Identifying the Untapped Potential of Mobile Devices on Campus

January 18, 2013.

"Missed Opportunities"

Interviewing a range of experts in the use of mobile technologies in enrollment, teaching and learning, and alumni relations during the closing months of 2012, we found consensus on several points:

  • Many institutions still limit their use of mobile technologies to replicate what they already do or provide through other, more traditional technologies. (For example, an institution might simply provide a course schedule that can be read on a mobile device, or a campus map -- without having thought through the unique capabilities of the new technology and how those might add value to the schedule or the map.)
  • In terms of adoption, most institutions lag behind student and alumni demand for the use of mobile technologies in their interactions with the campus.

For a review of the current research on the rate of student/alumni adoption versus university adoption of mobile technology, read this recent article. Also, polling the institutions who attended our December 4, 2012 complimentary webcast, we found that 74% of those attending believed their office at the institution did lag significantly behind student or alumni demand for mobile interaction with the campus.

3 Unique Capabilities of Mobile Devices

For our December 4, 2012 webcast on mobile technologies, we connected with mobile experts Ted Hattemer, assistant vice president of interactive communications at Ohio State University, and Dale Pike, director of academic technologies at Boise State University.

During the webcast, Hattemer and Pike spoke to the opportunities for harnessing the unique technological capabilities of mobile devices, whether in university communications or in the classroom. They gave examples of ways to leverage:

  • Built-in GPS and location-based services
  • Rapid information transmission and retrieval
  • Ability to capture and edit multimedia content on the go

A Closer Look

Let's take a look at one of these in particular -- GPS and location-based services. When asked about how they have made use of this capability, Ted Hattemer and Dale Pike offered these examples:

Ohio State University offered a mobile version of the campus tour, using GPS to allow the tour to begin at whatever location visitors find themselves, feeding their device information and recordings about the site in realtime. When determining where to start in developing a project of this kind, Hattemer recommends beginning by finding the "data owners" on your campus:

  • Your campus architect will have GPS information for your buildings
  • Check to see if your IT unit includes someone who is familiar with Google Maps

OSU also looked into improving campus navigability, installing GPS tracking devices beneath bus driver seats and at bus stops, feeding data to a mobile app that charted bus locations on a Google Maps or Apple Maps template, giving students and visitors real-time data to guide their transportation to/from and across campus.

Boise State University, investigating the affordances of mobile technologies for teaching and learning, piloted a number of low-threshold projects that involved students in on-site, on-location data gathering. Pike reviewed examples of how the use of realtime access to GPS-related data enhanced or supplemented classroom learning:

  • Students used GoogleEarth on their devices to conduct virtual tours of sites, from lava flows and gravel pits to Chernobyl and Fukushima
  • The app "Paint with Time: Climate Change" allowed students compare how locations change over time
  • Outside the classroom, students undertook a geolocation "recycling treasure hunt"

The complimentary recorded webcast includes these and examples of the other two noteworthy capabilities of mobile devices.