Saturday, 31 December 2011

Information overload?

Jerseyville, Ontario 1979. Celebrating a New Year’s Eve bash with 20+ (cousins) counting down America’s Top 40. Between belting our best “M” song impersonation to sliding across the floor doing our best John Travolta – we were fearless.

I grew up listening to AM radio. My small transistor radio could pick up two local stations in Hamilton (CKOC and CFTR) The 70’s provided a wide range of music which led me to cross over to the FM dial to more grass roots music with Q107 and CFNY (80’s). I still remember my first record player – I could play the DJ and spin my own 45’s (over and over and over again) then moved up to the alternative LP’s on upgraded Hi Fi system. The last 20 years (90’s and 00’s) have been transformed by pioneers who provided a vision for how we consume and distribute music.

From a technology perspective; we’ve come a long way from punch cards, the first microprocessor, ARPANET (Internet) and the first personal computer (Wikipedia’s timeline of computing)

Fast forward to 2011, a great deal has changed:
1)      The new desktop is a device that fits in your pocket
2)      Technology is social and highly interactive

According to the KISS Marketing blog: people see more than 34 billion bits of information per day – an equivalent of 2 books a day online.  In-Stat expects mobile application downloads to reach nearly 48 billion in 2015.

How should we address information overload in 2012?
Are we effectively harnessing the potential of mobile to transform the class room experience?
Who should pay for mLearning? Student, Institution or both?

Happy NY!


Friday, 23 December 2011

mLearning is set to become a $9.1 billion industry - what is your game plan?

In our last post we discussed big questions to think about when planning a Campus wide mobile initiative, including:

  • Ø      Understanding potential bottlenecks
  • Ø      Be diligent in your upfront planning
  • Ø      Be aware of scope creep

This week, I’ll socialize the value of the untapped education mobile app community and the potential opportunity this creates to drive incremental revenue.

It is hard to imagine that four years ago there was no app store – no angry birds and no easy way to consume mobile apps on the fly. I cringe to think about the 3 hour plus car drive with my six year old without mobile technology.  

Her world revolves around Phineas & Ferb, Scooby Doo and smart mLearning apps like PBS Kids. Learning can take place anywhere – in the class room, at home and on the go. 

The same mobile device also contains Daddy’s stuff like my honey do list, social media, hobby apps, (guitar tuner / chords) games (WSOP) and TV Shows. (BSB) Add in my productivity apps, calendar, emails X3 accounts (personal, family - work) and workflow apps (expense approval / travel approval) - my device is an essential extension of my life. It is the medium that I use to interact with my friends; (Facebook / Foursquare) track updates (Twitter and LinkedIn) and communicate via SMS / TXT. 

In the case of a College or University student, accessing information relevant to their academic institution at the touch of a button is an expectation. How the content is delivered and managed greatly impacts the student’s experience and interaction with each school. In a recent survey by the University of Colorado Boulder (and other US local Institutions) provides a glimpse into the lives of students using mobile.

Based on this study we should consider 10 guiding principles when developing mobile apps for higher education.

Ø  Keep it simple and straight forward (minimize registration / sign in)
Ø  Students – grew up in digital & internet age (great creative –use media mix – audio and video)
Ø  Students are social (identify news ways to connect to their peers)
Ø  Empower the Student ( crowd sourcing – keep admin accountable – report on facilities via LBS)
Ø  Integrate with Campus systems (SIS, Admissions, Bookstore, Varsity and Library)
Ø  Allow for content submission
Ø  Provide a framework where applications are easily accessible vs. having to discover and find them
Ø  Provide value added services (bus schedule, community news, electronic book store)
Ø  Consider all platforms (Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows)
Ø  Think security and protecting sensitive data

Accordingly to Ambient Insights mobile learning is set to become a US$9.1 billion industry in the next 5 years. This presents a massive opportunity to shape, design and build simple (free) and complex (premium - $) mobile applications for the education market space.  In our world of LMS / eLearning we touch ~ 7 million students @ ~10 % adoption x $1.00 = $700,000. Surprising SMB and independent mobile developers are thriving in this community providing nimble and targeted applications.

Are you considering building mobile applications for the education community?

How are you currently marketing and promoting your applications? Are you seeking additional channels of distribution?

What mobile application or process is needed to transform education?

If mLearning is not on your radar today – it should be!

