What are Mobile Apps?

There is a revolution that is taking place in software development that parallels the changes in recent years in the music, publishing, and retail industries. Mass market is giving way to niche market, and with it, the era of highly priced large suites of integrated software has shifted to a new view of what software should be. Smartphones such as the Galaxy, iPhone, and Android have redefined what we mean by mobile computing, and in the past three to four years, the small, often simple, low-cost software extensions to these devices — apps — have become a hotbed of development. New tools are free or sell for as little as 99 cents. A popular app can see millions of downloads in a very short time, and that potential market has spawned a flood of creativity that is instantly apparent in the extensive collections available in the app stores. These retail phenomena provide an easy, fast, and totally new way to deliver software that reduces distribution and marketing costs significantly. Apple’s app store opened in July 2008; Google’s followed in October of that year. By September 2012, more than 55 billion apps had been sold or downloaded; simple but useful apps have found their way into almost every form of human endeavor. Mobile apps are particularly useful for learning as they enable people to learn and experience new concepts wherever they are, often across multiple devices.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • We are developing apps that link to ePortfolios for students to upload evidence of foreign language instruction. We find that it is very useful for students to have access to apps like this to record 'learning encounters' in their environment where they might make a quick video or create an audio demonstrating their language proficiency. - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Oct 10, 2013
  • I am using apps in my online class as a way to augment access to my students learning activities. For example, for years I have used VoiceThread, which originally required students to leave comments through a computer (in either voice, video, or text). Now, with the iOS app students have the additional option to access our activities via an iPhone or iPad, listen to/read/view comments and record/type their own from their device. Many college professors have integrated web 2.0 tools into their classes and now, as these tools develop mobile apps they are providing increased options for students to access the (and some provide alternative options for self-expression through audio/video, like VoiceThread). - mpacansky-brock mpacansky-brock Oct 12, 2013
  • The iPad is only 3 years old and we see the change this device has brought to the table. Apps zero-in on skills as well as specific material; thus, accelerating the learning process. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Oct 14, 2013
  • We not only use the Blackboard Mobile App to allow students to acees their modules on our Blackaord VLE (LMS), but we have also developed our own UniLeeds App, which students can download for free from the various online market places, that provides them mobile access to, amongst other things, Personalised Academic Timetables, Library Records & Catalogues, Campus Maps, Computer Cluster Availability and the latest University News and Events - thanks to student demand, there is even a button to press which will tell you which washers and driees are free in the halls of residence! NEw for this academic years, uptake has been phenomenal, with very little done in the way of marketing and promotion - build it and they will download it! Link Below in section 4. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013
  • Like many institutions we are a couple of years into our Mobile With Strategy (http://technologyenhancedlearning.net/mobile/). The key to this work is student involvement, get students to feedback, make suggestions and tell the institution what functionality they require. If it meets the needs of students, and there is a sense of ownership from the student body then embedding it's use is a lot easier. What's also been critical is linking other applications, such as our ePortfoilo solution to a mobile strategy. The next phase is linking mobile with SSO so there's seamless integration with ePortfolio, Library and Learning Environment.- neil.witt neil.witt Oct 26, 2013

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Mobile apps should be viewed as opportunities to make learning more collaborative and active, as they afford opportunities for transforming students into content creators. 18-year olds today were tweens when web 2.0 emerged. Their adolescence was shaped through the abundance of collaboration and learning in community. Additionally, apps transform learning into contextual settings. Mobile learning transports learning into the real world, empowering learners to document, record, narrate, edit, and share all from their phones. Low cost apps are powerful content creation tools, like hand held multimedia studios. - mpacansky-brock mpacansky-brock - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Oct 10, 2013
  • Apps are no longer amazing, they form part of the expectation that students coming into Higher Education have that we will provide for their every online and offline need when they join us. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • I think the potential impact is huge, from everyday classroom learning and assignment completion, to universities using apps to make navigation of campus life easier. - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Oct 10, 2013
  • Apps facilitate the integration of media creation into mainstream curriculum, as a form of authentic assessment. - mpacansky-brock mpacansky-brock Oct 12, 2013
  • Apps are not the future - they are the present. Anything and everything has the potential to be augemented, and improved by, the creation of an app, and I forsee the creation of bespoke apps for individual courses over teh next few years, allowing students to access the content they need in the format they need it, wherever and whenever necessary without needing to go online. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013
  • With an increasing number of online courses, I wonder if the app environment will change the course of this environment. We've moved from online to a hybrid/blended approach. Apps may play a 'badge' or 'certificate' role. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Oct 14, 2013
  • The integration / SSO approach is vital - insitutions need to put resource and effort into providing a seamless experience - neil.witt neil.witt Oct 26, 2013

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?