Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mobile Learning with the iTouch: AIU Breaks New Ground

American InterContinental University Online has taken mobile learning several steps forward by making it possible for students to check grades, post and read announcements, interact with elements of their learning management systems, as well as downloading instructional content.

AIU uses the iTouch to provide the new services, as well as downloadable podcasts, videos, presentations, and lectures that have been a mainstay of mobile learning. Their convenience, affordability, and the fact that they accommodate multiple learning styles has made many programs eager to provide at least some elements of 100% online, hybrid/blended, web-enabled, or even face-to-face courses.

This is an exciting breakthrough. Certainly, it is good to be able to access to the gradebook and announcements. But, there is a bigger issue at stake. AIU is using technology and tools the way that people use them in the real world, instead of trying to impose a technology on people, just because it was convenient for the institution or the service provider. So, educational products and learner needs and habits are in alignment.

Some learners have immediately embraced AIU's iTouch courses, especially if the technology fits their lifestyle. Student Chris Hawley writes:

I use AIU Mobile anytime I am away from my home computer including while I'm running at the gym, stopped at a traffic light, taking a break at work and in many more scenarios. I'll even use it when I'm at home since I generally have my phone by me more often than my laptop.

Chris did not mention what kind of phone he has, but it would not be very surprising to learn that he is used to using a phone with the ability to instant message, retrieve information from the Internet, and download information.

While the demo was for the iTouch, it is important to keep in mind that the mobile courses work on the iPhone and other data-transfer enabled cell phones.

The demo for review included three criminal justice courses, all of which allowed one to test the way in which the announcements, gradebook, and the learning objects were presented. At the same time, it was possible to test the way that the e-mail and access to iTunes worked when in a variety of settings.

Unique aspects include taking advantage of the iTouch's ability to allow individuals to have on-demand interaction (download and communication) wherever one has access to a robust wifi connection.

* View gradebook
* View and post announcements
* Access school e-mail
* Download, view and listen to podcasts, presentations, videos

The iTouch was a good choice for AIU because it has several advantages over other mobile devices:

* interactive
* larger viewing screen
* scalable texts and graphics
* can download via computer using iTunes
* do not have to have a cell phone with a dataplan

iTouch downsides:

* Can't scale all the screens, which means it's hard to read some of the text
* Limited memory and storage

Additional benefits:

*iPhone and data-transfer-enabled Cell phone compatibility
* any time, any where access

Aligning user needs and and real-world habits and patterns is what is at the heart of the success of Web 2.0, and it's gratifying to see the philosophy start to extend to mobile learning. This will not only enhance usability, but will also allow students to feel more comfortable with the process. Students will feel motivated and will be able to focus on the content instead of feeling frustrated by the technology or lack of access. iTouch-based mobile learning represents a positive integration of user needs, technology habits, and learning preferences.

Link to demo on YouTube:

American InterContinental University (AIU), established in Europe in 1970, awards Associate, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees in a variety of disciplines. The AIU network includes seven campuses: AIU Buckhead (Atlanta, GA); AIU Dunwoody (GA); AIU South Florida (Weston, FL); AIU Los Angeles (CA), AIU Houston (TX), AIU London (England); and AIU Online (based in Illinois).

Susan talks about the AIU mobile course (warning -- video cuts off at the end):


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