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3 Michigan Firms Design Award-winning iPad App for Higher Education

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XanEdu's iPad app

XanEdu’s iPad app

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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Three Ann Arbor companies — XanEdu Publishing Inc., a provider of custom course materials and textbooks, along with the marketing and design firm Whole Brain Group LLC and mobile software developers Arbormoon Software Inc. — have earned a Campus Technology 2011 Innovators Award for the creation of the XanEdu iPad App. 

The app makes it easier for today’s mobile generation of college students to use, manage and engage more with digital course materials.  The XanEdu iPad App project was one of 10 winners selected in six categories out of nearly 400 entries. 

Campus Technology, who announced the winners on May 15, selected XanEdu for the award because the company’s approach and development methodology involved direct input from hundreds of college students across North America, including more than 500 students in over 50 courses at NYU Stern School of Business.

Said XanEdu vice president of custom publishing Tyler Steben: “This process enabled XanEdu to truly understand how specific features could enhance the student learning experience in a digital environment. Students expect portability, interactivity and accessibility both inside and outside of the classroom. At the same time, educators are looking for ways to deliver more dynamic and engaging course materials using multi-media and the web.  The XanEdu iPad App was created to synthesize the needs of both students and educators.” 

Instructors work with XanEdu to create dynamic content that is copyright compliant and then deliver it to students via the XanEdu iPad App.

The XanEdu iPad App’s key features include:

* Advanced highlighting and note taking;
* Powerful collaboration tools that allow students to share information with classmates or instructors, saving time and helping to better organize group projects;
* Advanced search capabilities that enable students to find key information faster, study more efficiently and create a personal learning archive for future reference;
* Wireless printing of materials, highlights and notes via AirPrint on the iPad, offering students greater convenience and flexibility.

“Students have very specialized needs when it comes to reading class materials,” said Steben. “We found that most e-readers fall short of these needs for classroom use.  For example, our nationwide sampling uncovered a great need to support a workflow specific to the study habits of students in higher education. This led to the development of the XanEdu iPad App’s ‘magic back button’  that simulates the flipping back and forth of pages within a digital environment.”  

Marisa Smith, president of The Whole Brain Group, added: “This is a shining example of how Michigan-based companies are making a strong impact nationwide and that our achievements are being recognized by some of the country’s leading business schools and trade publications. Educational technology and mobile development are two areas that I’m passionate about because the opportunities to impact the next generation of thought leaders are so great. These opportunities are beyond mobility and digital delivery — they’re about helping to create smarter students by engaging them more with course materials and educators.”

XanEdu held a follow-up focus group on the campus of NYU in December, just prior to the official release of the XanEdu iPad App in Apple’s App Store.

“When we finally presented the XanEdu iPad App back to the students, they got big smiles on their faces,” Steben said. “You could tell that this was a tool that they wanted to use in the classroom and were truly excited to have been a part of the process. That’s the biggest reward that you can hope for in working in an educational environment — to have students excited about learning.”

Said Yonadav Tsuna, one of the NYU Stern students involved in the pilot program: “Once I started using the XanEdu course pack it definitely engaged me more in the course. It’s important for me to be engaged with the course material because it makes the difference between me liking the class and not liking the class.”

“The field of mobile development changes daily,” said David Koziol, president of Arbormoon Software. “Keeping up with the latest trends and best practices is often difficult.  What makes this project unique is that we had the opportunity to create what we believe is a new trend in educational technology.” 

XanEdu, The Whole Brain Group and Arbormoon continue to collaborate on mobile technologies for higher education and seek to blaze new trails in the tablet market.

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