After Steve Jobs, Will Apple’s Commitment to Higher Ed Change?

 

How will Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO affect higher education? As the Chronicle of Higher Education observes, Jobs has “long sought the advice of higher-education officials and encouraged colleges to use the company’s technology in new ways for teaching and research” by consulting with university officials and personally inserting himself in Apple’s education strategy. While PC’s were once the dominant computer on campuses, Apple — largely thanks to the popularity of the iPod and iPhone — has become much more of a presence at colleges and universities.

I remember buying my first Apple computer — my first computer — in 1988 while in college. I worked for an “alternative” newspaper at my university and we used Apple computers precisely because of their design capacity (all those fonts). Though the Macintosh SE I lugged back to my dorm room cost a bit more than a gray IBM-type machine, it seemed worth it, especially after I became an editor at the paper. My university had computer labs stocked with Apples (and with IBM computers running DOS). But at most of the universities I’ve since studied and taught at, Dells and the like have been the norm until recently with the rise of the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Early on, Apple started the Apple University Consortium (now called University Executive Forum) which was comprised of top university officials who were given an early view of Apple’s products and a chance to influence design:

Martin Ringle, chief technology officer of Reed College [which Jobs briefly attended without earning a degree], remembers being at a meeting about 10 years ago when Mr. Jobs gave officials a sneak peek at the iPod.

“People around the table said, Well, what does that have to do with higher education?” Mr. Ringle remembers. “He said, ‘Use your imagination. It probably has lots of things to do with education. That’s what you’re here for.’” Several universities experimented with iPods, which led Apple to create a free service for colleges called iTunesU, designed to store and stream audio and video files for university courses and make lecture recordings available to the public.

But after Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985, Apple faltered and higher education was no longer a priority. Jobs went on to found a company called NExT which made high-end computers for research. By the time he returned to Apple in 1997 and restored the education advisory board, the company’s Apple’s market share in education had “fallen dramatically.”

Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Jeff Young recalls speaking to Jobs:

At about that time, I interviewed Mr. Jobs about whether he thought the company could make a comeback in education, where its market share had fallen drastically. He expressed frustration with what he saw as the negative tone of the questions.

“It doesn’t keep me up nights,” he said. “What keeps me up nights is, How do we make the best stuff? I think that Macs will be the coolest computers for kids in another year or two, and I think that’s very important. And I think that we’re going to definitely see stabilization and then improvement.”

Though many in higher education were skeptical at the time, he pulled it off.

Apple computers do carry a higher price tag than other brands; even with an educational discount they’re beyond the reach of many of my own students. But it’s rare to see a student without some kind of iPod (and an earbud perpetually attached to one ear). More and more of my students (at a small urban college in Jersey City) use their iPods and iPhones (and Blackberries) to take notes and to store electronic versions of books. Podcasts with professors’ recorded lectures now seem commonplace.  I use a WordPress blog that loads easily onto iPhones and other devices for all my courses; students can find the syllabus, homework and essay assignments, links to online readings and informative websites, videos and much, much more. The students’ attachment to their iPods, iPhones, etc. is a very positive development — a student might forget a book, but never his or her phone (especially if it has her or his music on it!) so there’s no excuses for not having the homework or, in some cases, the textbook.

Apple has insisted that things will be “business as usual” following Jobs’ resignation, notes the New York Times. I’m hoping this is not an empty statement. It’s thanks to Apple’s innovations that, in small ways and large, learning and teaching are a different and better business than they used to be.

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Apple's Commitment to Higher Ed

15 comments

K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.5 years ago

Mr. Jobs is a visionary, no argument here. Are his computers better? I honestly don't know, but I didn't like the first one that was put on my desk in the early 1980’s and was very thankful when it was replaced by a PC. But more important is where he has them and other Apple products made. He gets his products made from every cheap slave labor, while also denying Americans jobs. For this reason alone I will not buy Apple products and those that do and talk of protecting people’s rights around the world and workers in America are hypocrites.

Craig L.
Craig Mossman5 years ago

As a IT person at a small college I certainly do hope it changes, I have lost respect for Steve over the years as he appears to be focused on running sweatshops in Asia.

Adobe and Apple have become the greedy 900 LB gorilla on the bus. They cut education no break, last year Apple killed the Xserve because it wasn't profitable, announced a crippled iMac foe ed that is no deal, and recently I get an email from my Apple Ed rep (who I never hear from unless they are selling something) touting $139 off the recently discontinued Air they just replaced IF I buy them in lots of 10. Gee thanks Steve.

Adobe refuses to sell past versions of Creative Suite discontinuing them as soon as new versions come out so students buy new Macs and come in with CS5 while we have to run CS4 because we are forced to span the hardware issues between Power PC and Intel machines, we are stuck on CS4 and OS 5 and 6 until we flush out PPC's.

What I really don't understand is why we, education, are paying them to train students to go buy their stuff, they should be paying us. Higher ed needs to ban together and get behind Linux and open source and break free of the for profit corporations.

Marilyn OnBreak D.
5 years ago

The school districts use Apple, but in the past couple of years, they've had a lot of problems with the products. It's too bad.

Philip S.
Philip S.5 years ago

Boycott Apple, they exclusively use liquid coal (the most polluting) to make their products and have the worst record when it comes to slave labor. They all do it but Apple is by far the worst offender. If you buy Apple products you’re part of the problem.

Pamela T.
Pamela T.5 years ago

The connection to higher ed, and to education if you were local to Cupertino like I was all the way down to elementary school was economic... Hook the students, the teachers, eventually the parents when they bought a kid a computer. Severe discounts to free computers started my first lab of Apple //es (sorry, limited keypad), all the way up to the 7500 that I went off to college with, already a little old at that point. Now that Apple products are mainstream, not the hip alternative, student discounts are a pittance (as late as 2002 still 20%), hardy macbooks have been replaced with airs that can't stand up to the average student's use, the student market itself has been forgotten. I am a long-time Apple fan myself, but as things have changed, you really do pay a premium for Apple products, there is good competition in phones (I for one am happier with Android), and while viruses are still less numerous for Mac, you can no longer always say they are more reliable... Our Macs have as many hardware issues and crashes as any PC. I don't begrudge Jobs leaving, though, don't we all agree that no one wants to say "I wish I spent more time at the office" when we are old?

Rachel Beckford
Rachel Beckford5 years ago

To really help with the education of all students Apple could lower its prices!

Berny P.
Berny p.5 years ago

SANITY CHECK PLEASE........THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!

Susan T.
Susan T.5 years ago

Interesting - I didn't know about the time Jobs was not at Apple.

There is tons of educational material available on podcasts.

Apple is grooming a generation of Apple over PC users. Their products are so much better. I hope that the company doesn't lose it's innovative edge without Jobs there to guide it.

Linda E.
Linda E.5 years ago

I hope Apple continues to support higher ed.