The UAE's Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the country's largest higher education institution, has struck a deal with a local Apple supplier, worth nearly AED50m ($13.4m), which will see UAE campuses remove paper and pens from classrooms and become the first in the region to roll out iPad-only lessons.
The HCT is due to hold a press conference next week to announce the details of the scheme but Arabian Business has learned that iPads are already being distributed to the more than 21,500 students attending 17 colleges throughout the UAE.
A source at a HCT college told Arabian Business returning students will receive iPads free from their colleges, but new students enrolling for the first time are required to buy new tablets from the officially designated vendor.
Computer Direct Access (CDA), which is part of the Midis (MDS) Group of Companies and has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has been awarded the contract to supply the devices.
While iPad 3 tablets retail in the UAE at around AED2,500 ($680), a CDA salesperson confirmed students will be offered the devices at a special discount price of AED2,299 ($625). Students are allowed to use iPad 2 tablets, but CDA said these were currently out of stock.
With around 21,500 students and 2,000 staff members, Arabian Business estimated the scheme could cost around AED49.5m ($13.5m) to implement.
Students have been offered two methods of payment: They can pay cash and receive their iPad directly from their college or the HCT has struck a deal with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) where students can go to one of the lender's 17 branches and make their payment.
The initiative, known as iPadagogy, is a bid to create a wholly paperless educational environment and eliminate the use of paper and pens on campuses and will see all coursework and literature online and administered in a digital format.
The HCT began training teachers in the use of iPads during the summer and a staff member said all text books and teaching aids were being removed from classrooms.
A staff member claimed students would be reprimanded for continuing to use paper and pens and said there was "a lot of uncertainty from the teachers on how it's going to work."
The move towards using iPad education is not a new phenomenon and is being rolled out in many colleges around the world. From the US to Korea, around 62 of the top 100 schools in the world are engaged in similar initiatives. In the commercial world, companies such as British Airways, Air France, IBM, Cisco Systems, the US Air Force and General Electric are rolling out similar systems.