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Jon Kennard


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11 colleges embracing mobile learning and app culture


Phones were once only used to make calls and computers were largely tethered to the wall, but neither is true today. Here we highlight a few US schools (and a UK one) that are taking m-learning to the next level on their respective campuses.
  1. MIT: It only makes sense that a school known for being tech-savvy (it's in their name) would be embracing mobile technologies on campus. The school designed software called Mobile Web that makes it simple to turn a website, in this case their school website, into a mobile-friendly version that's easier to browse. Even better, MIT is sharing the software with other colleges so everyone can get in on the mobile action. The school's development effort, marketed as iMobileU, is proving successful and some think it might even become a rival for Blackboard, the current leader in mobile educational development but at a much lower price point: free.
  2. Purdue University: One of the most impressive examples of a college embracing mobile technology, and technology in general, comes from Purdue. The school's information technology department has developed a suite of educational tools called the Jetpack Studio that it offers to students on campus and that are slowly being opened up for use at other schools. So far, the suite of tools includes: Jetpack, an app/ebook hybrid that aims to replace traditional textbooks; Doubletake for creating video assignments and course materials; Mixable for academic social engagement; Hotseat, a Twitter-like application for facilitating class discussions; and Signals, which warns professors about students who may not be performing well in a given course. All of the programs developed by the school are designed to be used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, making Purdue one of the leaders in the mobile learning movement.
  3. Seton Hall University: At Seton Hall, students don't need to worry about bringing their own mobile devices; the university is happy to provide all students with their own iPads. All students and faculty have been given the devices since January 2012 (in addition to the MacBook Pros each incoming freshman receives). The technology distribution forms the foundation for the school's mobile program called The Griffin Technology Advantage. The school provides both the essentials (free wifi, robust tech support) and specialised tools for learning on-the-go. The school is aiming to cater to the needs of Millennials, who they think learn differently having grown up in a largely digital age. Interactive electronic textbooks, digital handouts, and mobile-friendly websites are just some of the tech initiatives at the school. The school has received numerous awards and designations for its commitment to mobile learning, including becoming an Apple Distinguished Program.
  4. The University of Louisville: Officials at the University of Louisville wanted to come up with an easy way to keep in touch with all students throughout the school year, as email simply wasn't cutting it. Instead, the school began sending out text messages to alert incoming freshman to campus events, contests, and opportunities. The program is an addition to the school's existing mobile initiatives, including ULMobile-Transcript, an app that lets students look up any information they need about the school, from getting a library book to signing up for class. It's essentially a mobile version of everything available on the school's main website, making it easy for students to get access no matter where they are.
  5. The University of San Diego: Currently, USD offers a mobile application for students and staff that offers maps, a directory, iTunesU courses, bus schedules, athletics schedules, course catalogues, and more, but it's what they're planning to do in the future that's really interesting. The University of San Diego is looking to use mobile technology to train students, staff, and members of the community on using technology, especially in the classroom setting. Shawn Gross, of the University's Mobile Technology Learning Center said, "The emphasis is on the concept of digital literacy, project-based learning, social and collaboration tools, and the mobile learning ecosystem." The very fact that they have a Mobile Technology Learning Center should be a big tip-off that the school is serious about mobile technology, offering a mobile technology certification program to K-12 educators in the area, researching new mobile applications, and implementing mobile learning technology at all levels of education.
  6. Abilene Christian University: In 2008, ACU became the first university in the nation to provide iPhones and iPod Touches to all incoming freshmen, so it's safe to say that they've been on board with mobile learning in higher ed for quite some time. The school is often noted as one of the most mobile-friendly campuses in the nation, and not without good reason. ACU has worked hard since rolling out their mobile program to blend together all the academic, social, and infrastructure needs students have for m-learning applications. From courses offered through iTunesU to mobile tools for teaching, the school is leading the way in mobile learning, as is also evidenced by the conferences they hold each year on the topic.
  7. Coventry University: In 2007, the school created an innovative learning environment with the help of Cisco and Giunti Labs. Blending mobile learning and virtual learning worlds technologies, the program uses the real location of students to trigger access to content and experiences through their mobile devices. The program is part of a larger initiative at Coventry to create a smart campus, with mobile learning playing a large role. To date, the school offers students access to a wide range of mobile tools, from midwifery mobile learning apps to mobile learning meetups where students and teachers can learn more about the technology.
  8. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota: The iPad will soon play a major role in the online graduate programs in project management and organisational leadership. A pilot program, starting in the spring of this year, supplied all students in the major with an iPad and began to integrate the tablet into the curriculum itself. Students in the program will take part in learning activities developed specifically for the device, a project that officials hope will boost interaction between students, professors, and the learning material. The new iPad program is an extension of existing mobile initiatives by the school, including a fully-featured mobile application for students that offers access to both website material and social sites.
  9. Harvard University: Like many other universities, Harvard offers students a chance to download and use a mobile application that makes it simple to keep up with athletics, find a classroom, contact a professor, or even watch lectures from Harvard scholars. The application isn't just for smartphones, however, as the school has also created an iPad-friendly version that students can use that can also be accessed directly from the web on any laptop or computer. The app is just one of many developed by the school. There are also applications for Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Public Health, as well as a mobile tour of the school, access to business publications on-the-go, and mobile tools for alumni. Even better, the College of Education is working on a number of mobile learning research projects, helping develop the future of mobile learning in the classroom.
  10. Stanford University: Stanford is another school that offers students a wide range of ways to use mobile devices on the campus. Students can use iStanford to learn more about the campus from their phones, or a variety of websites that have been optimised to work well on mobile devices. In order to promote the use of these devices on campus, the school offers discounts on phones and provides resources to help students develop their own mobile communication tools. The best thing about Stanford's mobile program, however, is its collaboration with Nokia on mobile learning research, which has led to the development of new educational mobile tech, most notably SMILE. The university has even bigger plans for the future, including plans to replace student ID cards with electronic versions on their phones, implement more ebooks, and help student entrepreneurs get their own mobile ventures off the ground.
  11. Boise State University: While all the schools on this list already have robust mobile learning programs, what about those who are just now getting in on the movement? The school released a mobile learning proposal in the autumn of 2012 that laid out plans to transform how students and faculty at the school learn and teach. In order to meet their goals, the school will need to first transform its infrastructure to support mobile tools and train faculty how to best make use of the new tools. Ideally, the school would like to develop apps and tools that can help students not only do basic things like access the university website but learn and collaborate in class. So far, the project seems to be going well. IPads are showing up all over campus, faculty are doing great research on mobile tech, and QR codes are becoming a popular tool. Even the library has become involved, offering virtual resource libraries and access to ebooks. While not every school is fully on board with mobile tech just yet, Boise State proves that it's never too late to start aiming for full mobile integration. 

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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