Back to school: Mobile technologies are changing the way students learn

By Becky Lawlor

A notebook and a pen used to be essential tools for heading back to school, but these days, students rely more on mobile technologies, using their smartphones to enroll in classes, take notes and study for exams.

According to a 2016 McGraw-Hill Education survey, 88 percent of students say the use of a smartphone is extremely important when studying. And Campus Technology reports the University of Tennessee has seen a 396 percent increase in the number of mobile devices on campus, growing from 3,833 to 18,995 devices between the spring of 2011 and 2015.

As students worldwide continue to spend more time on their mobile devices — up to more than 137 hours a week, according to research by Refuel Agency — it’s having an impact on the classroom environment, including how students learn and how teachers teach.

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Increase in demand for anywhere, anytime learning

Mobile devices have freed many in the workplace from the constraint of having to show up at the office every day, all day long. The same trend is occurring on campuses as students want more options to learn in an anywhere, anytime environment rather than having to attend classes at a specific time or location — and they want to be able to do it on their devices. Having more freedom to learn anywhere at anytime allows students to better juggle their busy schedules while getting an education. Mobile learning also provides access to learning in countries where mobile is one of the primary ways to access the internet.

For example, Coursera, an education-focused technology company specializing in online courses and learning tools, has seen increased demand for mobile technologies around the world. India has the second largest market for Coursera, with 1.7 million users, according to MediaNama. The Deccan Herald reports 20 percent of Indian students access Coursera services exclusively through mobile devices.

Mobile is making the classroom more engaging and interactive

Because students can use their devices to access information on the spot, instructors can take on the role of a facilitator instead of being the only source of knowledge in the classroom. This can change the faculty and student experience in positive ways. Students can use devices in class to search out interesting information to enrich class discussions and create more engaging conversations.

Students can also enhance their learning experiences by using their devices interactively, such as a clicker to point to information on the board or by being able to capture and record lessons in a way that best meets their learning style — whether it’s capturing photos of an instructor’s presentation, recording a lecture or simply taking notes on their device.

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Enhancing the educational experience outside the classroom

Outside of the classroom, mobile apps such as team messaging apps make it easier for students to participate in group projects without having to always meet up at the same time or location — a huge help for students with busy schedules.

Additionally, universities are starting to use mobile apps to deliver services to students, with apps covering everything from admissions and enrollment to ordering meal services and navigating sprawling campuses. These apps not only save students time and meet students where they’re at — on their devices — but they also help streamline university resources.

Despite how attached students are to their mobile devices, many college campuses and faculty have been slow to catch on. However, the tide seems to be turning as universities work to improve their wireless infrastructure and educators start to think about how to embrace mobile technologies, rather than shun them. Add to these changes new innovations in artificial intelligence and the IoT, and there are still many exciting possibilities for mobile technologies and their positive impact on learning.

Written By

Becky Lawlor

Technology Writer

Becky Lawlor is a freelance technology writer specializing in mobility, cloud computing, unified communications and collaboration solutions. She develops and writes content that helps technology buyers understand and evaluate technology solutions, modernize their IT infrastructure…

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