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Reaching Everyone in their Education

kenneth_rogers
Instructure
Instructure
6 21 590

I was recently browsing the internet for random quotes or facts to put put on the backside of some personal business cards. I found interesting information such as "76% of MOOC attendees are male." (Chronicle of Higher Education). Or the amazing gem that "82% of employers think you're better suited for a job if you've been travelling." (Business Insider). But one of the most compelling bits of information I found was that "5 BILLION people worldwide now have a mobile device" (Digital Trends). As I dug further into that information, I found that 80% of the US population has a mobile device (this was from Venture Beat, but from further research I have found that this should say smartphone).

If we begin to expand upon the world wide mobile device saturation, we find that a bit more than half (2.6 billion) of those devices are smartphones. But that figure is from 2 years ago (2015)! And two years ago, there was an estimation that "total mobile" footprint (which could be multiple devices per user) could reach 9.2 billion!!

I purposefully titled this blog as "reaching everyone" because when we typically think of mobile devices in education, we automatically revert to "classroom on the go", or "mobile friendly classes/quizzes". We have had those discussions before, but I want to think about mobile in a different way - mobile devices for reaching economically disadvantaged individuals in their education around the world or in rural areas of the United State.

We have a duty to the students we teach and/or support to ensure they receive a quality education and that they can access course material wherever they are (and that includes financially). When the iPad first came out and we were all scrambling about what this meant for us; but the device was not ready yet. The apps weren't ready yet either. But now? Now the various platforms are finally to a point to where a student would actually be able to facilitate their learning from a mobile device; whether it's a phone or a tablet.

If you look at the information from the Tech Crunch article where I'm getting most of my numbers, they are forecasting that the majority of the growth for mobile devices will be in Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific. Even though I do not directly support students from those areas, I may have a student with family there that will need to go back for a visit, and I need to ensure the technology is in place. Or I can do my part and push educational app developers, such as Instructure, to create applications that affect more than one type of student. This is why I made my voice heard on https://community.canvaslms.com/polls/1262-how-do-you-feel-about-offline-content-for-canvas-mobile?s...‌ Other than pushing our vendors or making sure the technology is there, how can make sure our students are supported with mobile?

I'll leave you with two thoughts:

  1. I purposefully left teachers off of this and focused only on the students. The Canvas for Teacher app is being re-built, so if the conversation went app specific "problems", I wanted to stay away from that app.
  2. Here's a great quote I'm putting on the back of my business card:
    • Interest does not always equal attention.
21 Comments
laurakgibbs
Surveyor

This is so important,  @kenneth_rogers ‌, and it is a great intersection point for me: I'm not so much into mobile, but I'm totally into open content, and one of my favorite reasons for using a blogging platform to do all my content is because blogs have great mobile support. I use Blogger, which defaults to a mobile view automatically, and I can simulate that mobile view on my regular laptop or desktop just by adding ?m=1 to any Blogger URL. So my big summer project is an Aesop's Fables site with thousands (no kidding!) of fables in English, and it is very happy on mobile.

Aesop's Books: illustrated fables you can read online 

Fables are usually pretty short, so they are actually REALLY happy on mobile. There are some great online digital libraries, but they often have only page scans which are not the easiest to read online, especially with a mobile device. By actually digitizing the texts (into actual text files), I hope to be increasing access to the fables across all kinds of devices. Including mobile!

Digitizing the texts this way with directly linkable posts for each fable also increases the Google-ability of the fables, optimizing the search for specific fables that can be directly linked to (as opposed to fables sitting inside a big book where the individual fables are not linkable).

I love summer! 🙂

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @kenneth_rogers ‌

You might like to check out this great blog https://community.canvaslms.com/groups/cmug/blog/2017/06/06/verifying-mobile-friendly-web-content#co... from msgarcia .

And also this one Are Courses Really Mobile First? from  @rseilham  

I am rather a mobile Luddite, but I also recognize that irregardless of my feelings the vast majority of students are accessing the online courses using a mobile device, and most often that device is their phone. So now I am playing catch-up, and it is Community member like you, Ryan and Mark that are helping me do so.  If the digital divide is to be overcome, it will happen with the cell phone.

Kelley

kenneth_rogers
Instructure
Instructure

Thanks for the additional resources,  @kmeeusen ‌. I really appreciate it.

For the longest time I fought some of the mobile trends as well. I was an extreme advocate for my students, but not as much for my faculty. I can't help but wonder where the mobile state would be if those of us who were advocates for students 5+ years ago would've also been using our platform for our faculty as well?

kenneth_rogers
Instructure
Instructure

I love your commitment to openness, laurakgibbs‌! I think OER (or faculty supplied content such as your blogs) will be crucial in supplying quality education to lower income individuals or to the more remote regions of the world. 

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

I should make OER my middle name, ha ha.

But seriously, I really appreciate the reminders from you, Ryan, and others here at the Community about that crucial connection between OER and mobile.

