As a new academic year begins, Fresno State helps incoming freshmen and transfer students support their studies with digital technology. Students who register in advance can come by the DISCOVERe hub to pick up free iPads and Apple Smart Keyboards.

President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval and Dr. Xuanning Fu, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, helped kick off the device pickups Thursday in the Fresno State Library, celebrating this partnership with Apple. Victor E. Bulldog, Fresno State’s live mascot, even made an appearance.

The iPads and keyboards are loaned to students at no cost and do not impact potential financial aid packages. When students graduate, they simply return the devices.

DISCOVERe, the groundbreaking program pioneered at Fresno in 2014, inspired CSUCCESS. The California State University launched the CSUCCESS program in 2021 to enhance student achievement and create more equitable opportunities for students at campuses that didn’t already have tech-lending programs in place. 

DISCOVERe pairs a mobile device lending program with specially designed courses. Since its inception, more than 31,000 students have been part of DISCOVERe and more than 400 faculty members have been trained to leverage iPad mobile technology in their teaching and learning environments.

Having the DISCOVERe infrastructure in place already proved critical when Fresno State had to pivot suddenly to virtual instruction during the shutdown of the early months of COVID.

Over 65% of Fresno State students are eligible for Pell Grants,  from low- and medium-income households and about 66% of Fresno State graduates are the first generation in their families to earn college degrees. These statistics illustrate the socio-economic hurdles faced by many Bulldogs. 

“Closing the digital divide is a critical component of our students’ success. With all of the new, exciting, and at times overwhelming things a first-year Bulldog has to worry about, affording and accessing high-quality technology will not be one of them,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “The iPad helps in students’ path to a diploma, which will transform their lives and improve our communities. We are grateful for our amazing DISCOVERe team and the support we receive from Apple to be able to offer this program.”

For the fall 2022 semester, Fresno State has about 6,120 new undergraduate students who are eligible for the free technology — 3,620 freshmen and 2,500 transfer students. DISCOVERe personnel have already distributed 857 devices so far this semester with almost 1,000 more appointments in the coming weeks.

“We are excited to provide the appropriate learning tools in innovative learning environments with our committed faculty to close equity gaps for learning and digital literacy,” said Dr. Bryan D. Berrett, interim director of the Office of Innovation and Digital Excellence for Academic Success and professor of Deaf Studies. “Our focus is equity, access and inclusion. Our driving mission is to create an ecosystem of belonging that empowers all students for success. We aim to connect future Bulldogs with Fresno State and the numerous academic opportunities that exist to transform lives.”

The program is designed to augment digital literacy and increase student success by providing enhanced curriculum and experiences that expand digital skill sets and provide a platform to personalize the learning experience. Apple technology also offers tools specifically to support students with disabilities, which is a significant priority for Fresno State. 

Apple continues to support the transformation of teaching and learning at Fresno State with an Apple Professional Learning specialist dedicated to faculty support, student campus leaders to support digital literacy and an Apple Program Manager as a strategic resource to assist with operational readiness in the deployment of iPads to students.

Faculty receive supplemental training to develop course curriculum that maximizes the potential of how the iPads support learning. The fall 2022 cohort DISCOVERe faculty applications are being accepted until Sept. 2. Academic Affairs and the Office of the Provost provides ongoing funding for faculty professional development to expand DISCOVERe options.