If you’re responsible for educational technology at a college or university, you’re already very aware that mobile technology is popular among your students. You’re also likely already interested in capitalizing on these devices to augment their education and advance your institution’s strategic objectives—from attracting talent to propelling the school’s growth.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Lone Star College System, 78 percent of college students say their grades and learning experience improved when technology was effectively and consistently used at their schools. Respondents included more than 6,000 college students at 36 campuses across the U.S.
However, the results came with a caveat. One respondent noted the widespread sentiment that when used inappropriately or ineffectively, technology “is very much a distraction and annoyance.” It’s safe to say few professors appreciate their students updating their Facebook page in the middle of a lecture on 18th century English literature—unless it’s a creative part of the curriculum!
Successful colleges and universities will invest not only in basic social media and device usage policies, but also in thoughtful mobility strategies that will help advance the school’s educational goals.
We’ll be covering these topics in greater detail in future blog posts, but here’s a quick summary of three key areas where mobile devices are in a unique position to affect how education is delivered and how students learn:
Mobile Learning Applications
In higher education, mobile learning applications are providing students the means to master advanced material—wherever they happen to be. In addition, because apps cost so little, it’s simple to set up a tablet with exactly the tools the student finds useful, rather than spending lots of money on typical desktop software.
For instance, chemistry students at Seton Hall University use tablets to visualize chemical structures and reactions in a 3D environment, amplifying their comprehension of the material.
In another example, the 2012 Horizon Report on Emerging Technology (PDF) from EDUCAUSE found that at one university, the school of journalism incorporates app development into its magazine publishing classes. At another, history majors learn about the places they visited with a mobile app that leveraged location-based data, and geography classes used another app to interact with map information from multiple angles and perspectives.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
A Learning Management System is a platform that allows students to access coursework, engage in group discussions, download and submit assignments and view class alerts.
For students, an LMS provides a digital portal that allows them to easily interact with the class material and complete course functions—like turning in homework. For professors, Learning Management Systems enable them to manage their classes in a single online destination, with dashboards that clearly depict class statistics—from exam score averages to assignment completion rates—and class registrant data. This feedback on student performance helps them address issues quickly.
In addition to the market leader, Blackboard, there are a few more LMS platforms that are consistently popular, including Moodle, SilkRoad, simplydigi and TrainingForce.
According to the 2012 Survey on Students and Tablets by the Pearson Foundation, 70 percent of college students have read digital textbooks, compared with 62 percent a year earlier. Almost six in 10 college students prefer a digital format when reading books for fun (57 percent) or textbooks for class (58 percent). Even more compelling, almost 63 percent believe tablets will successfully replace textbooks within the next five years, up from 50 percent in 2011.
It’s no secret: the price of physical textbooks is rising astronomically, making college degrees even more expensive for students across the country. To control these costs, students are transforming their laptops and tablets into textbook readers, reducing the price of their higher education.
Digitalization also enables them to navigate content much easier—using their device’s search function to rapidly locate the right pages, terms or concepts, printing and emailing material easily, and annotating pages with a PDF or document editor. Professors find that students are more prepared and engaged because they’re able to access material on a single centralized device.
As students continue to integrate their mobile devices—laptops, tablets, smartphones and more—into their daily personal lives, they’ll keep bringing them into their academic ones as well; and colleges need to be ready—not just willing—to accommodate this mobile adoption.
Our community would love to hear how mobility has fit into your technology and educational mix. Share your struggles and successes with us in the comments section below.