It's the dynamic duo that will power education into a more equitable future. 🙂

rhudy
Community Member

Great post  @kenneth_rogers ‌, and I think a really important way of looking at the mobile experience. Having just finished reading through comments on https://community.canvaslms.com/polls/1262-how-do-you-feel-about-offline-content-for-canvas-mobile" ..., I'm excited to see what everyone shares here! It's especially interesting to me because I lived in Eastern Europe from 2009-2012, and since then have seen how many people in my host town have gotten smartphones and have much more access to the internet than when I lived there. To give you some idea, when I moved over there it took me a month to email my family, because there was no wifi -- no internet, period -- that I could access. And I worked at a school! For most people there, internet access is probably coming over their cell phone's data plans rather than through wifi or a computer, and so those mobile devices are great tools for education. 

I think one of the biggest thing to be conscious of when designing for mobile, in particular for users who may not just have limited access to computers but also to wifi or even data on their phones, is how much data your course requires students to use. Definitely something that came up in the offline content poll you shared; this is also an interesting problem to approach because so much of our thinking around mobile is how to take advantage of all the available tools (like having students create and upload their own videos) without always as much thought to whether all students can support that type of content creation/sharing. So, very similar to what laurakgibbs‌ shared here about taking scanned PDFs and turning those into text files (which are so much friendlier for mobile, for screen readers, for any user who wants to copy/pasta a section of text...great for everyone!).

This might be as simple as creating alternatives to more data-heavy assignments, so that if a student doesn't have the data to watch an hour-long video he or she can read related text instead; or have an alternative to that cool "create and upload a video" assignment, so it's accessible to students who for whatever reason can't create or upload a video. Or, as Laura said, ensuring that files are accessible on mobile! And, as often happens when we're talking about something like web accessibility, I see these changes as having benefits beyond the handful of students you may be trying to ensure have full access to the online class--they also serve the student who doesn't have a great signal on a subway ride home, is experiencing a wifi problem, etc. 

kenneth_rogers
Instructure
Instructure

Thank you so much for chiming in,  @rhudy ‌! Your additional viewpoints and experience of living abroad are both truly invaluable to the conversation. 

I'm very glad you brought up the size of individual content items and ensuring our students can access them. It's not just a long video or PDF file, but maybe a biology class can use a compressed jpg file as opposed to a high-resolution png? It's those little things that could make the experience more pleasurable for our students!

Thanks!

rseilham
Community Coach
Community Coach

 @kenneth_rogers ‌, 

As always thanks for your thoughtful posts. I heard the 5 billion stat the other day on a Tech Podcast and they said it's estimated that there are 8 billion mobile "accounts" worldwide. This includes people who have multiple SIM cards, but maybe not multiple devices.

Maybe I'm naive, but I think the big deal here is smartphones, and not tablets. I believe that the tablet is an extension (or evolution) of the laptop, and that unless you really focus on doing tablet specific things then the transition is much less painful than a smartphone. In fact, as you probably have seen, there are times where schools use tablets, when they could just get away with a netbook or something similar. 

The smartphone though, that's different. I frequently interview students formally and informally and I always ask - If I had to take away your smartphone or computer right now, which one would you give up? A student has yet to say smartphone. This is an essential part of their life. It helps them communicate, learn, and simply engage in life. 

As for offline content and limited access, I think you and  @rhudy ‌ make great points. It's easy to forget about the rural or international student that either has little access or none at all, but I am in a big metropolitan area and it's an issue for some students as well. It's so important to consider your course design with mobile in mind. It's not secret I'm passionate about that. But, it's taken me a long time to come around to offline content. This was mostly due to ignorance, but I've heard too many great use cases to ignore it. 

The good news is this is a big part of Instructure's international focus. They know it's essential for international customers to have offline access. This adds an incredible layer of complexity to web and mobile Canvas. I know, because I've talk to the product managers, but it's something that's in front of their face and will be a reality at some point. 

Mobile On! 

PS: My work business cards have quotes on them, but they say things like "Dream BIG" and other fun stuff like that. 

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

Thanks for your observations,  @rhudy ‌! it's making me think i should write up a blog post all about the power of TEXT. Of course I love images and media online, and I use lots of them, but when it is POSSIBLE to make text available: the text transcript of a video, the text transcript of a PDF or other document page image, etc., then we all benefit:

text does not eat up bandwidth

text can be copied-and-pasted and thus easily repurposed

text (re)formats quickly and easily, adapting to all kinds of screen sizes and devices

text can be searched (by search engines that search-and-index, or by simple Control-F in your browser)

text greatly enhances accessibility to screenreader technology, helps readers who need big/different fonts

and on and on.

This is a good example of something where the bandwidth advantages go along with other advantages too!

So, while I love all our modern technology, I'll be willing to make the argument that the ALPHABET remains one of the greatest technological inventions of all time. 🙂

kenneth_rogers
Instructure
Instructure

I really appreciate your feedback,  @rseilham , especially the part about the 8 million accounts. That is a key point to make on this topic in terms of growth.

