Instructor Jeff Copeland views iPad as effective tool in Auto Tech program

Jeff Copeland using iPad as teaching tool

Socket sets, impact wrenches, snap ring pliers, screwdrivers, ball peen hammers, chisels and punches, pry bars and channel locks: These are some of the tools you would expect to find in the toolbox of the modern automotive technician. More and more, you will also find techs using laptops and PC stations for diagnostics and accessing service information websites.

Jeff Copeland, an instructor in the Automotive Technician program at Dakota County Technical College, is expanding that traditional toolbox to include the Apple iPad, a tablet computer noteworthy for its 9.7-inch multi-touch screen and dazzling array of available apps. Filling a size slot between a smartphone and a laptop, the iPad is about half an inch thick and weighs around 1.5 pounds.

Copeland uses his iPad as a teaching companion, taking it everywhere during the course of his day thanks to its portability. “I use campus Wi-Fi to access D2L,” he said, referring to Desire2Learn, the college’s online learning management system. “I can enter grades on the fly, saving on paperwork. I can plan my calendar and check my e-mail without having to go back to my desk. The iPad removes unnecessary steps. It’s once and done.”

Todd Jagerson, the college’s chief technology officer, also sees the iPad as a tool instructors can apply to conserve time by eliminating redundant tasks. “The iPad fits into the Lean management process,” Jagerson said. “If our faculty can save even five percent of their time by using the iPad, then that’s time they can spend working directly with students.”

Both Jagerson and Copeland reported that iPad usage also supports the college’s Green Campus Commitment due to the device’s potential to significantly cut down on paper consumption. Copeland pointed out that students in his program could use iPads to upload job sheets and complete checklists online without ever touching pen and paper. Again, it’s once and done.

“Accessing and delivering knowledge electronically is faster and cheaper,” Copeland said. “I would love to go ahead and get all our students iPads. They could go paperless by buying e-textbooks—and have instant access to their books anywhere, anytime. They could also visit service info sites while in the lab working on vehicles. More and more, computers serve as a central diagnostic and communication tool for technicians in the industry. Our graduates need strong computer skills.”

Jagerson considers the iPad a promising teaching tool from yet another angle. “The iPad gives faculty  more opportunities to deliver at-your-pace instruction,” he said. As an example, he indicated a customized training program that takes advantage of instructional videos. “With iPads, students could work through each video at their own individual rate, giving instructors more flexibility in how fast they teach. And we could set up iPads for a program at less than half the cost of using laptops.”

Jagerson has issued iPads to his staff in the IT department, including Network Administrator Tom Kennedy and Information Systems Specialist Andy Flocchini. “We use our iPads to stay in touch because our jobs take us all over campus,” Flocchini said. “We do inventory transfers and help tickets and access customized IT Web pages on the go. Continuous communication is a big part of our job—we live and die by e-mail. We can take the iPad off campus when we need to access servers or check our e-mail. It’s a lot more portable than a laptop.”

Information Systems Specialist Andy Flocchini & Network Administrator Tom Kennedy

Because touchscreens and apps possess an undeniable cool factor, the iPad would also work well as a recruitment tool for instructors, coaches and admissions professionals, who could basically bring DCTC wherever they go via online access to college websites, program information, videos and promotional materials.

“We are currently looking at smart ways to incorporate more high-tech devices like the iPad into program curricula,” said Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Kelly Murtaugh, who sees potential for iPads in programs across the board in departments such as Design, Business & Management, Technical Careers, Transportation Careers, Health & Human Services, and Business & Information Systems. “The iPad presents incredible opportunities to enhance learning and improve efficiency at our college. In the final analysis, if it helps our students learn and compete, we are going to do it.”

Macworld Video: The iPad Up Close

To learn more about the Automotive Technician program, contact any of the following instructors:
To learn more about how the iPad can streamline workflows in a higher ed environment, contact:

1 Comment

  • Erin Edlund says:

    It’s great to see technology being implemented in so many different ways on our campus. Kudos to Jeff Copeland and Todd Jagerson for having the creativity and energy to try out new methods of teaching and learning.

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