Darden Students Test the Amazon Kindle DX

August 24, 2009 — More than 300 full-time first-year MBA students arrived at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business last week, and 62 of them were presented with a box containing Amazon's newest wireless electronic reader, the Kindle DX.

The students of "Section D" – one of five sections that represent the demographic and professional diversity of the entering class – were selected at random to take part in the Kindle DX Pilot Project. Sponsored by the online retailer Amazon, the program will test and assess how the Kindle DX can support the needs of higher education. The students and 10 Darden professors will evaluate whether the Kindle can enhance the case method and the business-school experience.

On Thursday, Amazon delivered a live orientation via video feed from Seattle, during which the students learned the features of the new Kindles, wrapped in a Darden-branded orange and blue leather cover. [Video.]

"I am typically an early tech adopter," first-year student DeVer Warner said afterward. "I come from a venture capital background, so I am excited I was selected. Everyone is still figuring out how it's going to work and how to use it, but it was a pretty good introduction."

Darden is the first school to kick off the pilot project and one of just seven colleges and universities in the world to take part.

"The participants will use their Kindles throughout the school year to access case studies, as well as textbooks, newspapers and other learning materials," said Michael Koenig, director of MBA operations.

Darden Business Publishing – the second-leading publisher of business case studies in the nation, after Harvard Business School – has established a relationship with Amazon as a distribution partner for its portfolio. Nearly 70 Darden case studies are now available through Amazon's Kindle Store.

Throughout the year, the Darden School will explore how the Kindle DX can enhance teaching and learning, promote effective applications of technology in higher education, improve environmental sustainability and lead to potential cost savings to schools and students.

In addition to saving students from lugging around heavy backpacks, the technology could substantially reduce the use of paper.

"The Kindle could help Darden achieve its goal of becoming 'carbon neutral' by 2020," Robert Carraway, Darden's associate dean for MBA programs, said.

Darden aims to become a top 10 school for teaching and research on sustainability by 2013 and has launched several other new "electronic" initiatives this school year. For the first time, all first-year students will have the option to receive electronically the more than 300 case studies they will review. For several second-year courses, paper is not an option.

Darden first-year student Emily Cherry looks forward to trying out some of the Kindle's newest features, including the ability to take notes, highlight and display native PDF files.

"I had never seen the device before, in person," Cherry said. "I'm excited to play around with it and to see if it might make sense."

-- By Julie Daum