Magazine article University Business

The Collaborative Campus: How Instructor-Inspired Mobile Apps Are Promoting Interactive Learning

Magazine article University Business

The Collaborative Campus: How Instructor-Inspired Mobile Apps Are Promoting Interactive Learning

Article excerpt

Sharing information on the go is second nature to today's college student. That reality is pushing higher ed leaders to leverage that connectivity to build a more interactive learning environment. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and other mobile devices offer flexibility in extending the learning space beyond the classroom and getting students more engaged.

Institutions should involve faculty in planning the programs and designing applications for the devices, says Veronica Diaz, associate director of the Educause Learning Initiative. "The most innovative work that I see happening is when institutions direct money, resources, and time toward those who are on the front lines teaching."

That's exactly the approach CIO Stephen Landry takes in overseeing the mobile computing program at Seton Hall University (N.J.). "Whenever we look at a new technology, we're not focused on, 'That's cool! I'd like to have that device,' " he says. Instead, the focus is on how students and faculty would use it.

Here's a closer look at how three institutions are carving out their paths to collaborative learning through mobile technology use.

Seton Halt University: Smartphone Success

In June 2012, Seton Hall officials gave each of the 1,400 students who showed up for freshman orientation a Nokia Windows phone and a six-month voice and data plan. A first-semester student must take a freshman studies course and an English course--a common experience that provided a ready-made framework on which to build a more collaborative learning space. "We wanted to form this community of learners and get them engaged with each other," says Paul Fisher, Jr., associate chief information officer and director of the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center.

In-house IT experts upgraded an existing campus information app to incorporate student-specific information for freshmen. For instance, a student can pull up a list of his or her courses for the semester, along with contact information for classmates. Someone who is struggling in a class, therefore, can seek out a peer who always seems to be on top of the material and ask for study tips.

Seton Hall professors, meanwhile, have incorporated the smart-phones into their lesson plans. In core curriculum classes, traditional writing assignments have been expanded to include digital stories as well, Fisher says. An assignment might involve using the smartphone to take pictures or record videos.

The iPad handout, Landry shares, was an expansion of a pilot smartphone program made possible through a subsidy from AT&T to help cover the cost of the usage plan, plus a deep discount from Nokia for the hardware.

Dodge City Community College: iPad Infrastructure

In fall 2012, Dodge City Community College (Karl.) began requiring every student to have an iPad. The idea grew from conversations about how to boost retention, notes Thad Russell, dean of technology and distance education. Every suggested strategy seemed to boil down to engagement, how to keep students interested, he adds.

Russell previously worked at Manhattan Technical College, also in Kansas, where he had implemented a 1:1 laptop initiative in the 1990s. When he suggested that Dodge City Community College consider a similar program, President Donald A. Woodburn asked

Russell and the mostly faculty-based technology committee to conduct an evaluation. Early on, they considered and eliminated the BYOD option." We felt that if we were going to require that, we would have to have the structural support on campus to do it, and we don't," says Russell, who found the campus lagging in its adoption of technology when he arrived.

In technical education classes, which account for 40 to 50 percent of DCCC enrollment, students record task demonstrations on their [Pads, and some faculty have recorded demos and posted them on YouTube. In a math class, the instructor uses a whiteboard app and voiceover feature on the [Pad to review complex problems, while students can use the same app to work their own problems and get feedback from the instructor. …

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