Faculty Focus


Students on the Go: What’s an Instructor to Do?

Mobile learning is defined as any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. (MLearning, 2009)

If you take a look around most college campuses these days you see students communicating on several types of mobile devices. These students are referred to as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation. This group is generally known for its use and familiarity with communications, media and digital technologies. (Generation Y, 2006) Today’s students do not wait to receive information – they want it instantly and feel they are entitled to receiving it instantly because they grew up with the latest, greatest technologies always close at hand.

Statistics show that by December of 2011 one in two Americans will have a Smartphone. (Entner, 2010) This along with the market saturation of cell phones and mobile devices in this “must have” society justifies our need to incorporate these technologies in education. Companies such as Apple have huge media events when they are launching a new product. The anticipation and desire to have these items is immeasurable. Apple is so successful with its launches that people will pre-order the latest “must have” devices.

It’s 10 pm, do you know where your students are?
Instructors need to pay attention to the needs of their students. They need to be aware that students are not stationary beings who study in their dorm rooms at night. Faculty need to consider that their students may be at the movies, or out to dinner, and decide to check their online course for assignments, announcements, or an e-mailed response to one of their questions from their instructor.

In addition, it is important for educators to recognize that today’s students not only prefer the Internet over a traditional “bricks and mortar” library – but are adept at accessing the information they want on their mobile devices. I use the term “devices” intentionally because they are not only using one device at a time. There are occasions where they might be using their laptop, Smartphone, iPad, and iPod at the same time and for different reasons.

We need to remember that learning can take place in various shapes, sizes, and forms. Therefore, we need to think outside the box and learn to develop new ways to deliver our course content and to communicate with our students. Be open to new ideas and technologies — do not become stagnant in your approach to teaching and learning!

If you are not comfortable with the new technologies, ask for help. Partner with a colleague that is tech savvy and one that knows how to use all the gadgets and social networks. Jump outside your comfort zone and explore the possibilities of mobile learning and discover new ways to communicate with your students. Have fun and be creative – your students will appreciate the effort.

Eileen Narozny is an instructional designer at the University of Central Florida.

MLearning. (2009, July). Retrieved May 10, 2010, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MLearning

Generation Y. (2006, September). Retrieved May 10, 2010, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Y

Entner, R. (2010, March 26). nielsenwire. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from nielsenwire: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/smartphones-to-overtake-feature-phones-in-u-s-by-2011/