Final Project, ED 650

Distance Delivery of Student Services

Executive Summary:

Bristol Bay Campus, in fulfillment of Title III grant objectives, is charged with delivering Student Services to the four main hubs in the Bristol Bay region. This proposal is for the purchase, setup, distribution, and usage of iPads in two remote villages: New Stuyahok and Togiak. They will serve as our pilot sites. The iPads will be configured with files, bookmarks, and applications which support Student Services functions (e.g., course applications, financial aid, career and academic advising, etc.), as well as resources that help student retention and program completion. Established audio conference communication protocols will be used to guide and communicate with the iPad users. While this pilot is focused on Student Services, there is potential for similarly configured devices to be used for instructional purposes.


Bristol Bay Campus (BBC) is a rural campus located in Dillingham, Alaska. The school is under the umbrella of University of Alaska – Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development. It specializes in applied science and vocational programs. Most courses are offered online. BBC’s service region extends from Bristol Bay to the Aleutian-Pribilof region covering more than 100,000 square miles.


Online learning is increasing, and for locations with reliable, fast internet it is both a strategic and tactical move that all educators need to be making. However, in rural southwest Alaska internet is constrained both in bandwidth and by cost. Nevertheless, given the vastness of our geographic service area and the sparseness of our population density, educators have to take distance delivery seriously. Likewise, we need to explore delivering Student Services to remote locations throughout our regions. Moreover, we have Title III grant objectives that this project addresses. Specifically, the goals include deployment of technology and the recruitment of cohorts in hub communities. An essential aim of Title III grant projects is that the plans are sustainable after the grant is fulfilled. iPads are particularly useful because they are portable and can be operated online or be set up with files and used offline. Since the students are required to interact with online interfaces like Google Apps, UA Online, and BlackBoard this versatility is essential. One of the grant objectives speaks to using technology in the rural communities. Facebook analytics shows that our customers predominately use mobile devices to interact with our online content. Accordingly, iPads are a small reach from smartphones. We anticipate the use of these devices, because of their ubiquity, will be transparent and require little instruction. Exploring distance delivery strategies such as deploying iPads and using existing audio conference lines to coach and advise remote learners on student service topics is more viable than flying personnel to remote locations. Moreover, it avoids – or at least offers – an alternative to slow and expensive internet.


Ally, M., Balaji, V., Abdelbaki, A., & Cheng, R. (2017). Use of Tablet Computers to Improve Access to Education in a Remote Location. Journal Of Learning For Development, 4(2), 221-228.

Ally et al. touch on issues relevant to us here in Southwest Alaska. Their project was conducted in Swat, Pakistan. Like us, they needed to expose learners to devices and technology. However, unlike us, internet access was non-existent. They used an Aptus server to support the tablets. These servers simulate an online experience and provide access to open educational resources. The devices are cheap at $100 – $150. Learners can use phones, tablets, or computers in conjunction with it and become familiar with tools and skills relevant to the broader online environment.

The Aptus model is a concept that occurred to me when I was visiting St. Paul, Pribilof Islands. Their internet service is through cellular service. However, in the town, a fiber optic network has been constructed, so the local area network is quite good. Indeed, one of the pastimes is playing console games. It may be worth exploring  what kind of learning resources we could set up and deliver locally through their local network

Saorin, J. L., Torre, J. L., Martín, N., & Carbonell, C. (2013). Education Working Group Management using Digital Tablets. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 93(3rd World Conference on Learning, Teaching and Educational Leadership), 1569-1573. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.083

Education Working Group Management using Digital Tablets is several years old. However,  like the first article, it is focused on specific technology. In this case, the study examines the use of applications in service of building students teamwork skills. The class, the authors, concentrated on was a college entry-level engineering course. The projects student groups selected varied widely, but, the instructors standardized the tools and the methods they used to manage and monitor the groups.

Cloud ComputingManaging The ClassworkStudents Collaborative WorkTablet Access To A Computer

Google Drive


Teacher Tool
Teacher Assistant
Teacher Aide Pro
Visual GradeBook


New Notes
Notes Plus
Note Taker HD


Team Viewer
Jump Desktop
RDP remote desktop

This article offered some very concrete solutions for configuring a tablet for group work. The remote login app provided a fruitful solution which may have application in our rural sites.

Managing iPads Inventory:

Part of this proposal is to review and learn about configuring, controlling access to settings and proxy server settings, as well as pushing applications and updates to the devices. We will explore the requirements of bulk purchasing, licensing of iPad applications, and the setup of customized printing based on each Center’s network and printers. Tools and plans for mobile device management (e.g., Apple Device Enrollment Program, Apple Configurator) offer device enrollment, configuration, setup, and assignment. Also, a plan for routine system and file updates will be implemented. 

The main thrust of this initiative is focused on delivering Student Services, particularly Career and Academic Advising, to the rural areas and Centers of BBC’s catchment area. A secondary benefit is that the project will serve as a pilot for learning both the back office aspect of mobile device management and the front end use. As our learning curve accelerates, BBC will expand its delivery of instruction using iPads.

Selecting applications for the iPad will be an essential task. We will need to review specific applications developed for the University of Alaska Fairbanks such as UAF Mobile and MappostUAF. Broadening the search applications like BlackBoard Collaborate Mobile and Careers360 will need to be evaluated. A systematic search for applications will be conducted. Since both IOS and Android operating systems are represented in our analytics, we will have to limit our selections to apps that function on both devices. Screen captures of routine online interactions, UA Online, and BlackBoard, will be created, saved in pdf format, and then saved to the devices. Video or audio files used as tutorial resources will likewise need to be selected or designed and loaded. Browsers will need a standard set of both academic and student service resources.

