I missed the first day of this session because I was home sick, but I did take away some important confirmations from the second day. The first is that the University is falling behind, but it’s not alone, and it’s not too late to start moving things forward. mLearning is not about delivering everything about a course or other resource through a small screen, it is about what is important when people are on the move and wanting “just enough information”. But in order to understand what “just enough information is”, people have to experience it for themselves. This brings up the second point – if we want to start moving forward, we need the instructors to start using mobile technologies to their own ends, in their own lives so they can better understand how they might use them, design for them and otherwise understand them.
Moving beyond standard unidirectional content delivery, Standford, with it’s iStanford app, and ACU with http://m.acu.edu are certainly leading the pack with their developments (as is iusask in Canada) that feature mobile interactivity. This delivers content that is relevant to the user and allows them to further engage with the content, extending the conversation of the classroom beyond the room and the traditional computer lab and extending the resources of the institution to places where the users more naturally find themselves on and off campus.
These apps and sites are however quite the investment, but to get going, you need only a mobile friendly website – WordPress and WordPress MultiUser have plugins that make sites mobile friendly and content that can be accessed and updated on the fly – and a design ethos that suggest that less is more. Putting only the content that one would be able able to access in a short span online (saving time/bandwidth for the student). Branching out from there, podcasts (but not talking heads!) can be added, SMS gateways can be developed and custom apps and sites can be developed. Beyond the website, the development of additional systems should be guided by the users who will indicate what makes sense for them. If most of the users are accessing mobile content while on transit, they are going to have different connectivity/time on screen requirements compared to users accessing from residence or on campus in common space. Mobile is about short access with tools that make sense for that access time. So these developments certainly do not need to be full featured.
This wasn’t the only bit on mlearning this week = I also spotted this (Cell Phones R 4 More Than Texting) over twitter as well as this (Using mobile phones to improve educational outcomes: An analysis of evidence from Asia John-Harmen Valk, Ahmed T. Rashid, Laurent Elder) through Google Reader.