The Tablet Takeover: Exploring tablets like iPads as a University Tool

We all know that person with exquisite iPad notes, they get to jot down everything the prof deems relevant. That person who has their facts and opinions colour coded, annotations on their PowerPoints, quick diagrams that they can draw and overall, a convenient and efficient way to make notes. Is this what all students should be leaning towards? Are iPads the future? Do all students need a tablet or iPad?

Regarding college and University life, a tablet has several advantages. The first and most important one is its notetaking abilities. Taking notes on a tablet is easy and efficient. By using apps like Notability and Good Notes, you can organize your notes by subjects and topics, colour code your notes, draw graphs and diagrams, solve problems, and write anything your heart desires. This is useful for students who do Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Economics, and many other subjects. Adversely, writing equations on a laptop is exhausting, drawing your own diagrams take some time, documents get lost easy, and you cannot be quite creative in making your notes appealing.

Arts Majors who draw and do digital art will also find tablets quite useful as opposed to a computer. Tablets such as iPads are also excellent for annotating slideshow presentations. Students can highlight main points, add clarification, and note key factors mentioned by the lecturer.

Tablets are also much easier to travel with than a laptop. Most iPads are smaller and lighter than computers, making it easier to carry in bag packs when navigating campus. iPads and other tablets also can have cellular capabilities, allowing them to be able to connect to the internet without Wi-Fi.

The Downside of Tablets

However, to fully use these amazing features. A fee and some accessories are required. Apple pencils and a keyboard case for an iPad are highly recommended. These accessories are quite costly but are necessary if you intend to get full usability of your iPad or tablet.  Additionally, to write all your notes on Goodnotes and draw all the detailed diagrams on Notability a fee is required. Free versions of these applications do not offer unlimited templates, folders, or access to all features. Furthermore, iPads cannot support all the software needed in your university career. For example, some programming software and accounting software are just not feasible for iPads. Laptops are also more suitable for assignments. When doing research and assignments, a laptop can support more tabs, more screens and more applications running at the same time. Laptops can often connect to many devices at once. They also have more powerful hardware, more versatility and often, more storage than an iPad or any other tablet.

Tablets at the University of Waterloo

At the University of Waterloo, tablets and iPads are becoming increasingly popular among students. According to a study conducted by the ACO, 35% of students use these devices for school.  Students state that they use their tablets to write notes, complete assignments, watch lecture videos, use as a second screen and multiple other tasks. These students all stated that they loved their tablets, and it aids in completing most tasks required to accomplish their university requirements. However, several students did point out that software such as R Studio, VS Code and p5.js would be difficult and kind of redundant to run on an iPad.

Students with tablets mentioned that they purchased them because of how amazing it is to take notes on them. They also found that solving equations and organizing their work is efficient, simple, and saves them from using hundreds of pages in a notebook. Additionally, they noted that having an iPad saved them from carrying around notebooks and allowed them to write on slides, easily combining course material with explanations given by their professors in lectures. As such, 77% of students reported that they would recommend using a tablet to other university students based on their own experiences or observations.

On the other hand, some students who didn't own a tablet said they hadn't bought one because they were content with their laptops. Others mentioned that having a tablet for university might be redundant, or they simply didn't need or want an additional device. However, the overwhelming response for students without tablets was the cost. 70% percent of respondents without a tablet expressed a desire for one, whether an iPad or otherwise, but stated they simply couldn't afford it.

The logical conclusion for wanting a touch screen device and a laptop is a touch-screen laptop. This would be cheaper than having to buy a tablet and a computer and save students from having to carry around two different devices. However, 66% of students reported that they would not even consider a touch screen laptop. Most of these students lament that this is because Apple does not make a touch screen MacBook. Other students stated that a touch-screen feature on a computer is not necessary, and they would not use it if they had it.


In conclusion, tablets and laptops, iPad and MacBooks are similar computing devices. However, they do serve different purposes. Getting one over the other will give you some disadvantage. Tablets and laptops complement each other well. As such, the solution may be to have both. If so, what of the associated costs. Is this a form of over consumption. Maybe students should just absorb the disadvantage either way. However, it is impossible to ignore the advantages of an iPad and how it may slowly become a necessity for post-secondary school students.


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