Setting the course for dental students: Major technology deployment

A School of Dentistry staffer stands next to piles of iPads.
(Photo courtesy U-M School of Dentistry)

As with most schools, the U-M School of Dentistry converted to online learning on March 16, 2020.  While this was an abrupt and unplanned change, the Dental Informatics team at the school helped convert more than 70 classes to an all-online format for dental and dental hygiene students, adopting new software programs and transforming the learning process.

Perhaps more impressive is the large deployment of over 300 iPads, keyboard cases, and Apple Pencils to help make the online learning experience more consistent for students.  Over the course of two weeks, the team configured each iPad with software and tools to make it easy to access and utilize Canvas, Google suite, Zoom, note taking, and organization apps.  The devices leverage mobile device management to ensure they are encrypted, password protected and that additional apps can be pushed to students. Finally, the iPads were shipped to first- and second-year dental students (DDS) as well as dental hygiene (DH) students across the country.

“The pandemic has required us to think differently and act fast to ensure the critical needs of our school’s mission are maintained,” said Cassandra Callaghan, chief information officer, School of Dentistry. “For this mission, it is critical that we continue to provide a great learning experience for our students with classes continuing to be online for the spring and summer semesters. Teamwork, creative problem-solving and collaboration have helped us overcome incredible obstacles and logistics related to responding to the pandemic.”

Three Dentistry staff members prepare iPads for incoming students.
(Image courtesy U-M School of Dentistry)

The Dental Informatics team recently developed a virtual orientation for incoming students that leverages the use of the iPad. Each task was adapted from the original face-to-face orientation. 

“The iPad opens up new opportunities, by allowing users to go between Canvas and almost any app,” said Adam Barragato, instructional learner lead. “It seamlessly combines all experiences using one common platform and creates a much more engaged learning experience for the student.” 

The incoming DDS dental students will also be receiving iPads beginning in June.