received an iPad a day prior to the program. It included the program’s presentations, case studies, related reading and program information, not to mention WiFi web access and standard applications. The iPads were to set up to allow the program coordinator to stay in touch with the participants. The participants used the iPad throughout the entire program for both course learning and logistical information updates. At the end of the program, the participants returned the iPad and could then retrieve all their related documents and information on a web portal. The feedback, both from IMD Faculty, staff and the participants, was overwhelmingly positive. A number of the participants said that they intended to buy one for themselves as soon as it became available in their local stores. And more and more IMD Faculty are planning to implement iPads in their respective programs.

The pros and cons

The iPad opens the way for education providers to move even further towards a paperless solution. The financial cost savings alone can be substantial. For example, participants in some of IMD’s larger programs can receive over 1,000 pages of paper, which can be quite costly in terms of printing expenses. The iPad can more than pay for itself the first time it is used. Since the iPads are returned at the end of the program, they constitute a one-time rather than a repeating cost. By saving the trees and the energy necessary to produce, ship and print the paper, the iPad enables business schools to make a contribution towards helping the global environment.

Another benefit is facilitating networking opportunities. The iPad allows participants to network and exchange business cards and contact information. Business school program coordinators are also able to keep in direct contact with participants to let them know about any logistics.

Learning is made as timely as ever by enabling participants to use their iPads to access the most up to date information possible, such as company stock performance, industry reports, etc. For professors, the iPad is changing the participant experience, particularly when discussing the real-time information about a company or industry. Using the technology also changes the logistics of document preparation and distribution, changing the timelines, personnel and possible problems involved. For example, a professor may wish to provide access to some documents only after some key point has been reached in classroom discussion. This requires an electronic equivalent of handing out documents in class, which is equally reliable, simple and fast to operate. Successfully integrating technology into the classroom involves considerable effort in finding or developing suitable applications, server systems and infrastructure. These must work together to provide an efficient and user-friendly end to end system – from the point of view of the Faculty, support staff and participant.

Of course like anything, iPads can present a downside. The most obvious is their potential to cause distraction. The purpose of introducing the iPad into the classroom is not to allow the participant to surf the web for sport results or to send instant messages to friends. It’s necessary to create awareness of the risk at the beginning, and to limit non-related program use of iPads to breaks. This is certainly a surmountable pitfall to overcome. We have learned how to manage expectations with the mobile phone, for example. The iPad is just another device that needs to be addressed up front, and professors may need to remind participants throughout the program if early awareness raising is not sufficient.

In addition, some participants may still prefer to read documents on paper. In this case, business schools need to make it possible for participants to print out the necessary documents when appropriate. Resistance to reading on an electronic screen may be greater among older executives. Taking notes and annotating documents electronically is another challenge, and the pilot program confirmed that that a solution was necessary. IMD is developing an approach which allows electronic document markup and which can also be linked to notes taken on paper. The discrepancy between older managers who were exposed to technology later in the game and a younger generation that grew up with technology as part of their daily existence is probably at its highest currently. However, the iPad is so user-friendly that it promises to make the transition for technology-unfamiliar managers not only easy, but fun.

The full potential of the device in the classroom is nearly limitless and it is hard to predict where we will find the most value. We are still in the discovery phase of trying out ideas and analyzing feedback. Business schools need to be at the forefront of innovation. Smart use of the iPad is one way to achieve this.

The adoption of the iPad by the school encourages other schools and businesses to move towards a better and greener method. Technology is the answer to all the needs and the iPad, the most efficient device.