By Clint Boulton

More than 2,300 students and faculty at Hult International Business School are using iPads to access textbooks and coursework and keep connected to their peers across five campuses worldwide, said Hult CIO Yousuf Khan, who worked with third-party developers to create iPad applications used at the school.

Hult, which offers one-year MBA and master’s programs, lacks the academic renown of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School or Harvard Business School in the United States. But the school is unique in that it has campuses located in Cambridge, San Francisco, Shanghai, London and Dubai. Students may spend 50% of their time at their primary university, and rotate to any of the other campuses once or twice over the course of their studies at Hult, said Khan. “Our messaging is about preparing people for a global economy,” Khan told CIO Journal. For that, the “classroom needs to be innovative and the student experience needs to be innovative.”

Using iPads for mobile computing in schools and businesses isn’t new in itself. A Wharton spokesperson said the school gave nearly 500 iPads provided to first-year Executive MBA classes at its Philadelphia and San Francisco campuses. A Harvard Business School spokesperson said the school is testing the iPad. But Hult President Stephen Hodges and Khan want students and teachers use the iPads as broadly as possible, from basic campus orientation to classroom productivity.

Khan distributed Apple’s word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and note-taking applications on the tablets, which Khan purchased for $500 each last year. He worked with Inkling, a leading distributor of digital textbooks for the iPad, to license titles for students, who may elect to buy whole textbooks or individual chapters. Currently, Hult students may access 10 to 15 titles via the iPad through Inkling. Khan also worked with Blackboard Mobile to build iHult, a mobile version of the campus directory, to help students get acclimated to their school. Khan’s team built a content management system to feed data about campus maps, photos, and other information iHult provides to students.

Khan says development of the school’s Hult Reader application, which allows students to access thousands of pages of course materials via PDFs on the iPad, proved challenging because of Apple’s stringent apps approval. “The review process of the app was long but worked out in the end…” said Khan, who provided input on the way content was rendered in the application.

Digitizing textbooks and course materials has cut down on the number of physical books Hult’s students carry, and it’s also trimmed a great deal off of the school’s printing and shipping logistics costs, though Khan declined to say by how much. Digitizing content is more about improving productivity than about cutting costs, Khan said. “Fundamentally, the iPad is perceived as a consumption device,” Khan said. “We want to change that paradigm to make the iPad not just for consumption but for productivity.”

Khan’s work with iPads supports new data from Gartner, which shows CIOs expect more than 20% of their employees to use tablets instead of laptops by 2013. Mobile application development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1 by 2015, said a Gartner analyst.

Ideally, Khan said he’d make all of Hult’s textbooks available via the iPad, but that’s out of his hands because the publishers decide what to digitize. “I know that we have a lot of work to do still – more textbooks, more productivity apps, more training, more support,” Khan said. “But I feel that we have taken steps to provide an improvement in every aspect of the student experience – from classroom, to campus, to content.”

Read the full CIO Journal article.

Hult offers a range of highly skills-focused and employability-driven business school programs including a range of MBA options and a comprehensive one year Masters in International Business. To find out more, take a look at our blog The Top 7 Skills Needed for Success in International Business. Download a brochure or get in touch today to find out how Hult can help you to learn about the business world, the future, and yourself.