Daniel Fusch of Academic Impressions published this post on Piloting Mobile Learning, in which he emphasized the urgency of going mobile. The writer believes that in the next few years, those institutions who are best prepared to reach students in mobile locations and on mobile devices will have a competitive advantage.
To learn how academic leaders can get started with piloting mobile learning, he interviewed Lynne O’Brien, director of academic technology and instructional services for Perkins Library at Duke University, an early adopter.
Several recent reports have highlighted a rising rate of adoption for mobile devices:
• Gartner, this week, released a projection that tablet devices such as Apple’s iPad will see more than 19 million units sold worldwide this year, most of them in the US; Gartner also anticipates that this figure will grow to more than 200 million units in 2014
• In September, International Data Corp. (IDC) upgraded its forecast for sales of smartphones, suggesting that the end of 2010 would see a 55.4% increase since 2009
In short, though most universities in the US are only in the earliest stages of implementing mobile marketing initiatives, and though few universities are actively piloting mobile learning, there is growing urgency in the need to do so.
O’Brien suggests these guiding questions to help you identify where piloting a mobile learning program will make the most sense:
• What mobile devices and applications is your student population currently using, and where is the market headed for your target population?
• What specific advantages do you see in delivering educational content on a mobile device, rather than by more traditional means?
• What new opportunities can you identify for either addressing current problems and challenges in instructional delivery, or for providing an enhanced and improved learning experience?
Deciding on the Device
First, design your project in a way that takes advantage of the devices your students are already using, looking for pilot programs that cross different carriers and plans (which reduces both the cost of purchasing and distributing new devices and the inconvenience of requiring students to join one carrier’s plan).
You will need to survey your students regularly to learn what devices your student body has adopted. You will also want to review Gartner and ECAR reports regularly to monitor the projected adoption rates for smartphones and tablet devices among the demographics your institution serves. That way, you can get out ahead of the demand.
The Value Mobile Devices Add
Second, make sure that you are looking for opportunities where a mobile format does add value. “Certain resources and educational activities lend themselves to a quick experiment with mobile devices,” O’Brien notes. “Others do not.” Mobile devices usually add value to the learning experience when they can be used to facilitate:
• Rapid communication between students or between students and faculty
• Giving and receiving feedback
• Access to information from off-campus locations
However, students are not likely to use their smartphones to access large quantities of information — you want to focus on making information available that can be absorbed “on the fly.” If, for example, you want students to have mobile access to a course website, rather than port over the entire website, identify those tasks students may need to complete quickly from a mobile location, such as checking the room location, course announcements, and grades. “Rather than just port over resources,” O’Brien advises, “find opportunities to achieve something that is currently difficult more effectively via a mobile device.”
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