This case study chapter will outline the results of a 2006 pilot test into the use of Short Message Service (SMS) to augment the provision of student administrative services currently available through a university website. The pilot conducted utilised an SMS Prototype Tool Trigger that enabled dynamic information transfer between staff and students. Trigger facilitated live update reminders that assisted students to schedule their time and better organise themselves. Specifically, SMS technology was used to deliver physical class locations, availability and web addresses of iPod resources, important events, alerts for multimedia, examination schedules, and, assessment feedback by ‘pushing’ information to students. Trigger also provided students with pull access to study schedules and requirements. The aim of the test was to evaluate student response to the use of Trigger to improve the learning environment. The case study will identify student responses to the 2006 pilot and describe a current project that has extended the number of students participating in the study.
The Concept Of Web 2.0
Web 2.0 has received tremendous attention since 2005. As the origins and history of the Web 2.0 concept have been discussed in other chapters, there is no need to repeat this material here. Following O’Reilly (2005), Anderson asserts that Web 2.0 “has, at its heart, a set of at least six powerful ideas” (2007, p. 2). These are:
Individual production and user-generated content;
Harnessing the power of the crowd;
Data on an epic scale;
Architecture of participation;
As will be discussed later in this chapter, these ideas are crucial for universities. They provide an alternative to current approaches to online learning that depend on “one-size-fits-all” models.Top
Living And Teaching In A Connected World
Today, we live in a connected world. Nothing demonstrates this more forcefully than the increasing flood of mobile phones. There are over 3.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide (“Mobile phone users reach 3.3bn,” 2008). This is almost three times the number of fixed landline phones (1.3 billion). More than 2 billion people send or receive SMS messages, and at an astonishing rate—for example, the Gartner group predicted that over 2.3 trillion SMS messages would be sent in 2008 (Gartner, Inc., 2007). In addition, over 825 million mobile phone subscribers across the globe use their mobiles to connect to the Internet (Ahonen, 2008). Accessing online content—movies, video clips, music, and podcasts—has driven an explosive demand in mobile devices. According to market research company iSuppli, 163 million MP3 players and other personal media devices were sold worldwide in 2007 (cellular-news, 2007).
Along with the increase in the number of mobile devices, there has been a rapid growth in personal computer (PC) ownership. In countries such as Australia and the United States, PC ownership is reaching saturation point. According to Ahonen (2008), at some time in 2008, the number of PCs on desktops around the world would exceed the 1 billion mark. Partly as a result of the growing ubiquity of PCs, the global total of Internet users has reached a staggering 1.4 billion (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2008). Although ownership is concentrated in the developed world, falling unit costs and cheaper telecommunications are expected to result in an explosion in third-world computer ownership over the next few decades.
Even more remarkable than the spread of modern communications has been the rapid growth of Web 2.0 applications. MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/), one of the two largest social networking sites on the Web, is an example of social computing on an unprecedented scale. In early 2008, the number of active users on MySpace allegedly was in excess of 110 million. The MySpace community reads billions of pages every day—as many as 4.5 billion MySpace pages over a single 24-hour period in January 2008, for instance. More than 300,000 new users join MySpace daily. Every day, 8 million new images are added and 60,000 fresh videos are uploaded to the site (Owyang, 2008).