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2nd October 2011

Manchester medics to get free iPads

Exclusive: Medical students will get the tablets as part of a pilot scheme, the first of its kind in the UK. Ruth Wildman, Khalil Secker and Emily Cant report.

Medics and dentists at Manchester University will receive iPads to help with their studies as part of a pilot scheme starting in December.

712 students will get the tablet computers whilst they are on clinical placements throughout the North West. Prices for the tablets start from around £350, and can be as high around £650, depending on the specifications.

The scheme is the first in the UK to trial the use of iPads during clinical education. If successful, similar trials are likely to be rolled out at other UK institutions.

The University says the findings of the trial will be “widely shared”.

Professors hope the Wi-Fi only computers will reduce the faculty’s carbon footprint, improve feedback and give students easier access to online resources.

The Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences will “loan” the tablets to students, who will then have the option of buying them for a “very small nominal fee” when they graduate.

The scheme will include fourth year medics, third, fourth and fifth year dentistry students and second and third year BSc Oral Health students.

They have been selected for the scheme because they will spend more time off campus on clinical placements.

Some have criticised the scheme as a quick attempt to raise student satisfaction. Manchester’s medical school has one of the lowest satisfaction rates in the country, at 69 per cent.

April Buazon, a fourth year medical student, will get an iPad as part of the scheme. She said, “It’s transparent that they’re just trying to buy student satisfaction. I’d rather the money was spent on extra teaching staff.”

Other students raised concerns about the cost of the scheme at a time when the higher education budget is being slashed.

Professor Ian Jacobs, Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences and Vice-President of the University said, “The pilot project, which is due to start towards the end of the year, has generated widespread interest and a lively debate on the value of electronic tablets in clinical education and training, which is welcomed.

“The fact that we are leading on this groundbreaking initiative in the UK is just one example of our determination to provide the highest quality education and training at the University of Manchester.

“Most students and staff understand the importance of undertaking a careful evaluation before investing in new technologies on a large scale.”

Fifth year medical students have complained about being excluded from the scheme. They have set up a Facebook group, iPads for 5th year Manchester medical students! Join the lobbying group!, which has 178 members at the time of writing.

The group’s creator, David Budd, says iPads will give fifth years the ability to access multiple resources at the same time, including text books and clinical investigations. He also said that keeping in touch with the University, friends and family and being able to use the tablet as a “lightweight library” would also give fifth years an advantage.

Members of the group have been emailing the Head of Undergraduate Medical Education, Professor Anthony Freemont.

Manchester University is the first in the UK to use iPads during clinical education. But similar schemes have proved popular in the US where iPads have been given to students at many leading medical schools including Yale, Stanford and Harvard.

Amazon recently announced it will release a new version of the Kindle which will rival the iPad. The Kindle will be significantly cheaper.

Meanwhile a property development company in Salford has handed out 50 free iPads to students in its halls of residence. Jamie Pickles, 18, said, “It will be quite helpful in lectures because I haven’t got a word processor on my computer.”

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