Open Menu Close Menu

Mobile Students, MobileU

A savvy CIO shares selected findings from Wake Forest’s MobileU project

Jay DominickJay Dominick is responsible for strategy, planning, and operations for Wake Forest University’s (NC) highly regarded Information Technology program. WFU is consistently ranked as a leader in the use of IT in teaching and learning. As CIO, Dominick directs the efforts of the Information Systems Department, including networking, computer operations, 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, groundbreaking converged cell phone/PDA project, MobileU, launched this past academic year.

Want to be considered for Campus Technology’s Top 10? Send your countdown and a brief background/bio summary to [email protected]


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…for now.

  • 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?
comments powered by Disqus