Published on 2014/05/20

On-the-Go Higher Ed: Measuring the Future Impact of Mobile Devices on Non-Traditional Learners

On-the-Go Higher Ed: Measuring the Future Impact of Mobile Devices on Non-Traditional Learners
Mobile applications can make the academic and bureaucratic demands of higher education easier to navigate for non-traditional students.
Adult and non-traditional learners are constantly on the move. Families and professional obligations often times dictate the learning tempo of these students. They may not have the time or resources to physically be on their respective campuses in order to get the services they need. It’s therefore necessary for educators to innovate pathways to keep non-traditional students engaged in their scholarly and extracurricular activities.

Mobile technologies offer an exemplary platform that can empower educational units to provide top-tier services to delocalized learners. I predict that the role of mobile devices will become more influential to the overall non-traditional higher learning experience.

It’s important to consider the ways mobile devices can be used in order to help adult and non-traditional learners achieve academic excellence. In the foreseeable future, I envision that higher learning institutions will create mobile programs that will aim to accommodate non-traditional students. Universities will build and implement mobile applications that house entire student service sectors. These apps would be designed to target specific student populations. For instance, military and veteran students will have access to a university military app that would not only link them with the financial and scholarly resources they need, but would provide them with the opportunity to connect socially with other military students who attend the university. Veteran and active-duty students will then have the ability to form supportive digital and corporeal relationships with colleagues and counselors. Moreover, university operators and administrators will have the ability to answer questions and provide insights to non-traditional students in real time. Centralized and specialized mobile resources will enrich non-traditional students’ lives and help them prosper academically.

Beyond student services, the future of mobile technologies will change the actual scholarly experience of non-traditional learners. As the use of smartphones, tablets and laptops becomes increasingly common for college students across the board, postsecondary technological experts will implement creative ways to get students engaged with their mobile devices. University professors will start to complement their courses with mobile applications designed specifically for their classes. Students will be able to program their mobile devices to send notifications, organize group projects and manage their workload digitally. The ability to efficiently access and consolidate a college workload is extremely important for busy adult learners. Adult students who are informed, involved and organized will be more likely to succeed. Additionally, instructional designers will also innovate ways to incorporate interactive mobile study tools to help students master course material in meaningful ways. As communication technologies improve, delocalized learners will be able to access exam reviews, office hours and group study sessions through their mobile devices. Accordingly, custom-designed applications will also allow adult and non-traditional learners to be able to download free digital texts, access additional lecture materials and even get the professor’s notes.

Although there will be a multitude of ways mobile technologies enhance a non-traditional learner’s college experience, there are still important risk factors to consider. Undoubtedly, universities will collect analytical data from student interactions with university-sponsored mobile applications. This data would help a university determine the quality and efficacy of its mobile programs. However, the ways in which a student’s personal data may be used and stored is a concern. Higher education cyber security is a serious issue and there are still many obstacles to acknowledge and overcome.

Another issue is technical relevance. In the modern day, technology advances at break-neck speeds; this is especially the case for mobile devices. The upkeep of large, technological systems is expensive and colleges must invest heavily in their IT departments to provide the best possible outcomes. Major shifts of university funding from brick-and-mortar investments to digital projects will alter the traditional financial cultures in many institutions. University budget officers must be proactive and plan for these modern higher education finance trends.

Overall, I’m optimistic that mobile device technology can be used to help non-traditional learners succeed in college. Though there are many obstacles, delocalized learners can benefit greatly from learning on the go. Higher education establishments will continue to innovate ways to connect with non-traditional students through mobile technologies. It will be interesting to see how mobile devices shape the future of student services, learning outcomes and access.

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Readers Comments

Yvonne Laperriere 2014/05/20 at 3:07 pm

There’s a need for more engagement opportunities for non-traditional students, and mobile seems like the platform to do it. As Khrapak points out, individuals are increasingly reliant on mobile technology for their everyday functions. For non-traditional students, who tend to spend more time off campus and have commitments that require them to constantly be on the go, this is even more true. It makes sense, then, to design programs for non-traditional students to be compatible with mobile so that studying can more easily become a part of their everyday lives. That is the best way to serve them.

Anthony Day 2014/05/22 at 7:29 am

I think the first step for many institutions is to ensure everything they design is mobile compatible. I’ve been on many institutional websites that couldn’t load properly on my smartphone, and I don’t even want to guess how many schools’ library resources or course materials are available on mobile. That’s the first step. Those that are ready to move to the next level should think about designing a full-fledged mobile experience. This includes everything from making sure course files are compressed to choosing fonts and colors that will be easy on the eyes when read against a narrow lit screen. When mobile apps are well designed, students should want to log on and use them.

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