Including Mobile Devices in the University
Universidad Nacional de La Matanza
Universidad Nacional de La Matanza
Giulianelli, Daniel A.
Universidad Nacional de La Matanza
Departamento de Ingeniería e Investigaciones Tecnológicas
Grupo de Investigación, Desarrollo y Formación en Innovación de Software.
Universidad Nacional de La Matanza
Debido a la alta inserción, entre la población estudiantil, de los teléfonos móviles junto con otros dispositivos tecnológicos tales como los iPods y las computadoras portátiles, sumado esto a a las ventajas que la movilidad proporciona a sus usuarias, en Argentina, la Universidad Nacional de La Matanza se encuentra diseñando una estrategia y desarrollando las aplicaciones necesarias para incorporar a los dispositivos móviles como un recurso didáctico más a ser utilizado en las aulas universitarias. El alcance tecnológico del desarrollo, consiste en la construcción de un Sitio Web Móvil que permitirá a los estudiantes universitarios el uso de los dispositivos móviles para la adquisición de conocimientos, y para una mejor comunicación con los profesores y compañeros y mejorar así el proceso de Enseñanza - Aprendizaje
Inclusión de los Dispositivos Móviles en la Universidad
Due to the high insertion of mobile phones together with other technological devices such as tablets, iPods and laptops among the students population and the advantages that mobility provides to its users, Universidad Nacional de La Matanza (UNLaM) from Argentina is designing a strategy and implementation to incorporate mobile devices as a didactic resource in a university classroom. From a technological scope, building a Mobile Web Site will allow students to use their mobile devices to learn, practice, and communicate with their professors and partners, in order to improve the teaching - learning process.
ICT (Information and Communication Technology) originated the information society that has brought changes to everyday life of people specially those called digital natives . Some of these changes are the way that persons:
“…today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” 
Argentina is immersed into the information society. Some statistics show that nowadays, according to CICOMRA (Chamber of Information Technology and Communications of the Argentine Republic) , there are 57.850.200 mobile phones lines in use  and according to INDEC (National institute of Statistics and Census) , by October 2010, there were 40.117.096 devices. Thus, the number of mobile lines exceeds the number of inhabitants in the country.
Students that are starting a university career today are digital natives. They were born surrounded by technology and they have learnt how to use it since their first’s years by trial and error. “They have spent their lives at home and school surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age” .
These youngsters have different positive skills than the previous generations like learning quickly how to use new ICT devices or computer’s software, typing, navigating the web to search information, communicating by social media, etc. But they also have negative skills such as the difficulty to read and comprehend texts, problems with handwriting, shame of face to face expressions, etc.
The challenge is taking advantage of the student’s skills applying them in order to improve the teaching-learning process.
“Mobile learning has become an e-learning extension in recent years, this allow students to perform their studies in different places and moments without being connected, having a mobile device is enough for performing different activities such as sending works, accessing virtual libraries, consulting texts, etc.” .
Computers and/or mobile devices in a classroom, do not involve any progress if they are used to replace the old copybook by a word processor, or looking up information in Wikipedia, in the same way as it was performed with the old encyclopaedias in a library.
But, beyond the ideals and goals that every professor has into their minds and hearts, they can imagine students using a virtual reality system that allow them to be transported to the year 1945 and watch John Von Neumann writing his “First Draft” of his model in a train trip, research and talk with his partners in Princeton University. Does anybody doubt that in such scenario students would learn a lot more about the computers’ dawn with those technological tools instead of listening quietly the professor’s lesson or reading a text book?
La Matanza National University (UNLaM) is designing a strategy in order to implement the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning.
2. University’s Mobile Web Site
2.1 La Matanza University Virtual Campus: MIeL
La Matanza National University has a Virtual Campus called MIeL (Materias Interactivas en Línea. Interactive Subjects on Line). In this web site, each course of all the UNLaM’s programs upload studying material, schedules, exercises, presentations, news, etc. Students can easily access the site in miel.unlam.edu.ar/.
However, MIeL does not have a mobile version of its contents. Almost every student has a cellular phone, but they cannot navigate MIeL from a mobile web site. This means more connection time, more bytes, longer pages, more scrolling, more difficulty in reading it, etc.
The research team is developing, in three phases, a mobile university web site linked to the UNLaM’s Virtual Campus called MIeL, that will offer the same curricular contents, but in a mobile format, specially designed for mobile devices. It will also show news (“new materials have been uploaded”), discussion forum theme (“Hamming Code on Monday 12th”), and urgent news for all students (“Today’s classes are suspended due to severe weather phenomenon from 2 PM”), etc.
The solution must consider that the mobile web site would be implemented according to rules and accessibility best practices from international sources such as W3C (World Wide Web).  .
A mobile web site inside UNLaM’s Virtual Campus MIeL will benefit and expedite the students’ download of the courses material and will enable them to use it “anytime” and “anywhere”, even during class time, encouraging the interaction and communication among students and professors, receiving news from the University and courses, besides saving time with unexpected events.
2.2 Design’s Strategy
In order to implement the Mobile Web Site, the research team designed a strategy with 3 phases, shown in Fig 1.
2.2.1 Phase 1: Requirements Recollection, Surveys, Regulations and Best Practices
During 2015, the research team is performing the first phase. They had designed a survey that is being submitted to UNLaM’s students of all the university careers in order to know the students and their mobile devices features, to design a mobile web site according to the student’s population characteristics.
The survey results are necessary to study the UNLaM’s student profile regarding the way they use their mobile devices, what kind of device they use, what kind of service they have subscribed to, how long do they use it for, how the use it regarding study, which operative system they prefer, etc.
The UNLaM’s population is 50.000 students, with a confidence level of 95% and a confidence range of 3. The sample is 1705 students. The poll shows that the percentage of students that use mobile devices is 98,8% (1676 students) Fig. 2.
It can be seen in Fig. 2 that almost all the student’s population uses mobile devices.
Fig 3 shows percentages of how much time the students use mobile devices to study.
The pie chart shows that 73% of the students use their mobile devices to study, and only 3% don’t, while 24% answered that they use it few time.
The survey also asked students about the difficulties that they find when they navigate internet with their mobile devices. The results are shown in Fig. 4.
It can be seen in Fig. 4 that the main difficulty is the delay in loading site. This fact usually arises because of the site’s weight, because the site is not designed especially for mobile devices, the other difficulties come because of the small display’s size corresponding to mobile devices, especially cellular phones.
The students were asked about the information that they access regarding their studies, their replays are shown in Fig. 5.
It can be watched in Fig. 5 that there are several item that are important to students every day life.
At the same time, the research team investigated Recommendation and Best Practices from W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) , regarding mobile web and analyzed university web mobile sites from Argentina and the world.
2.2.2 Phase 2: Application Development
Nowadays there are several approaches to develop an application (app). It can be implemented either in native code or in other totally different programming language. The research team decided to choose among the following approaches:
The choice depends on the survey results, specially the features of the mobile devices and their operative systems.
The software and hardware requirements, as the people who will be needed to work in the app operation and maintenance, will be detailed later.
2.2.3 Phase 3: Validation and Testing
Each part of the implemented system will be tested using web validators, real users, and finally, if the app accomplishes all test and validations, it will be available for all the students.
3. Results and Future Work
The Mobile Web Site proposal will be implemented in a program of a first year on the Engineer career and later it will be available for all the UNLaM’s students. A previous survey showed the agreement and acceptance of the proposal by the students. The research is in its first year, so during the second year it is planned to develop, install, validate and test the mobile web site. As future work it is planned to add extra functionality the mobile application to perform interactive activities outside the classroom where students will be able to interact with other partners answering questions on the web, for example about themes learned in previous classes.
We consider that we must take advantage of this resource in benefit of the class. This is why this proposal is going to be implemented in several courses in the University to capitalize the technology already available in the classroom. Considering the different connectivity options, using a mobile device as an access point is the best solution because it is cheaper, simpler and independent of existing hardware.
Regarding the Mobile Web, it will offer the students the possibility of reading their lessons and having their guides and exercises without paper, knowing their schedules, news and communicating through the Mobile Site with their professors and colleagues.
Social conditions are set to perform the implementation of the university mobile web sites. The field is propitious to sow: the main users - students - are trained and wishful of participate in this kind of communication so natural for them. Educational community demands mobile solutions, the appropriate technology, correctly implemented is the answer to it.
Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Inmigrants” (2010).
| Técnica Administrativa
Buenos Aires, 15-01-2016