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Mobile Computing 5-Day Sprint: Day 1 Recap—The Future of Mobile Computing

The first day of the EDUCAUSE Mobile Computing 5-Day Sprint was an exciting collection of activities focused on the future of mobile computing. Participants from around the world came together for an ELive! webinar with Joanne Kossuth and Alan Levine, energetic chat on Twitter, thoughtful discussions in IdeaScale, and online polls, surveys, and contests (see Alan’s blog about the day’s events). The irony of today’s theme is that most people find it difficult to describe the now of mobile computing, let alone forecast the future. Or, as Alan noted in today’s webinar, there are no experts—mobile computing changes too fast, institutions have too little control, and the options are too varied for anyone to qualify as an expert.

Changed Roles for IT

What’s clear is that mobile computing is here to stay, and it can and should be an integral part of campus life, just as it is a part of people’s personal lives. Mobile computing is being driven by the consumer market (see Tim Flood’s blog), which runs at a different pace from higher education. Users buy their own devices, the hardware and apps change at a dizzying pace, and the expectations about what users will be able to do on mobile devices are outpacing institutional efforts to deliver that functionality. Similar to cloud computing, the locus of control changes with mobile. As one participant suggested, IT is no longer the driver of the bus but the mechanic.

New Opportunities

Institutions have an opportunity to leverage the fact that most people have a computer with them at all times, but exactly what that future looks like, not to mention how to get there, remains murky. For instance, participants noted that not long ago, many faculty told students to turn their phones off in class, but now, mobile devices are increasingly required for academic work—this, despite the fact that debates continue about the real influence of mobile technology in the classroom. Figuring all this out will bring a wide range of constituents together to work in highly collaborative ways.

Access(ibility)

Some worry that mobile computing could introduce a new digital divide—between users who can afford the devices and those who cannot. If an institution develops resources only for mobile devices, how can it guarantee that all users have equal access? That said, in some parts of the world, mobile infrastructure is the only infrastructure, which means that mobile computing enfranchises potentially millions of users with no other means of access. Mobile content might also present new challenges for users with disabilities. Participants agreed that they must keep accessibility in mind, but many concede that it is often not a priority. In both of these areas, mobile presents great opportunities for higher education.

Looking Ahead

So, what’s next? Implementing mobile computing on campus raises a long list of questions, many of which we will try to address on the other days in the 5-Day Sprint, including the implications for teaching and learning, enterprise integration and app development, security, privacy, and policy, and infrastructure. In our poll on Monday, more than two-thirds of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their IT organization is struggling to meet the demands of mobile technologies. There may be no experts, but as a community we will work to meet those demands and deliver on the enormous potential that mobile computing has for higher education.

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In medicine and healthcare, the need to consult some of the myriad of information, a colleague, or another expert is key in providing up to date and evidence based care. M computing is the only way to access the needed sources at the point of patient care. Similarly, it is necessary to learn by networking with colleagues.

Pressures to improve patient care by physicians and other healthcare professionals noting their questions, issues they plan to pursue and look up, and questions they have answered as well as sources of information are reassuring to those dealing with credentialling and also those planning physician and healthcare education. To have access to the source and nature of questions will facilitate accessing answers and opinions and will assist those designing education to meet the current needs of professionals and recognize differences in the medicine practiced and the ideal. The nature of healthcare, being queried and provided at the site of the patient requires easy access to huge bodies of information on the fly.

It is said that physicians have approximately 19 questions a day, but most of them go unanswered. What if access allowed answers to those questions? Would healthcare improve and be both more effective and efficient? Is mobile computing the answer?