Over the last 40 years, mobile technology developments have changed the way we engage with content, communicate, collaborate and learn. Device ownership has reached a critical mass globally, with CISCO (2013) reporting that by the end of this year there will be more mobile-connected devices than there are people on earth!
In the UK, 61% of over 16s use a smartphone (Nielson, 2013) and at Edge Hill, our 2012 annual student eLearning survey revealed comparable results – 63% use an internet enabled mobile phone and 32% use tablet devices. This increasing ubiquity of access to advanced mobile technology is important to us as educators, as we strive to leverage the benefits for teaching and learning, through improving our infrastructure, services and support. Huge advances have been made at Edge Hill in reccent years, and staff and students now have a mobile rich environment to work in. Here are some of the highlights:
The Blackboard Mobile Learn app, introduced in September 2011, has proved a real hit with our students. They tell us that easy access to announcements, lecture notes and grades is really important to them and usage data backs this up, as we can see the app is being used now more than ever – visits to Learning Edge via the app in September 2013 totalled 53,785 compared with 17,703 in the same period in 2012 – a 204% increase.
Users of Blackboard Collaborate have enjoyed taking advantage of the Collaborate Mobile app to participate in live web-conferencing sessions from their iPhone and iPads, and in May 2013 we upgraded the service to support Android and Kindle devices as well. In October 2013, an inbuilt recording conversion feature was also added, allowing instructors to easily create industry standard MP4 and MP3 formats of their session recordings for playback on mobile devices.
During the summer, the EHU Central app (also known as Edge Hill Central) was redeveloped to include a number of improvements including three fantastic new tools: computer availability, campus map and Ask Us. The new release of Edge Hill Central is available for Android users (with iOS and web app versions to follow) and early feedback has been incredibly positive. Students love that they can find a PC, find their way around campus and ask for help from wherever they are.
Students have also found the mobile-friendly library resources invaluable. As well as the mobile compatible catalogue search tool, we now have Discover More on mobile and over 80,000 downloadable eResources – from Ebrary, DawsonEra (on iOS / Android) and MyiLibrary.
In August the Turnitin for iPad app arrived allowing academic staff using iPads to access student assignments and provide feedback, with options to view originality reports, grade with rubrics, and annotate with QuickMark, highlights, bubble, inline, voice comments. Assignments can even be downloaded to enable offline working.
Students are regularly using their smartphones in EHU’s WIFI spaces (65% of respondents to the 2012 student e-Learning survey) and student enquires suggested connecting to campus WIFI had presented some challenges. As a result, Learning Services initiated a #EHUGetConnected campaign which has seen 16 roadshow events in the first term help around 2000 students access the Eduroam WiFi service and learn all about our fabulous mobile facilites!
The next #EHUGetConnected event is this Friday, 29th November, in the University Library, where we’ll be talking about using apps and eBooks. Get your questions ready, we’re looking forward to seeing you (both staff and students) there!
If you’d like to discuss how you could exploit the potential of mobile technologies in your practice, leave a comment below, contact your learning technologist or come to one of our staff development sessions.
Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager