Mobile Students, MobileU
A savvy CIO shares selected findings from Wake Forest’s MobileU project
Jay Dominick is responsible
for strategy, planning, and
operations for Wake Forest
University’s (NC) highly regarded
ranked as a
leader in the use
of IT in teaching
and learning. As
directs the efforts
of the Information Systems
Department, including networking,
help desk, telecommunications,
programming, and systems
development. He was responsible
for the implementation
and support of the ubiquitous
laptop computing project at
WFU, which pioneered a new
model for technology deployment
in higher education in
1995. Here, he shares some
discoveries from WFU’s latest,
cell phone/PDA project,
MobileU, launched this past
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Geek is cool.
- Cool phones are a hot commodity, and student interest is high.
- Students live a mobile lifestyle, and e-mail on the devices is especially popular.
You can see Moore’s Law in action.
- Phones integrate remarkable and increasing capabilities, from cameras and
Wi-Fi to music and video.
- Prices are dropping quickly and reliability is increasing along with more features.
Think Windows 3.1
- Handheld devices are perhaps 10 years behind desktop OS capability.
- There’s no dominant OS, and minimal diagnostic and support tools.
- Phones still have a difficult user interface, requiring training.
Consolidation is good, right? Maybe not.
- The carrier marketplace is changing rapidly, with mergers everywhere.
- Integration of product lines slows down innovation, so don’t expect miracles.
And you thought your phone bill was hard to understand...
- Centralized billing and settlement are still the Holy Grail.
- The greatest discounts are for university-sponsored programs, but the
university assumes the billing risk.
Single-carrier solutions are tempting, but not a simple fix.
- Single-carrier partnerships can justify infrastructure costs...
- ...but it’s very difficult to get users to switch carriers for a standard plan.
Enter the global student—be prepared to offer universal services.
- Cell phones are a global phenomenon.
- They are the essential communications tool in an emergency.
- Consider using short message service (SMS) for emergency communications.
Build it, and they will think of something better.
- Students use these devices for all sorts of things that may not be obvious to the
"wired phone" generation.
- Students use them for entertainment (music, videos, games), keeping track of
their social lives, and messaging. They even use them to tune their guitars!
Think outside the (classroom) box.
- Classroom innovations will still be driven by faculty.
- Support innovative uses: instant response, RSS feeds, and media streams.
- Field-based data research, mobile blogging, and digital photography all make
the devices useful where laptops don’t go.
It’s the phone that counts!
- Students like the PDA capability, but usually won’t carry one consistently
unless there’s a phone attached.
- They’re carrying a phone anyway, so why not incorporate it into the
university’s technology plan?