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The iPhone and the Classroom

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Joshua Kim penned a great article back in July entitled, “6 Ways the iPhone Changed Higher Ed” and it got me thinking a bit…

You see, earlier this year I took MKTG600 at American Public University which was a class that was 100% online. So naturally, I tried navigating through the classroom on my iPad. I know, that’s not the same thing as an iPhone, but for all intents and purposes, including some great points that Joshua highlighted, the iPad, like the iPhone, has some unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to distance learning.

I will sum everything up in one statement:

Mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, work very well for consuming/browsing information regarding an online classroom and participating in the casual learning process. They do not work well when creating and submitting assignments that require attention to details such as formatting, citations and creative content.

In other words, I was able to log in to the electronic campus, enter the classroom and check my assignments, view my grades and interact with my instructor and classmates from my tablet with ease. This was great as I do a bit of traveling, and instead of lugging my laptop around (7.5 lbs plus one of those big power bricks and a case to carry it all), I brought my iPad which weighs under two pounds and slid it right into my existing carry on… Not to mention the 100 other advantages of an iPad regarding mobility (battery length, etc.)

However, try typing a 10-page research paper using APA styles for formatting and citations on an iPad, or worse, an iPhone. No way. It’s just not feasible.

So I got to thinking, what is the future here? Certainly not dockable keyboards – they are bulky. How about holographic interactive keyboards? Maybe. Dictation seems to make a lot of sense, but it’s hard to dictate footnotes and APA-style references/formatting. And it’s not possible to dictate creative works, such as graphics or charts.

There are definitely some challenges ahead for mobile adoption in the learning process. Right now it seems reserved for ebooks, dicussions and casual learning, leaving research (something I won’t touch in this post), and complex assignments to the desktop/laptop environment for the time being.

Have you tried using your smartphone or tablet for an online class? What do you think of the experience? Let me know by posting your thoughts below.

By Dan Soschin
Online Learning Tips Technology Contributor

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