iPhones and iPads on Campus

The search for killer apps goes on

Follow up to an earlier post on Abilene Christian University providing iPhones to all students and a follow up on implementation a year later. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a conference looking at the use being made of smartphones and tablets in different parts of university business, again drawing on Abilene’s experiment:

At Abilene Christian, one of the most popular uses of iPhones has been to turn the devices into so-called “clickers,” using an app that lets students use their phones during classes to buzz in answers to quiz questions or discussion prompts. But even fans of that approach acknowledge that turning classes into something like a game show is not appropriate for every subject, and that a clicker app makes more sense in large lecture classes than in small seminars.

The simple answer is that no one “killer app” has emerged that fits every professor’s teaching style, every research discipline, or every administrative office on campus, according to several people who attended the meeting. (And of course, many professors have no interest in the smartphone craze—at Abilene Christian some professors turned down free iPhones.)

Instead, college professors around the country are finding unique ways to use smartphones, as well as highly portable tablet computers like the iPad, that work well in certain situations but do not represent a revolution in educational practice. At least not yet.

So, no killer app but does there need to be? As the remainder of the article notes, there are many ways this technology can be used to enhance the student experience, to help with classroom delivery and to support university professional services. There is a vast range of possibilities and it is this, rather than any single app, which is perhaps the most exciting thing.

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NSS: can things get any worse in universities?

Press stories on latest NSS results seem to be largely of the glass one fifth empty variety

Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking the sector was already in meltdown if you read the Independent which says “one-third of university students unhappy with lecturers’ performance”:

Thousands of university students still find their lecturers too remote despite pledges that standards of service would improve with the introduction of top-up fees of up to £3,225 a year. A national survey by the Higher Education Funding Council for England showing the level of student satisfaction with their courses reveals there has been no improvement in three years. Overall, 82 per cent are satisfied with their course – but the figure dips to 67 per cent when it comes to assessment of their work and the feedback they get from lecturers.

The BBC has a similar line:

UK students’ satisfaction with their undergraduate courses has stalled, the National Student Survey has found. Overall, 82% of finalists at UK universities in 2010 were satisfied with the quality of their course, the same percentage as last year. Universities warn satisfaction ratings could deteriorate as funding cuts bite. The NSS, in which 252,000 students took part, is published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) to help maintain standards.

But really. OK, there remains plenty of scope for improvement, particularly in the area of feedback to students on their work but to deliver an overall satisfaction rating of more than 80% over such a large number of students is surely hugely positive? So why are universities getting a kicking for this? Presumably even an average satisfaction rating of 90% plus would be inadequate.

New University League Table iPhone App

New League Table iPhone App

QS, compilers of world university league tables, have produced an iPhone app so rankings are never out of reach. My life is now complete.

How the iPhone Could Reboot Education

Follow up to post a year ago on the big iPhone giveaway at Abilene Christian U.

How do you educate a generation of students eternally distracted by the internet, cellphones and video games? Easy. You enable them by handing out free iPhones — and then integrating the gadget into your curriculum. That’s the idea Abilene Christian University has to refresh classroom learning. Located in Texas, the private university just finished its first year of a pilot program, in which 1,000 freshman students had the choice between a free iPhone or an iPod Touch.

The initiative’s goal was to explore how the always-connected iPhone might revolutionize the classroom experience with a dash of digital interactivity. Think web apps to turn in homework, look up campus maps, watch lecture podcasts and check class schedules and grades. For classroom participation, there’s even polling software for Abilene students to digitally raise their hand. The verdict? It’s working quite well. 2,100 Abilene students, or 48 percent of the population, are now equipped with a free iPhone. Fully 97 percent of the faculty population has iPhones, too. The iPhone is aiding Abilene in giving students the information they need — when they want it, wherever they want it, said Bill Rankin, a professor of medieval studies who helped plan the initiative.

via Wired.com.

So, sounds like progress but will be interesting to see how sustainable this is and whether it leads to real changes in delivery and student learning.

iPhone giveaway leads to worries

Diverting piece in the Chronicle about the impact of new technologies on student behaviour and the campus experience: Abilene Christian U. Will Continue iPhone Giveaway.

iphone

The giveaway seems to have had an impact on the way students relate to each other and they are now obsessed with their devices:

The university’s unusual effort to give every freshman an iPhone or iPod Touch has been a huge success, officials say, and they recently decided to continue the project in the fall. But the devices are altering campus life at the 4,800-student college—and students say that not all of the shifts are positive.

“It has changed how people interact with one another on a day-to-day basis,” said Daniel Paul Watkins, a senior who is president of the student government. “Now walking around campus, nine out of 10 students either have their iPod headphones in or they’re texting or they’re talking on the phone,” he said. Sure, that’s happening at colleges across the country, but Mr. Watkins, who bought his iPhone, believes it is even more pronounced at a campus that has pushed the latest cellphones. “The West Texas charm of ‘Hey, howdy, everybody knows your name,’ has shifted inward—everyone’s enthralled by their device.”

The other concern is that iPhones simply make it easier to cheat:

“Since the iPhones were introduced, I honestly think that academic integrity has gone down,” said Mr. Watkins. “I’ve seen people cheat, and I’ve heard people talk about how easy it is to cheat.”

This though should be easier to control.