Bespoke Mobile Application Development: Facilitating Transition of Foundation Students to Higher Education

Bespoke Mobile Application Development: Facilitating Transition of Foundation Students to Higher Education

Nevan Bermingham (Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland) and Mark Prendergast (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0256-2.ch010
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Abstract

Smartphone usage by students has increased rapidly over the last number of years, and it is expected that the utilisation of mobile applications in educational environments will continue to increase. This chapter focuses on a bespoke mobile application which aims to facilitate the transition of Foundation students to Higher Education in an Irish setting. Foundation students comprise of Access and International Students participating on pre-degree foundation courses. These students experience a major life change in making this transition and it is important that efforts are made to ensure a successful adjustment experience. Research suggests that mobile technologies can play a central role in this endeavour by offering support and access to particular information needs. This chapter will detail the design and development of a bespoke mobile application with such a purpose in mind and will also describe how the app was field tested with a cohort of incoming Foundation students in an Irish third level institute.
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Introduction

Foundation Students – comprising International and Access students - have particular needs when they transition to higher education, and International Students in particular experience a range of personal, social and cultural difficulties with this transition (Smith & Khawaja, 2011). In an Irish context, third-level or tertiary level education refers to all education after second-level, encompassing higher education in universities and colleges (Department of Education and Science, 2004). In the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) the authors sought to investigate the benefits of providing Foundation Students with a bespoke mobile application tailored to their particular information needs. A bespoke mobile application is one with functionality that is designed to provide a solution to specific needs or a particular problem (Salz & Moranz, 2013). Development of such a mobile application would generally require substantial financial investment and technological expertise. However, this chapter will focus on a low cost model that requires minimal computer know-how to produce and deploy a mobile application in a matter of weeks. The authors will show how such bespoke mobile apps can be developed using freely available online Integrated Development Environments which facilitate deployment on the dominant Apple (iPhones, iPads) and Android mobile platforms. This chapter with detail the app’s design, development and deployment along with its evaluation with a cohort of Foundation students in the DIT.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transition Students: Transition typically refers to the transitional point in the education system, for example, when a student enters third level education from second level or work. Students in transition to third level education face complex and dynamic issues of diversity, in terms of their demographics, backgrounds and their preparedness for study in third level organisations. Many students that transition to third level can have preconceptions about what they might encounter, which may impact on their ability to perform academically or may ultimately influence their decision to drop out.

Access Students: Access students are primarily made up of mature students (23 years of age or over) and young adult students (below 23 years of age) from socioeconomically disadvantaged and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who undertake Access Foundation Courses. These courses are tailored as pathways to higher education and prepare students with the necessary skills and knowledge required for their chosen undergraduate career.

Hybrid Apps: Hybrid mobile applications are developed in a similar manner to websites by utilizing a combination of web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Instead of using a mobile browser a hybrid application is hosted inside a downloaded “native container” application which enables them to access the hardware capabilities of the mobile device and content from the internet.

Mobile Applications: Mobile applications are software that is developed for handheld devices, such as tablet computers or mobile phones, and usually downloaded and installed on the device from an App Store.

Mobile Application Development Platforms: Hybrid Mobile Development Platforms provide a way for developers to take advantage of web technologies and native platform features to release mobile apps on multiple platforms. They also abstract developers from the platform details.

International Students: International Students are defined as “third country nationals”, people who are not EU citizens and who are accepted by a higher education institute for the purposes of studying in Ireland or another EU member state.

Acculturation: Acculturation is the process of change that takes place as a result of a member of one culture joining another. For international students this would encompass societal, organisational, individual and language changes.

Bespoke Applications: Bespoke applications are applications that are specially developed for a specific organisation or group of users which can be contrasted with applications that are developed for the mass market.

Foundation Students: Foundation students comprise of Access and International Students participating on pre-degree foundation courses. These courses are tailored as pathways to higher education to prepare access and international students with the necessary skills and knowledge required for their particular undergraduate destination.

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