Solutions for the 21st-Century University
As we consider mLearning at ACU, we imagine that a suite of educational applications - developed for the new generation of converged devices and tied to robust infrastructure and administrative protocols - will transform higher education. What sorts of applications are we imagining? Here's our preliminary list:
We see converged devices becoming a standard tool for classroom interaction that enables more creative, pervasive, and efficient interplay among students and faculty. These "integrated backpacks" will also minimize the number of academic tools students must carry with them - iPods, clickers, calendars, calculators, eBook readers, etc. - easing the burden for students and increasing reliability for faculty. If students only have to keep track of one device, they're much more likely to have it charged and ready.
- a digital syllabus that enables dynamic changes throughout the term and customization based on a particular student's activities or status;
- a next-generation "clicker" that enables real-time class polling and dynamic or free-form responses;
- a combination educational support device - electronic dictionary, thesaurus, calculator, etc.
- a classroom communicator that enables increased flexibility in course content and delivery;
- a podcasting client, especially if it had wireless access and push capacity;
- an eBook and document reader integrated with Google Apps for Education;
- an Internet communicator that facilitates content aggregation on "class sites":
- an automated receiver of course information and alerts from CMS systems;
- a notetaking and note aggregation device for audio recordings and text notes;
- a gradebook device with integrated attendance features.
Though academics are important, we know that much of a student's success in higher education also depends on building and being integrated into a community. Converged devices can help by making social and academic communities more accessible, offering ubiquitous, unified access to friends, peers, and workgroups. Connecting to courses and campus-wide information (especially in emergencies) is an added bonus, helping students feel more comfortable and more connected. If the device on which mobile learning is based also integrates the social aspect, it's much more likely to be successful in the classroom; students don't forget their mobile phones even when they might forget a clicker or calculator.
- a social-networking client with built-in protocols for multiple sites (Facebook, mySpace, etc.);
- a campus map with dynamic location reporting;
- a searchable LDAP directory of campus personnel and contact information with integrated photos and social-networking information;
- a messaging device that allows multiple communication modes: individual, general and targeted (to specific classes, residence halls, clubs, groups, etc.);
- a client for university social, academic and athletic calendars;
- a "social ID" that facilitates the creation of and communication within groups based on specific, user-set criteria;
- a "presence" device that provides dynamic feedback about a user's status.
Having a ubiquitous platform on which to develop can streamline administrative tasks and make them more accessible to students. The device becomes a portal for university tasks, an extension of the business and registrar's offices, providing students with continual, easy-to-use access to accounts, class schedules, registration materials, grades, and basic campus information.
- an automated SMS and voice broadcaster for emergency information and status;
- an e911 client integrated with campus and local police and medical personnel;
- a "business office" extension that enables wireless transactions for bill-paying, ticket-purchasing, bookstore purchasing, food orders, and financial account management;
- a "registrar's office" extension that facilitates course enrollment, interaction with academic records, and dynamic grading access;
- a means of maintaining contact with alumni and families;
- a unified platform for training and faculty/staff access;
- a unified platform for disseminating campus information.
Many universities are seeking a flexible, scalable replacements for aging investments in landline telecommunications networks, and they're also looking for ways to optimize their infrastructure investments, simplifying support and creating new opportunities for meeting student, faculty and staff needs and for helping the university generate income.
- a pervasive communication device that minimizes reliance on costly landline infrastructure;
- a university revenue stream for on-and off-campus activities;
- a revenue stream for university partners;
- a ubiquitous platform that unifies and simplifies services and minimizes service and development costs;
- a test platform that enables experimentation with new and emerging technologies;
- a solution that provides flexible billing options tailor-made for higher education.