Mobile phones are ubiquitous among students, both in college and K-12. And while some schools shun the use of cell phones, others are embracing them as a powerful tool. Marketing, learning, and mobile access are just some of the ways academia is taking advantage of what mobile has to offer. Read on, and we’ll take a look at nine interesting ways that mobile devices are making their way into academia.
Universities around the world have learned the value of mobile devices, publishing iPhone and Android apps, mobile-optimized sites, and more, that have allowed students and visitors to find campus news, maps, and other helpful resources right in their phones. Colleges that made a big step into using Blackboard for class organization and participation have taken another step, often embracing mobile Blackboard functionality as well. Apps, like the one from Brandeis University, make it easy to get emergency help in a flash, or just find information from the campus library. Others, including Princeton‘s app, allow access to the university’s iTunesU, which shares lectures, videos, and more. Students can even access the school’s course catalog within the app.
According to GigaOm, mobile is the key to education anywhere. The beauty of learning everywhere is that students can learn outside of the classroom, not having to worry about the world going on without them while they’re locked up inside. Rather, they are out there participating, all the while consuming information and learning as they go. Podcasted classes, real-time scavenger hunts, and mobile games are all great examples of learning on-the-go that can be created by traditional educators, and employed by otherwise traditional students. Through mobile education, teaching doesn’t have to end in the classroom, and GigaOm believes that mobile can really shine through teaching and learning.
Mobile phones make it possible to learn anywhere, but with augmented reality learning scenarios, students can really learn anywhere and even any time. Going beyond convenience, through augmented reality mobile technology on GPS-enabled handheld devices, students can find information from different locations outdoors, like on a playground or school field. For elementary school students, this might mean a game like Buffalo Hunt, where students can track buffalo for a fictional American Indian tribe, bringing them back into history in a way that is tangible, real, and fun. By approaching targets, students will trigger narrative text, video, audio, and other curriculum that helps them add to their knowledge of American Indian tribes.
Although overall mobile apps have a long way to go in classroom education, they are making great progress. Apps that allow students to explore constellations, for example, offer a great way to interact in the classroom. And while some mobile apps may have students somewhat closed off from the class and their teachers, some do offer integrative learning. Through EdApp Certification from LanSchool Technologies, app makers can give teachers a code that enables control of classroom mobile devices while students are using the app. Through these and other apps, teachers are increasingly learning how to use apps as a teaching tool that reinforces what’s being done in the classroom.
In large classrooms, it is logistically impossible for every student to participate, even if it’s just for a moment. But through Twitter, lecture halls full of hundreds of students can all participate at the same time, tweeting comments, questions, and more using their laptops and cell phones. TAs and professors can respond to the real-time feed, and the entire classroom can watch as it goes by. Students enjoy being able to overcome the shyness barrier, and the entire classroom benefits from increased participation. According to Mashable, studies overwhelmingly indicate that more participation in class means better academic performance, motivation, and the confidence to share different points of view.
For years, the only way to access academic libraries was to physically make your way down there and get familiar with the stacks. With the Internet, that’s changed, allowing students and researchers to log in from any computer and enjoy many of the resources that libraries have to offer. But with mobile devices, the game is further changed, allowing for the use of eBooks in academic reading, mobile library database access, and simple library notifications. Where the Internet has allowed students to access the library from anywhere with a computer, mobile library access makes it possible for students to use library resources from literally anywhere, right from the palm of their hand. Granted, most students prefer to do heavy research on a computer or physically in the library, but, researchers say, there is a positive trend toward using databases and resources to find quick information and materials.
Anyone who’s tried to get lunch during the afternoon rush on a college campus can tell you that things get a little crazy, especially when it comes to paying for food. With mobile devices, schools have the opportunity to streamline the process, using phones to buy food and beverages through secure transactions. Mobile payments can move lines more quickly, and even more impressive, they allow students to check their spending, history, and even reload their account. The University of Denver has begun to use a mobile payment system, Mocapay, for their school coffee shop, Beans. In addition to payments, Mocapay allows Beans to use the platform’s messaging engine for mobile marketing campaigns that target students.
To be a good marketer, you’ve got to go where your target market is, and for colleges, their target market is on cell phones. Research from Ball State University indicates that 97% of all U.S. college students own a cell phone. The University of Louisville and other colleges have capitalized on this opportunity, using QR codes, SMS marketing, and the aforementioned mobile apps to connect with prospective students. For the University of Louisville, mobile marketing has proved particularly valuable because their prospective students typically don’t check email regularly, but they will pay attention to their phones. They share information about campus visits, deadlines, and more to stay connected and get responses from students.
Student response systems, which allow teachers to get digital answers from students in their class, usually cost about $1,200 for each classroom. But by using existing student cell phones, that price tag is quickly slashed to just $50 a year. Through programs like Poll Everywhere and Mobile Messenger, teachers can leverage educational SMS programs to perform flash quizzes in class. In addition to quizzes, teachers are able to use cell phones for testing, homework assignments, and more, encouraging students to educationally engage with their phones instead of using them as a distraction.
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