Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2008
Summary of Projects
Just in Time Information Services: Mobile Technology Enables On-demand Access to Enhance Students’ Experiential Learning
Dr Joan Richardson
Summary of the project, outcomes, impacts and dissemination
This project enabled student access to course-based service information and allowed staff to blast reminders to students before their scheduled classes using SMS. The Trigger SMS Prototype Tool changed the University’s administrative information systems (IS) from primarily information dispersal TO students, to an information acquisition initiated BY students. SMS engages directly with students, communicating in a familiar mode they use to maintain their private social networks. Moreover, it removed staff-student communication barriers in a new environment where the need for direct access to staff or the Web via a networked computer is reduced.
The fact that higher education organisations need to communicate with their student cohorts using SMS is a given. The tensions relate to ensuring targeted use to improve the students’ learning experience by means of streamlining administrative services, enabling immediate communications from academics and the institution to students located outside the traditional classroom boundaries. The issues have shifted from software developers providing applications to higher education providers to improve their business services to an initial social demographic product alignment, marketing and adoption that changes students’ expectations. In response to cultural shifts and social understandings of technology usage, applications like Trigger must be developed.
Students do not need to be trained to use SMS - they already do. This project aimed to find out what they would use it for in an educational setting, how much that would cost or save and whether there was an educational advantage to providing the functionality as an adjunct to the existing plethora of applications available.
Recommendation 1 – SMS be part of the University communications strategy
L&TIF steering committee members work with the Student Portal project team, Business Service managers, a representative of the academic registrar and academics to identify functions and appropriate student cohorts.
Recommendation 2 – Reduce costs
The team established in recommendation 1 will identify ‘push’ and ‘pull’ functions for which SMS capacity will be made available and coordinate a staged implementation. Constraints for academic and student use will be constructed and specified as part of the business requirements.
Recommendation 3 – Technical Performance and Infrastructure
The project team in conjunction with ITS will identify and negotiate a gateway solution, business requirements and software application modification specifications.