Eduserv Mobile University conference

Last modified by AndyGreenway on 18/11/2010

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Conference TitleEduserv Mobile University conference
Conference Date13 May 2010
Staff MemberJohanna Westwood and Mary Jacob
Department Information Services
Conference Web site

Mobile technology will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of UK higher education in the future. 

The Eduserv Symposium 2010 drew together the latest thinking and activity in this changing landscape. Delegates discovered the kinds of applications that mobile technology enables and their implications for the way we deliver teaching and learning, research, and support services in the future.

Johanna Westwood and Mary Jacob attended the online version of the conference and their notes are below.

Johanna Westwood

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Opening keynote: "Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!" - Paul Golding, CEO and Lead Innovation Architect, Wireless Wanders
Mobile is already huge, yet this is only the beginning. Sitting at the convergence of powerful consumer electronics, cloud computing, social computing and ubiquitous networks, mobile is *the* platform. Paul will convey key statistics and trends in the converged mobile landscape that will allow the audience to grasp the size and significance of the mobile platform opportunity. He will also describe what the platform is and how to exploit its power. 

How many people use their mobiles?
  • 1.2 billion mobiles sold annually in 59 countries = more mobiles than people in these countries
  • It’s changing the way we communicate:
    • 1.2 billion active email users (Emailers are expecting a response in 24 hours)
    • 2.5 billion active text users (Texters expect a response in 5 minutes)
  • When and how we use mobiles is changing too - top list of what mobiles are used for:
    • Searching
    • Social networking
    • News
    • Information
    • Twitter (10th on the list)
  • and the peak time for using them is 11pm!
Social computing

Software that is being developed for the internet is different as it “understands people”.
Mobile computing is personalised computing (more than just a personal computer), and the web is becoming an operating system offering services in real time.
Person + Right time computer = personalised computer = new person

Mobile Education

We need to look at what is right for education.  If we can deliver it anytime/anywhere we can then develop new modes of learning.  We need to look at ways that we can lead in this area, and how can we invent a new future with the technology available to us.

Data overload

With everything on the web we have everything available to us at our fingertips.  Too much email/too many tweets – how do we make sure it’s the right information for us?
“Right thinking” – on demand in the cloud – should allow us to get more meaning from the data.
The growth of data is exceeding the capacity of the wireless networks.
The support sector is more than just support, it’s now integrated with the teaching and learning taking place in Universities.

Mary Jacob

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I attended two sessions, both of which yielded useful information.

The Role of a University Computing Service in an increasingly mobile world. Or: "We don't support that..."

Christine Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services, University of Sheffield, Chair of UCISA
Abstract - This talk will explore the implications for universities and their Computing Services of an increasingly mobile, 24/7, always-on world. We don't own the hardware anymore and increasingly we don't even supply the software. How does that affect the student experience, and how can we make sure our customers get the information and services they want, when they want, and how they want, on a growing number of platforms, operating systems and service providers?

Her division is CiCS, which covers all aspects of CIT including phone. They have a new IT strategy that is more focussed on user needs, open standards, and open source. The aim is to make the interface simple, hiding the complex stuff from the user.

The focus of her talk was ‘We don’t support that’. In the past, we used to be able to say this, but it is no longer the case. As she pointed out, ‘We don’t own the hardware anymore, we don’t own the software, stuff can go anywhere’ (e.g. Flip camera to put clips on YouTube).  IT services don’t provide, own, or control the technology, and so must adjust to accommodate this fact.

She noted the Report on Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World citing multi-media mobile access for the future. Sheffield has 98% mobile ownership, 30% of which are Smartphones, but there is still a digital divide, especially between staff and students. 


