Is the iPad a computer? My university doesn't think so

Just a funny/interesting signal in the “Is an iPad a ‘real computer’?” debate. My institution recently published its minimum technology requirements for the upcoming all-digital Fall semester.

Of note:


It is required that you have access to a laptop or desktop computer with the following specifications:

  • Windows PC or Mac with a recent and actively supported operating system (e.g.: Windows 10, macOS 10.13+, able to run modern web tools.
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Free hard drive space to adequately run software and work on course files
  • Speakers or headset for listening to audio/video or participating in synchronous sessions
  • Microphone and webcam (headset with microphone preferred) for participating in synchronous sessions
  • Display: Full color monitor

Ergo, apparently iPads are not computers, no matter what arguments are made by Apple or certain counterintuitively-titled websites.

Admittedly I may be knowingly stirring the wasp’s nest here, but I have had a variety of less-than-satisfactory iPad experiences recently. :upside_down_face:

Some of those have been trying to wrangle with the institution’s Learning Management System on iOS/iPadOS. In spite of the advances on Safari on the iPad, it is still a garbage experience… certain key functionality just doesn’t work.

That touch-friendly Mac with iPad apps can’t come soon enough!

Same here! Even better, my institution doesn’t support the mobile apps offered by our LMS vendor because… reasons? lol

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iPad Pro was announced 5 years ago. It’s a very short period of time for mainstream customer to change their mind about that iPad can do much more nowadays.

I liked one phrase from someone on iPad subreddit: iPad as dress shoes. Looks fancy, but uncomfortable to wear.


I have encountered similar frustrations with the LMS system (Canvas) for the graduate course I teach. But, I have found that using Brave on my iPad resolves most of the issues. Safari just doesn’t do as well.

This doesn’t say that ipad is not a computer. It states that to complete the course, you need a computer as defined in their spec.

Technically an iPhone is a computer, but if it won’t run key software you’ll need it’s no use.


I think half of this debate is people who have this kind of literacy getting offended by semantics. (:raising_hand_man: that’s me!)

The other half of the debate, though, is the only part that actually matters: if your average student believes the pundits or the advertisements that say an iPad is a computer, they’re probably going to buy it. They’ll buy it because they don’t think about operating systems or the differences between mobile and desktop-class browsing. They only think about what a reasonable person would call a computer is capable of.

Then, when it’s 11:59pm and their hastily-completed assignment is due at midnight, they find that the upload button doesn’t render properly*, that iPad is suddenly not such a computer after all.

That’s the danger. I agree with you, but I don’t think the nuance matters.

* a contrived example

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Also, LOL! What are they even referring to here? Is there some underground B&W monitor movement they’re worried about or something. :stuck_out_tongue:


I was gonna point out the same thing! I guess I can’t use my Kindle…?


Ryan, I definitely agree here. Also, the argument of that “You” can’t do “professional” work on an iPad. It all depends on what your professional work is. :slight_smile: I believe there are always options and one might have to try a little harder to get something to work.

I’m the tech support for my family and my wife doesn’t want to learn she just wants me to fix it or make it work.


Even a Mac isn’t necessarily a computer. The institution I taught at for 25 years recently required students to have Windows computers. With the move to Apple Silicon in Macs, a Mac will be totally unacceptable. In my classes (and I retired 5 years ago) I always needed Parallels on my Mac to run Windows for applications that only ran on Windows. An iPad would never have been acceptable.


What about the items in the spec would not fit for an iPad?
Looking at it, it’s all there…

Arguably “A laptop or desktop computer,” but more definitively the OS requirements: “Windows 10 or macOS 10.13+.”

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The viability of having the iPad as your sole computing device definitely depends on the major. In my experience, most university software is absolutely horrendous on anything other than a windows or macOS computer. I thought that Adobe Flash being sunset would change that but it’s still the same.

In fact, my university is rolling out new software this fall for managing COVID testing and stuff. It ONLY SUPPORTS CHROME OR EDGE horrible


Sounds about right for enterprise. Sigh

My university isn’t quite that bad, but they barely acknowledge macOS or iOS even exist. Our IT support is effectively only offered for Windows and they send you to the Apple store for anything else.


According to Merriam-Webster, a computer is: " a programmable usually electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data"

Of course an iPad is a computer. Just not one suited for every purpose.


Probably a “oh, you licensed our LMS…but if you want your students to be able to use the mobile versions, that’s an extra upgrade on a per-seat basis”.

Either that or the way your institution is implementing the LMS it won’t function properly on mobile. :slight_smile:


Folks saying “meh it works for me” are totally missing the point and out of scope in this thread, in which I tried to focus on the institutional recognition of iPads as computers.

If the iPad works for you, then great! But also know that that’s because you’re in a privileged position. Many folks aren’t—major institutions aren’t willing to work to support it. As others have said, it’s too early for that yet.

To wit, it is a little irresponsible to recommend an iPad as a general purpose computer.

I’m personally embittered about this because I fell into the hype myself. I should’ve been more critical, but I believed the advocates and tried to make an iPad work for mobile use for years. I’m starting to realize that I should’ve spent much of that money and time on a good laptop. Instead I bought 3-4 iterations of iPads (Pro) and too many accessories, trying to make it work, thinking “it worked for those people! I must just need to do this one last thing.” Foolish me!

I still love my iPad Pro. It’s great for highlighting readings and drawing, which are both key in my work. But it isn’t a good computer—and apparently it shouldn’t be depended on as the way to interface with my school.

(I’m actually surprised I feel this strongly. This is a nice chaise lounge, though, and you all apparently make for wonderful counselors…)


I whole-heartedly agree! I tried to be a Computer Science major with the iMac at home and iPad on the go. That was 5 years ago. iPadOS is still not at a state where that’s feasible.

It’s bummer too. I always feel bad that the iPad has basically become exclusively for movie watching when the laptop is too heavy.


Agreed. Am currently working off an iPad Pro but will definitely get an Apple Silicon MBP once it drops. As soon as you want to get more “pro” apps, iPadOS starts to feel restrictive.

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Personally, I agree 100%. Even the “desktop” mobile Safari browser doesn’t seem to behave quite like the actual desktop Safari browser. And that’s Apple’s own product, let alone the apps.

For example, my girlfriend tried to get some sort of tech support via the LinkedIn app on her iPad, and that particular feature was “not available on mobile”. So we went to the website, and tried to bring it up there. In “desktop” site mode. And it auto-detected mobile, and made us use the app.

Even things like Zoom don’t work nearly as well on mobile phones / tablets as they do on a regular desktop / laptop computer.

Personally, I see a lot of it from the other side of things. That is, rather than companies trying to promote that their whizbang device is as good as a computer, that the end users seem to be insisting that there’s no reason they should have to own a computer.

No joke. I’ve actually seen people - people paying the real money to attend a real university - complaining that they can’t take their courses and do all of their school work from their phone. “Why should I have to own a laptop?”

So maybe the companies promoting their devices as computer replacements (like Apple) are just seeing which way the winds of user demand are blowing, and marketing accordingly?

As an academic sort though, I’m curious as to your thoughts on the “why should I have to own a laptop?” logic. Do you think it’s reasonable for organizations to require laptops / desktops / “regular” computers? Or do you think it’s a failing at the organizational level that academic courseware can’t be delivered, say, to an iPhone?

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