Mobile Device Selection in Higher Education: iPhone versus iPod Touch

Mobile Device Selection in Higher Education: iPhone versus iPod Touch

C. Brad Crisp, Michael L. Williams
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-042-6.ch074
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Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the most common interface for accessing network resources (Hall 2008). By 2015 the average 18-year old will spend the majority of their computing time on mobile devices (Basso 2009). These trends directly affect institutions of higher learning. Many universities are offering learning initiatives and m-services designed to distribute content and services to mobile devices. In this chapter, we report findings from an exploratory, longitudinal study at Abilene Christian University, where incoming freshmen received their choice of an Apple iPhone or iPod touch. Our findings indicate that users’ device selections were affected by their perceptions of the costs of the devices, the devices’ relative characteristics, and the social influence of parents. We also found that users’ attitude, satisfaction, and confidence about their device selection varied across devices, with iPhone users having more favorable perceptions. The chapter concludes with recommendations for mobile learning initiatives and directions for future research.
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With over three-billion mobile phones in use, mobile devices are quickly becoming the most common interface for accessing network resources (Hall 2008). This trend is especially evident in higher education. According to a recent survey of university leaders, over 80% of respondents anticipate an “increase” or “great increase” in demand for mobile communication services over the next three years. The same study found that 65% of respondents agreed that handheld, web-enabled devices would be an essential tool in higher education within three years (Pirani and Sheehan 2009).

As mobile devices become more affordable and ubiquitous, they are increasingly attractive as learning tools because they combine portability with multiple functions that can be used inside and outside of the classroom. In higher education, these functions focus on communication media (e.g., phone, email, chat, audio/video content, web browsing, etc.) that enable behaviors that serve academic, social, or entertainment purposes. Of course, not all of these functions are expected to have an equal or necessarily positive impact on student outcomes. Therefore, educators need to carefully choose mobile devices that are well-designed to accomplish desired outcomes.

Additionally, educators need to consider possible interventions that might influence users towards preferred devices (Venkatesh and Bala 2008). In considering possible interventions, educators should evaluate possible pre- and post-implementation interventions (Cooper and Zmud 1990). Pre-implementation interventions are those that precede the system roll-out, such as those that promote specific devices to incoming students and subsidize device or contract costs. Post-implementation interventions are designed to promote effective use. Possible post-implementation interventions include ongoing training, consistent use of eLearning best-practices across the curriculum, and on-going development of m-services that meet the needs of learners.

In the remainder of the background section, we introduce the conceptual model that guides our exploration of the mobile learning initiative at Abilene Christian University. First, we introduce key factors that we expect to influence the users' choice between the iPhone and iPod touch. Then, we consider the potential impact of this choice on student outcomes. See the model depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Research model


Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile portal: An Internet gateway that allows mobile devices to connect remotely via a Web browser. Mobile portals aggregate content from many sources and present it in a format designed for the smaller screens and limited bandwidth common to mobile devices.

Mobile Learning: Any educational content or experience mediated over a network-enabled mobile device. This is a sub-set of eLearning.

Hot spot: An area that is covered with WiFi service for Internet access.

iPhone: A 3-G capable mobile device made by Apple that combines a phone, music and video player, and Internet browser with a touch screen interface.

eLearning: Any educational content or experience mediated over a network-enabled device. This is a super-set of mobile learning.

Smartphone: A mobile phone that offers expanded features such as music, video, gaming, pictures, web browsing, and mobile TV. These mobile devices may have larger screens, more powerful processers, full qwerty keyboards, and touch screens.

Mobile Device: A handheld computing device that can be used from multiple locations. Examples include basic phones, PDAs, portable media players and smartphones.

M-services: Any service that can be accessed via a mobile device and is between an organization and a customer.

iPod Touch: A WiFi capable mobile device that is based on the iPhone platform. In 2008 it was distinct from the iPhone in that it offered only WiFi access, not GSM or 3-G, and it did not include a camera.

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