  • Service delivery – web-based, single sign-on, exposed functionality (widgets on mobile device), thin client for teaching applications
  • Phones – general use is for SMS alerts, mobile web, etc. You can use native apps for ‘cool stuff’ but there is a trade-off because the audience is not as broad.
  • Licensing – site licences for staff/student can be limited
  • Infrastructure – provide suitable comfortable places, easy chairs and foot stools, wireless access such as EduRoam. 30% of Sheffield students downloading the app ran it on an iPod touch. Consider overseas data access.
  • 24/7 service is expected, so it must be balanced with carbon footprint (e.g. you can’t turn servers off overnight!)
  • Data security, synchronisation (e.g. calendars)
  • Cloud computing – Microsoft and Google
  • Support models need the right balance. She offered four models:
    • Control – institution owns everything and supports it
    • Choice – users choose the device, institution focuses on protocols and provides less support, fewer services
    • Innovation – empower users to innovate – offer mostly advice but little technical support, the users try the new technology and report back on good practice
    • Hands-off – little responsibility, no security and control
  • The provide a help desk and a wiki for users 
  • Mobiel / CampusM
  • Money – There are two questions - can we afford to do mobile computing?  Or can we afford NOT to do it?  Her answer is that we can’t afford NOT to do it. If we go to the control model, we will become seriously out of touch and left behind. We have to find a way to go mobile.
  • Platform wars – will continue in the foreseeable future
  • Need a strategy
    • Delivery
    • Infrastructure
    • Support
    • Supplier relationships
    • Security
  • Need to carry on innovating. If times get harder, this is the only thing that will get us through it. She advocates seeing change as an opportunity, not a threat.
To what extent will learning and teaching change in a mobile university? Thoughts from the University of Bath

Andy Ramsden, Head of e-Learning, University of Bath

Abstract - This talk aims to future gaze into how the student learning experience is likely to change in terms of learning and teaching in a more mobile technology based university. The lens for the discussion will be from the perspective of the University of Bath, which has a tradition of placing the emphasis for learning and teaching on face-to-face interaction. Within this context, technology-enhanced learning tends to be a blended approach from online learning to classroom technologies. 

The discussion will focus on addressing two questions: if the majority of our students own a sophisticated mobile device how will this drive a change within the learning landscape? What role does the university play as an agent of change for the effective use of these technologies? 

Andy mentioned that the 2005 Innovating E-learning case study of a day in the life of a student is still relevant. Derek Morrison and Lawrie Phipps commented on the emergence of mobile devices in teaching spaces. 

There are two basic views of teaching and learning in a mobile university – 

  • More of same but do it on the mobile phone
  • New learning landscape, location, ‘wikitude’

Bath is a traditional institution with 80-90% face-to-face instruction, large classes, individual unseen exams and individual assessment. Therefore change is slow.

New opportunities

  • Shift from passive to active by using mobile tech – enhancement. He worked through a few specific examples.
    • Student problem sheets in maths. The traditional method has long turnaround for feedback, so they sampled a few problem sheets, put them on screen, asked students whether the solution was correct or not using a voting system, discussed the process, then revoted.
    • The tutor gave students questions to work through and respond with clickers, then they unpicked the answers in groups. With this model, there may be no one correct answer, so it leads to more in-depth dialogue. 
    • Economics – twitter personal learning  networks, enhance lecture with backchannel chat

Why aren’t we all running towards mobile learning?  What agents will help, what will slow us down?

  • Central services – Moodle (changes rapidly, community developed e.g. Moodle for iPhone etc style sheet solution), student records (changes slowly, looking at CampusM solution). Run focus groups to work through scenarios, identify what will work. Or might just let people know what is out there and let them explore it themselves.
  • F2F technologies – fast change, see what emerges from the staff use, look for ways to avoid moving lots of kit in and out of classrooms.
  • Staff –
    • agent of change – hold back or drive forward.  ‘4 Es model’ [note: I couldn’t read his slide because of the font size] factors that enable staff to use the technology include reward
    • Lunchtime ? 3-week courses on blended learning 
    • Clickers, podcasts, the staff development side doesn’t emphasise mobile.
    • Funding tends to steer people away from mobile
    • Issues around staff awareness
  • Students -
    • More of the same but on my phone
    • Want speed
    • Generally they have good phones
    • Students wouldn’t pay for extra things if not needed
    • Is mobile learning on the student agenda?

Progress requires the drivers, alignment between staff and students in order to effect change. It is probably not the device itself that gives enhanced learning, because it is just used as a mobile way to access the web.  However, you might be able to effect real change.

Bath has done some change academy projects, starting with one unit and then leading to full course re-design introducing proper use of technology.

Created by AndyGreenway on 18/11/2010
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