A‌lso - great that you pointed out the difference between smartphone/tablet. I do believe that overtime the tablet has evolved as an extension of the laptop (or in some districts colleges, replacement of the laptop). And students/millennials? It's amazing what they're willing to give up before they give up their phones. Absolutely incredible. Fabulous points to make.

Glad to see your update over on the https://community.canvaslms.com/polls/1262-how-do-you-feel-about-offline-content-for-canvas-mobile?s...‌ poll. Also glad to see how seriously Instructure is taking this. I can't begin to wrap my brain around the ins and outs of every little detail to make this work, and then how to let the student know they are offline while they are working, so as to prevent any confusion. Crazy stuff (and it makes my head hurt!).

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

laurakgibbs

WORD! TRUTH!

Funny cowinkidink (as my wife call them)!

I commute, and during my commute I tend to cogitate - sometimes about something I am working on, sometimes just something random and useless. This morning it was about the digital age and some of the things we risk loosing, most specifically the written and spoken word. The ability to spell, to hand-write and soon even print, keyboarding, etc. I mean, my daughter is a marvelous texter on her phone, but voice-to-text will eventually take that away too. We already see little and larger glimpses - Icons instead of text labels, emoji's instead of words, memes instead of sentences and paragraphs. I could write a thesis on just what ran through my twisted mind in that short hour, but I won't bore you with it now.

Agent K

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

I think about this kind of stuff a lot too,  @kmeeusen ‌ (even though, glory hallelujah, I do not commute!) ... and as someone who teaches writing in the digital age, I definitely see the upsides too: for people who want to write (whatever that writing may involve), there are now spaces in which to connect and share with readers that simply did not exist before. I became a writer BECAUSE of the Internet. Before this new digital space, I had very little incentive to write, knowing that what I wrote would never be something of interest to a publisher; too informal, too unusual, etc. And as a teacher, the Internet provides a space where students can share their writing in a way that was never practical in the classroom. So, for teachers who WANT to explore new ways of writing and reaching new audiences in the digital age, it's a paradise. Really.

And on the flipside: we have historically done a terrible job teaching writing to begin with. If we see a generation of students who are not really into writing, I don't think we can blame the technology... just look back to the generation of students who "hated writing" before this generation, and before that generation, and so on and so on. 

So, I'm actually optimistic: we have done and are continuing to do a really terrible job of teaching writing, it's true, but I see so many possibilities now in the digital age that I'm actually hopeful about the future of writing, more so than before, even though there is a HUGE amount of work to do to dig ourselves out of the rut we are in when it comes to teaching writing. 

It's not that mobile is keeping students from writing... it's that we have made writing so unimportant to most students that they don't care one way or the other about the limitations of mobile devices for extended writing.

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi laurakgibbs‌:

Yep, I recognize the upsides, but was in a maudlin mood on my morning commute.

Even my own example of speech to text is now creating an opportunity for people to write, who never could before because of some limitation. And of course, as you mentioned, the Internet gives everybody an opportunity, platform and audience to shout out about whatever they want good or bad.

Thanks for re-balancing me!

Agent K

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

And thank you for the convo! While I was out and about today, I spent spare moments going through writing books on my Kindle (there are so many good, useful books about the craft of writing!), planning out new things I want to do with my classes this fall. So my optimism-factor is even higher than usual today! 🙂

scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

Laura and Kelley,

Words beget more words...   I wonder about this too but so far the number of words that I read daily and type seems to increase steadily over time.  Like Laura said, we have ever increasing incentive to compose and respond as our channels and access continue to increase.  

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

Isn't it weird/cool to be using the word "channels" so naturally in this way?

I grew up spending an embarrassing amount of time in the late 60s / early 70s watching Gilligan's Island etc. on TV when we had four, count 'em, four channels. TV channels.

Now my life is full of all kinds of "channels," so different, and all so much more stimulating than Gilligan's Island reruns. 🙂

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

laurakgibbs

Still catch a Gilligan's once in awhile on syndication. In my own Canvas courses, my students always start the term out by calling me "Professor", and I always start the term out by telling them, "The Professor was a character on Gilligan's Island, and homey don't play that!"

Agent K

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

Ha ha ha, at least you are not doomed to be DR. LAURA 🙂

scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

I remember hiding behind the couch as a kid when the head hunters would come to Gilligan's island.  I also very clearly remember the first webpage I visited and what getting an intranet did to our workplace.  Probably these experiences were as momentous for me as it was for my great grandmother to ride in her first automobile.

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

I love that comparison! 🙂

I'm destined to be the great-grandma who still uses... an antique KEYBOARD.

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

I was working as a hospital administrator with a huge training responsibility when we got our first intranet@ OMG, the light bulb went of, and I started building training courses that I could deliver via our intranet - as you might guess, doctors can be as hard to drag into live training sessions as teachers are!

Primitive little suckers that used MS Access, Visual Basic and SQL but they worked, and folks loved being able to sit at their office PC and work through them.

Agent K