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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tomorrow's Cell Phone Campus: New Instructional Material, Learning Communities, Enhanced Access

Since Virginia Tech, cell phones have become even more integral to the relationship that a student has with his or her college, whether the student is taking courses in a traditional face-to-face setting, hybrid, or online. In fact, it has become part of each university's standard procedure to email alerts to stduents or to text-message them on their phones in case of security issues, weather, closures, construction, fundraisers, sports rallies, and more.


In addition to obtaining information on student services, students are also downloading instructional materials, including lectures and short videos, either through their data transfer plan on their cell phone, or directly from the Internet via services such as iTunes.

The move toward high-functionality cell phones had already been in place with PDA and handhelds, but the pace accelerated dramatically with the arrival of the iPhone and new technology that made web access and data transfer quick and fairly inexpensive on an entire range of products from BlackBerry to other phones. Students use their phones to

* Make phone calls
* Text-message individuals and groups
* Create and send images, videos, audio
* Download and view images and videos (YouTube, etc.)
* Download and listen to mp3 files
* Post to websites

However, there have been problems because not every phone shares the same format, download speed, or technology. Not every cell phone owner has a good data transfer plan, and numbers are not always in a central database.

Solution: A Cell Phone With Data Transfer Plan Issued to Every Student
In many ways, this solution would be similar to that of the laptop colleges of the late 1990s, except that it is much less expensive and has more functionality. Every individual would be issued a cell phone and a plan. Programs such as Y! Go, GPS and other items would be loaded on the cell phone selected by the university, which would negotiate a partnership arrangement with the cell phone and service provider.

Opportunities: Enhanced Learning, Interaction, Academic Success

Software packages such as those provided by Hot Lava ( can help universities create content that is deliverable via mobile phone. Primary characteristics:

* Dynamic
* Interactive

Types of interactive content include:

* Textbook assets that are bundled with the physical textbook (interactive forms and reviews)
* Quizzes
* Flash cards
* Questionnaires
* Surveys and polls
* Field trip information gathering
* Lab result recording

Twitter (, Meebo ( and other instant messages / texting services can help develop dynamic learning communities:

* Study buddies
* Information sharing
* Announcements
* Directions
* Blog posts
* Discussion boards and forums

Textbook and Course-Centered Podcasts and YouTube-type video:

* mp3 files that correspond to textbook chapters and which provide content review can help those who are auditory learners. Audio can be hosted and downloaded from repositories such as iTunes, or it can be kept in places with players, such as Odeo ( or gcast (
* video that corresponds to instructional content and goals can be downloaded, stored, and played on flash players. YouTube, Google Video, and Neulio ( are hosting services that provide video in cellphone-friendly flash format.

Conclusion: Low Cost, Ubiquitous Access, Success (with proper planning)

Online, face-to-face, and hybrid academic programs can benefit from cell phone and mobile phone content delivery and student interaction. In order to assure uniformity of content and to avoid inequities when it comes to access, it is recommended that universities partner with cell phone service, software companies, textbook companies, and other instructional content providers to develop a package that allows students to access content and also increase interaction.

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