Each location will need a secure place to store the devices and a method for checking them in and out. Cases to protect the tablets and additional power adapters need to be researched and provided with the iPads.  Both stand-alone Bluetooth keyboards and integrated keyboard cases need to be investigated as keyboards significantly increase the utility of tablets.


In the original project charter, it was proposed that five iPads be configured for each location.  A Career and Academic Advisor would use the existing and relatively reliable audio-conference system to call and chat with cohort members and to coach use of the iPads and the relevant resources.

Our service area includes two distinctly different kinds of communities: remote villages as already discussed, and larger more accessible and better-serviced communities (Dillingham, King Salmon, and Unalaska).  It is conceivable that two tablet configurations might be needed, but we already anticipate technical difficulty with setting up and maintaining iPads. Consequently, at this time the focus will be on a single configuration aimed at remote communities.

This fall BBC administrators made site visits to New Stuyahok and Togiak. BBC has operated Centers in these villages for many years. BBC has a new Director and several new staff members, so these site visits were mostly reconnaissance. Both communities struggle with expensive, slow, and unreliable phone and internet service. Likewise, there seem to be similar patterns in the market niches:  traditional secondary school students, high school dropouts due to significant high school dropout rates, and adult/vocation learners. There are many differences between the communities as well, and a single recipe for Center operations is not recommended.

After the initial proposal, two opportunities have been uncovered. First, the school district that manages schools in both communities has sophisticated teleconference equipment available in each. This equipment is underutilized and frequently available. We are in preliminary discussions on ways to collaborate and to deliver Career and Academic Advising through this medium. It seems reasonable that mentoring through tablet devices might be more comfortable with a video display of the facilitator. Some experimentation might be conducted comparing the experience with the audio-conference technology with the teleconference.

The discovery of the Aptus Server has also impacted the direction of this project. Conversations with University of Alaska Fairbanks’ eLearning program and Office of Information and Technology (OIT) indicate interest and direction for such an initiative. In effect, this is a local area wireless network that can be used to deliver educational materials to local mobile devices. It might be said to simulate the internet in a limited way. An Aptus server could combine nicely with the iPad deployment and create a more productive environment. The value of this configuration extends outside of the classroom to the ubiquitous smartphones in the community. Along with resources like Khan Academy videos and Wikipedia articles, the server comes with WordPress and Moodle installations. A setting for interactive distance education is created, and that likely opens up many doors for instruction in both Career and Academic Advising and the delivery of college course content.

If Aptus Servers are deployed, then the iPads can be used as connected devices. Being able to deliver Moodle, for example, means that a very different approach to content and device management can be taken. The tablets can be left configured for factory default, and the custom content can be stored on the server instead.


Because we are talking about cohorts of five or smaller, and because we are struggling with slow and unreliable internet at the remote locations, it seems reasonable to create a paper and pencil questionnaire about customer satisfaction with the devices and the content. These could be mailed or faxed back to BBC main campus and then input into a Google Form for reporting. Where the aim is to approach this as a pilot with subsequent additional rollouts, we anticipate ironing out the bugs and unintended consequences before scaling up. Another aspect of evaluation speaks to grant objectives. These include:

Objective 1.3.2 Establish student cohorts in each of the four regional hubs and provide one annual cohort retreat per hub. (Bristol Bay region)

In the case of objective 2.1.1, the technology supports student, advisor and instructor interaction not just annually, but frequently. And, Regular and effective communications are key aspects for successful cohorts.

Objective 2.1.1 Increase student access to cutting-edge technologies that will open up new career pathways through technology upgrades to the main campus and three village learning centers. (Bristol Bay region)

While iPads and the technology discussed here are not exactly cutting edge, the configurations proposed are innovative as place-specific solutions. Perhaps a way forward is to be cognizant of the need to address topics like eye-controlled technology, designer antibiotics, ingestible robots, smart clothing, and the like and to build that into coursework.

Objective 2.2.2 Increase the utilization of telepresence room and other technologies by 10 percent each year in educational delivery, student support, conferences, workshops, and community events. (Bristol Bay region)

Working with Southwest Regional School District to utilize their teleconference equipment in each village school speaks directly to this grant objective. It remains to craft a curriculum and tactics for presentation appropriate for the medium. 


The discovery of the Aptus Server has opened up some exciting and interesting ways to develop what was a bland approach to a problem. As well negotiating with Southwest Regional School District to use their teleconference equipment to coaching and advising adds significantly to the potential for success in deploying and using iPads for distance delivery of student services. Conversations with UAF OIT and eLearning need to be had yet so that the server is secure and configured according to UAF guidelines. Nonetheless in concept this approach seems viable for rural southwestern Alaska villages.


Ally, M., Balaji, V., Abdelbaki, A., & Cheng, R. (2017). Use of Tablet Computers to Improve Access to Education in a Remote Location. Journal Of Learning For Development, 4(2), 221-228.

Saorin, J. L., Torre, J. L., Martín, N., & Carbonell, C. (2013). Education Working Group Management using Digital Tablets. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 93(3rd World Conference on Learning, Teaching and Educational Leadership), 1569-1573. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.083


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