“The Future of Learning is Mobile”. That is how I closed each of my 8 presentations at the Cisco booth at Educause 2010 this week. What I should have said instead though is “Learning is Mobile”.
Mobility in Education is not a future trend; it is happening right now all around us. And I should have known better since Higher Education has been a very early adopter of wireless networking and our customers are constantly interested in the latest technology.
I had less than an hour to walk the expo floor, but during that time I had multiple discussions that proved just how mobile education already is. Here is a quick summary of those discussions:
- Cisco: Right next to my mobility demo was the Flip prosumer video. Cisco FocalPoint is a great platform to put all student and educator videos on the cloud and share them with the community for commenting, etc. Naturally you can consume all these videos from a number of mobile (or not) devices.
- Google: I talked to a college guy that showed me how he is using his Google Docs apps, such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc., running on the cloud, to collaborate with his peers on the fly from any mobile device and at any time.
- Blackboard: Spent some time checking out the mobile platform BB has created to develop apps for universities. The couple ones that were the most memorable were the ability to see course registrar info on the smartphone or tablet of your choice (they had Apple and RIM products), figure out the semester course schedule and even email the instructor if the class was full. Another cool one was the ability to track in real time intra-campus buses and see on a map the scheduled and actual arrival (based on GPS data) on your nearest bus/shuttle stop. The Blackboard apps I saw were all student facing, as the company did not have a platform for faculty or administrator facing apps. But is it too much of a stretch to think such a platform will also be developed soon?
- Microsoft: After having seen the Microsoft keynote last week about the new Windows Mobile 7, I was curious to go see a device or two and experience the OS first hand. Microsoft had one of the LG devices there (don’t remember the model name), and got a chance to play with it a bit. They clearly have done a great job integrating into Facebook, and the look and feel is very different from my iPhone Facebook app. But Windows Moble 7 is missing other apps. What blew me away though (I must have missed it from the keynote) was that the company has a commitment for 11,000 apps by the end of the year! Seems to me like an aggressive goal, but hope they make it.
- Sungard: Similar to Blackboard, they also have a platform for creating mobile apps for the usual suspects (Apple and Android I saw). They did not have as many apps as Blackboard did, but they business model seems different, as they enable universities to build their own apps.
My conclusion? Mobile apps for higher education are everywhere, and it will only get even more competitive out there. So with all these devices entering the campus today, requiring connectivity to run all these applications, how will you create a mobility strategy that can meet user’s expectations on mobility?
Here are three steps to keep in mind:
- Enable connectivity from any device so that mobile users can use their network of choice. Cisco provides a unified wired & wireless network with integrated cellular for a truly borderless campus.
- Extend applications to any device, by supporting high-density client environments, and also protecting wireless performance against interference. Cisco provides ClientLink to improve performance of older clients, VideoStream to effectively multicast video content to mobile devices, and CleanAir technology to mitigate interference from common devices such as microwave ovens, and cordless phones operating in the same frequencies.
- Maintain security across any device, to secure the end-to-end experience and maintain compliance where applicable. Cisco’s AnyConnect secure mobility client ensures an always-on VPN connection without the hassle.
After seeing the maddening pace of all the higher education mobile apps available today it was really no surprise to read on Campus Technology that “Academic institutions in the United States are spending more than $5 billion annually on wireless hardware, software, and services. And, according to new research, that figure will climb to $6.8 billion by 2014.”
Ok, so you are investing in mobility – but what is your mobility strategy? What kind of applications do you want to enable your campus users to run on their device and network of choice?
Looking forward to your comments.