Universities Provide Technology and Support for Student-Athletes

iPads Serve Student-Athletes on the Road at Norfolk State University

A new Apple iPad device, keyboard and AirPods were waiting for all students at Virginia’s Norfolk State University when they arrived on campus this fall. For student-athletes in particular, the gift was a game changer, says Ivana Rich, NSU’s associate athletic director for administration.

“The iPads really expanded our student-athletes’ capabilities,” she says. “They can do their work anytime, from anywhere. On the road, the iPads give them access to all the resources on our Blackboard learning management system, and with the keyboard, they can even write papers.”

NSU also operates a dedicated computer lab and study room for student-athletes, equipped with Dell All-in-One computers and networked printers. Some first-year athletes and transfers are required to spend six to eight hours a week in the computer lab, which is tracked by time management software. The lab was recently upgraded, thanks in part to an NCAA grant, and is staffed by monitors to assist athletes with the technology, says Rich.

The athletic department uses another program for scheduling and messaging, she says. Students can also communicate with professors and academic advisers through the app.

Academic support of NSU athletes is paying off. Student-athletes are graduating at a higher rate than ever — higher than the general student body, Rich says.

“Over the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve seen the improvement that’s come from having these resources for the athletes,” says Rich, who has a doctorate in educational technology. “The university has given them tools and a place to come to study. We make academics as much a part of the routine for athletes as practice or working out.”

Sufficient staffing to manage the technologies and ensure that student-athletes know how to use the tools is crucial, she says. More important, however, is listening to students and collecting data about what academic resources they need.

“It’s all about digging into the real-life academic challenges the student-athletes are dealing with and identifying the technology that will help them,” Rich says.

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