University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science going Mobile

13 09 2010

From next year, the University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science will be moving towards mobile delivery, with all first-year students provided with iPads, and textbooks replaced by digital materials.  They will be the first Australian University to begin delivering in this way, and this is the first step towards an overhaul of their teaching strategies, including moving to fully online delivery of first-year Science courses from 2012, according to Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty. To help ensure that teaching materials and activities are compatible with the iPads, teaching staff will also be receiving the devices.

iPad in use

I have a modicum of skepticism about some aspects of this planned course of action, however.  Firstly, the focus on iPads might force thinking around mobile learning into a iPad-shaped box, rather than encouraging the development of mobile learning activities and resources to suit a wider range of devices.  This is already apparent in the kinds of materials they describe as being prepared for their iPads:

“The aim is to transfer all learning content to an electronic version which includes many currently printed textbooks for first-year students sometime in 2012.”

Aaargh.  Transferring learning content to computers, including textbooks, does not equate to e-learning.  Transferring learning content to mobile devices is unlikely to result in quality mobile learning.  The REAL task here should be to develop new learning activities and resources that target the required learning outcomes and utilise the affordances of mobile devices, rather than thinking that an electronic textbook on an iPad is somehow better that a paper-based textbook.  Instead, the focus appears to be on the *delivery* of content, rather than ways in which students can interact with, and create on, iPads:

“The online material will take a variety of forms with students being able to access lecture notes, audio, background documents and textbooks through tailored web-based apps. This is in addition to all the student services currently available through the MyUni website such as timetabling, video downloads, slides and email.”

THERE IS NOTHING NEW or innovative about ANY of those content sources or activities.  All that’s happening is that they’re being displayed on a shiny new device, instead of a laptop or a desktop computer, and they’re accessed through “app” buttons.  Contrast that philosophy with a learner-centric pedagogical model in which learning activities are developed that use key affordances of the iPad: for example, designing activities where students annotate or complete worksheets or experiments using an app like Noterize; or focusing on using mobile devices equipped with cameras to document science experiments or field trips using blogs, images, and video.

I hope the University of Adelaide will take time to consider how learning with technology is much more than learning ON technology.  A successful mobile learning strategy requires working with the inherant strengths and limitations of mobile devices to enhance learning and engagement – not just trying to do the same thing as before with the new tool!



12 responses

13 09 2010
Michael de Percy

Thanks Len, I agree with your observations. This seems like a load of hype to attract new students as we move to a market-based model. The lack of design evident in the Adelaide model may prove to be problematic, but the human capital developed by using the technology may be the “killer” part of this project.

20 09 2010
Mike Seyfang

Thanks for your considered analysis of the early newspaper coverage of this project. I work for prof Hill and let me say the free device is just a catalyst for a much broader and more ambitious strategy. We are well aware of our own shortcomings and value all the help we can get in routing around obstacles while keeping focussed on our goal to improve the teaching & learning experience in the faculty.

To facilitate that, I plan to provide access to as much information as I can through my own blog, linking wherever possible to the most authoritative source material I can find.

Look out for a trackback from ‘Learning with the fang’ with my first attempt.

Thanks again, and keep up the good suggestions.

20 09 2010
Leonard Low

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your comment, and for the update on the project. I do believe that the iPad has significant potential as a mobile learning platform, provided there are accompanying activities for developing staff capability around mobile learning strategy and practice to maximise the pedagogical gains.

Good luck with your project – you can be certain I will be keeping a close eye on developments in your faculty, as there is real potential to significantly increase engagement, flexibility, and mobility of learning in this opportunity!

20 09 2010
01-Adelaide Uni iPads: a flounder eye view | Learning with the Fang

[…] Mobile learning blog – early analysis. […]

23 09 2010

Shhhhhhhh – we’re just about to get iPads too. 🙂

28 10 2010
ATX Power Supply :

desktop computers these days gets obsolete the day that they are shipped considering how fast technology updates-~`

3 11 2010

I recently came across an interesting mobile app in Android market called “mGuessWho!?’ from This application could be interesting for socially collaborative mobile learning tool. Thought share with people interested in mobile learning tools available for free.

28 06 2011
John O'Laughlin

Well done focus on the learning outcomes first, to then identify the strategy for the student experience.

5 09 2011
mike begle

At the heart of science is research, and a great iOS app for Intro Stats is “Statistics 1″. It has Cliff Notes-like lessons, quizzes, flashcards, calculators, decision-trees, glossaries, and a bunch of other tools for learning basic statistics. The app is currently featured in Back to School section of the iTunes App Store (8/24/2011).

16 09 2011
Sofia Aumentar El Busto

hello I want to say that I really liked your article and I could really identify with what is expressed
now I have a better idea about Science Mobile
thank you very much

24 04 2014
University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science going Mobile | Instructional Design Source

[…] University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science going Mobile […]

17 10 2016

Reblogged this on LAW SCHOOL LEARNERS.

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