Steven Cain

How much mobile are students expecting?

Blog Post created by Steven Cain on Aug 19, 2016

It's 2016 and fairly evident that the mobile space is hugely important to our students. From the research Ryan Seilhamer presented in Mobile Series: Just-in-Time Design Checklist (2015) and Mobile Series: Tips to Designing Mobile-Friendly Assignments, we know that a vast majority of students across the country not only have mobile devices but also use them frequently in their learning process. There are a few Canvas processes that are simple, fast, and easy, meaning that they are naturally appropriate for the mobile culture. At this point in our technology evolution, I think the bigger question that we should now consider is how far we should be catering classes for the mobile space.

So with that in mind, the question becomes: what features are students using in the mobile space frequently? I did a quick search in the Canvas Community for that type of data and did not find any results. Being a newcomer, I'm sure there are places that I neglected to check, so if anyone has information to share I would be interested.

Until I have more Canvas mobile usage data, the best conclusions I can make come from observing the mobile usage habits of myself and my friends. Predominantly, we use mobile devices to consume (news articles, social media feeds, short videos, audio), inquire (Siri, web searches), and communicate (texting, social media, snapchat...pretty much everything other than actually calling). As I see it, the mobile culture revolves around these very fast, incredibly simple interactions. If I need to compose a longer message, or perform extensive research, I'm almost certainly going to be seeking a full workstation.

This then leads me to the consideration of mobile culture evolution. Will we continue down the road of different devices for different functions, or will functions be simplified to fit within the framework of the mobile culture? Should courses be simplified to fit that mindset, or do some things belong in a space that encourages more extensive involvement and consideration? Where is that line drawn between what is simple enough for a mobile activity, and what is complex enough to set that consideration aside and trust that students will find a full workstation to complete the activity?

To a certain extent it is out of our control as educators. Students will operate independently and do some assignments on mobile even if we envision them being completed at a desktop machine. From my education I know that the concept of chunking information is beneficial regardless of the environment, so I will definitely be encouraging the faculty I support to utilize that, but I don't necessarily think there's any particular reason to spend efforts educating students about the ability to submit assignments from a mobile platform (without a particular use-case at least). I don't have all the answers for this, but this post serves as a foundation for my thought processes regarding mobile adoption and adaption.

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