Happy Holidays


Friday, 16 December 2011

Big questions for your next mLearning project

Last week, we discussed the importance of momentum - putting one foot in front of the other to move forward. Sounds pretty easy….except when you are lying flat on the ground in an open field with a large pine tree poking you in the eye. Add a dull hand saw that looks more like a comb then a cutting tool along with a -10 C wind chill and you have the makings for a swell family outing at your local Tree farm. (thumbs up from wife and daughter - mission accomplished)

There are several options to finding the right tree, here are 3 that we've used over the past few seasons:

> buy a pre-lite tree in any assortment of colors (purple, green, white -even pink) from your local department store (most economic $)

> cut your own tree (or buy a pre-cut tree)  - they make this sound romantic but you are also paying a premium for the experience (AKA free cookies and hot chocolate = expect to pay $$)

purchase a hand-picked tree from the “we’ll cut it for you” Tree farm at a cost that will crash any holiday budget (they know you by first name = big spender $$$)

Think about your upcoming mobility project for your institution much the same way. Before you can begin you need to ask 3 big question upfront:

Who is my target audience and what process can we automate for students, facility and administration  via mobile devices to make their lives easier? (3 typical use cases)

> students want to be social and engage with their friends, faculty, admin and varsity programs
> students want to feel safe and secure in their surroundings with access to resources in the case of a threat
> students would like to integrate with student information systems, library systems and automate enrolment and admissions

Do we have the right resources and subject matter expertise in-house (IT, Admin etc.)  to build, manage and maintain this mobile initiative?

> device selection - what devices will I need to support? (smartphone, tablets, blackberry, IOS and Android)
> what is the skill set to build the mobile application?  (native, web - support for off-line / wireless coverage)
> how will I handle mass adoption, scalability and security?
     Are there advantages to selecting an out of the box solution like Campus Life that can simplify mobile application development?

    > how much flexibility can I expect to have?
    > what is the time and effort to deploy a mobile solution in this scenario?
    > how can I brand and private label the solution?

    Jumping into a mobility project with minimal thought or planning is like buying a Christmas Tree in middle of the summer. Pointless, unless you are Santa Claus carrying a shade umbrella that doubles as a portable Christmas Tree.


    Smart steps:
    1. Gather as much feedback from your end users (students, faculty and admin) as possible throughout your initial planning to prioritize use cases and functionality
    2. Know your end goals, objectives and success criteria (one application or many complex integrated apps)
    3. Investigate build vs. buy options - understand the big picture - Mat Brogie from Mobility CIO has some great insight into this question
    4. Understand your strengths and capabilities as you develop, deploy and maintain your mobile application
    5. Plan for turbulence and hiccups through-out your project - mobility is no exception
    6. Define your time frame (test / pilot / feedback / rollout) and adoption strategy – how will your end users use this daily vs. occasionally
    7. Think about  a unique brand experience that defines your community / spirit that your end user audience can own
    8. Make it simple and intuitive to use with thought to user interface and design
    9. Provide an outlet for students to contribute ideas and a forum to innovate
    10. Instill an agile methodology through-out all phases allows for feedback and collaboration  
    What are you struggling with when you think about deploying a mobile strategy?
    What are some of the political barriers to building a mobile “field of dreams”?
    How have you incorporated some of these smart steps in your own mobile deployment?

    Big question – do you have a strategy in place to get all your holiday shopping done before December 24th? (or have you thought about outsourcing this?)



    Friday, 9 December 2011

    One small step.....

    For the past two Christmas seasons the same holiday music lingers in our TV room  at my house. My spunky six year old  is more than happy to recite the same song over and over again, from the 1964 classic Rudolph Red Nosed Reindeer  …. "you put one foot in front of the other". My wife (1/2 way thru her Bachelor of Education degree) chimes in mid song…."and soon you'll be walking out the door".  I think the lesson here is don't over think stuff - just get up and move.

    Most recently; I began a new journey with Desire2learn, (D2L) a passionate thriving eLearning company squarely focused on changing the way learners engage with their peers, inspiring teachers to embrace innovative pedagogy methods and transforming the way we communicate. This is a tremendous opportunity for early adopters and pioneers of mobile enablement (serving both nimble app developers and the Enterprise) who can bring tangible ideas and opportunities to the academic community. I look forward to adding my voice to the (mobile learning) mlearning discussion and meeting new friends (partners) along the way. 

    My charter is to evangelize, attract and build an international mobile application developer community.  I will be actively engaging with developers that are seeking to expand their audience  reach. Additionally; we will align with device manufactures and MDM vendors, identify key integration partners (Student Information Systems, Publishers, ERP and Talent Management firms) and collaborate with national Carriers that share our vision of empowering lifelong learning. 

    I've been lucky in my career to be have collaborated with several dynamic entrepreneurs who have transformed and changed the way we communicate and use technology.  While @ Sybase, I managed our mobility partner program and witnessed first-hand common challenges and headaches associated with tackling mobility as a top of mind opportunity that just won't go away - including:  

    1. Supporting bring your own device (BYOD)
    2. Considerations for mobile device management (MDM)
    3. Managing risk and understanding potential bottlenecks 
    4. Define clear goals and objectives with the end users
    5. Be flexible in your planning - technologies changes rapidly

    On a weekly basis I will share some of these findings and along with real world deployments, best practices and lessons learned .  Building community is a two way exchange. I welcome your comments, ideas and thoughts on mobility and the impact it has on Education.

    This weekend we'll be putting one foot in front of the other by cutting down the annual tree at our local Christmas Tree farm 

    Let it snow!