The tablet in three of its four configurationsAs part of the University Institute of Learning and Teaching funded Parklife project, Nick Cartwright has been piloting the use of a hybrid laptop. The project involved students working in open spaces of their own choice with Nick’s support, so a device capable of taking notes and sharing information with small groups of students was considered worthy of inclusion to support the process.

The device used – a Lenovo Yoga 2 11.6″ – was selected on the basis that it was capable of using the University’s common applications installed on staff and student PCs and that it appeared to offer flexibility in its physical use – it has a touch screen and can be used in stand, tent and tablet configurations, along with a standard laptop layout.

As many of the activities Nick would be carrying out mirrored some of the potential practices that might be used at the new Waterside Campus, LearnTech agreed to record Nick’s experiences to share with Waterside stakeholders. This is the first of a number of reviews we intend to publish – though we are not recommending the University or members of staff purchase this or any other particular model of laptop. We are just seeking to identify the strengths and weaknesses of such devices in the workplace and classroom.

The Yoga has been used to record notes and observations during Parklife sessions but – in practice – it has been relatively little used to share information with small groups of students. While Nick was impressed with the ability to be able to hook it over a chair back as an informal display, in practice the small screen didn’t make it practical to share with more than two or three students.

Aside from general web browsing and Office applications, Nick found it an excellent device to prepare Prezis with but found Turnitin did not respond well to the touch screen. That said, he did complete all his marking using the Yoga successfully. Its particular strength seemed to be that he could quickly move away from an area of disturbance to a quite corner with minimal disruption. Battery life was acceptable – enough for 3-4 hours and a fast one hour recharge was useful. Ultimately, Nick would like to be able to dock to a large screen with a full keyboard for more intensive text work but has found that almost all his work has been possible on the Yoga.

Its main drawbacks are the small screen and weight when used as a tablet – compared to an iPad (around 500g), 1.4 Kg would be uncomfortable to use for a long period – but the flexibility may well be worth this if the device is used in more than one mode. Some reviews suggest that the 802.11n only wireless connect might be an issue, but Nick has noticed no significant wireless connection problems. The mini-HDMI port is the only physical way to connect to an external screen or projector, so this needs to be borne in mind when considering use cases and the available infrastructure. But the fact that a colleague purchased the larger screen version of the Yoga 2 for herself after trying this machine over a period of time is a clear indication that this is a useful device.

Nick is continuing his evaluation in his Law teaching and hopes to try out Panopto at some point as the included web camera appears to be of very good quality.  We will follow up on his experiences later in the year.