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Mobile IT in Higher Education, 2011 Report

ECAR RESEARCH HUB, PUBLISHED DECEMBER 2, 2011
Authors: Gregory Dobbin, Pam Arroway, Eden Dahlstrom, Mark Sheehan

Discussion about mobile IT in higher education is ubiquitous, but attaining its benefits does not come as easily. Most respondents to ECAR’s 2011 study of the topic report little progress in making institutional services, applications, and websites accessible on mobile devices. Mobile enablement of student-facing services has taken highest priority to date, while providing mobile IT to staff, faculty, and others has been less urgent. The average respondent institution has enabled only a few services for mobile access, but institutions that have invested more time and money in them show dramatically greater progress, as do institutions that show enthusiasm for cross-institutional collaborations. Many technologies exist for deploying mobile IT, but few institutions now have gone beyond modifying existing web services to be more mobile friendly.


Report and Supporting Materials

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Key Findings

Discussion about mobile IT in higher education is ubiquitous, but attaining benefits of mobility does not come easily. The ECAR mobile IT study gathered quantitative and qualitative data from a representative sample of 209 higher education institutions. Most respondents to ECAR's 2011 study report little progress in making institutional services, applications, and websites accessible on mobile devices. The average respondent institution has enabled only a few services for mobile access. Institutions that have invested more money and those that have larger numbers of staff assigned to mobile-enablement initiatives show greater progress. Mobile enablement of student-facing services has taken highest priority to date, and we see considerably more mobile progress in areas that are given higher priority.

Development strategies for mobile computing include mobile web, native apps, and mobile frameworks. Institutions pursuing a portfolio approach to mobility—using different development strategies for different services—show greater progress in deploying mobile services.

ECAR Recommends

A mobile device provides anytime, anywhere access to a wide array of information and services, and a higher education institution whose presence in that environment lags is putting its students, faculty, and staff at a disadvantage. To move forward, consider these steps.

  • Take an organized approach toward development of mobile IT, securing dedicated staffing and funding sources.
  • Prioritize thoughtfully and carefully to make the most of limited resources.
  • Be intentional with development strategies, but maintain enough flexibility to use different approaches to accommodate different kinds of services and changing needs.
  • Don't be shy about participation in cross-institutional collaborations. Such approaches hold considerable potential, but they depend on support to gain momentum.
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