Last week I attended the EDUSERV Mobile University in London. I didn’t really know what to expect but was there to see what universities were doing, or thinking of doing, with mobiles. This fits in with the Mobile Scoping Project (or is it known as the Alternative Access Project) that Ben, Murray and I have been involved in.
The talks kicked off with Paul Golding of Wireless Wonders, who gave an interesting overview of what mobile is, where it came from and where it is going. Part of this was to look at the barriers that have prevented the take up of emerging technology in this sector.
Next up was Christine Sexton, Director of Information and Computing Services (IS) at the University of Sheffield. Christine’s talk looked at the changing role of IS in universities, and in particular that IS no longer owned much of the hardware. It was now a case of “this is my laptop and want this software” which is a world away from the old days.
Sheffield is using mobile apps to engage with students and has chosen to out-source the creation of mobile apps. Christine suggested that this was quicker and cheaper than doing it in-house and allowed the IS team to focus on maintaining and improving systems. This comment seemed to spark a bit of debate and not everyone was convinced that our-sourcing was the best option. There were suggestions that apps would have to be updated to keep abreast of software updates and this would cost money. But, the speed of delivery of the app was impressive with it going from commission to live in 2 months. Delivery these days is now measured in weeks rather than months or years these days.
Oxford University has taken the opposite approach and developed their own system, Mobile Oxford. This uses AJAX/HTML5 to give cross-platform compatibility. Even better, the project has been Open Sourced (to the academic community) under the molly project. Obviously there is a cost implication here, but Oxford has taken some JISC funding and done quite a lot with it. If a few more organizations partnered with them then the molly project could really take off.
Access was an issue that kept comming up in talks. Does new mobile exclude some users? Well, I suppose it does, but this number will decrease with time and we can still use simple txt messages as well. A couple of people raised the point that mobile devices should be used to include students rather than exclude. Allowing students with disabilities to experience things remotely would aid the learning experience greatly. On a similar theme was the cost aspect. Data use cost money no one has any. But, new smart phones tend to accompanied by generous data use allowances. However, there may be something that service providers could do to help, such as having student specific contracts where data download from Uni services is free or subsidised. Just a thought.
Anyway, if you want to have a look at any of the presentations from the day, they are all available online here. In addition, the twitter back channel was very active and had some interesting and insightful discussion. You can review this through Twapper Keeper searching for #esym10. A number of other bloggers have written great reviews of the day:
After the event we retired to the Royal College of Physicians remedy garden where i spotted the following: