A Mobile Tech' discussion

10:18 am in workshops by a.m.-doherty

Anthony Doherty, Computing Officer at Liverpool John Moores University will be facilitating a parallel session on Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web. Here Anthony talks about a late night Twitter discussion considering some of the issues and possibly some of the answers…

A day or so ago a colleague from another Higher Education Institution in the region asked on Twitter what the ‘most wanted’ features of a University mobile website might be for external users.

The conversation started a little after 9PM, and among the first respondents were some of my colleagues and ex-colleagues, with a range of expertise – from developers to learning technologists.

With staff, students and all account-based requirements such as email set-aside, responses suggested location maps, summaries of key institutional information, key contacts and so on.

Taking in the broader remit, it’s clear our task is not an easy one. Higher Education has one of the most interesting ranges of users: students on campus, international students, distance learners, academic and non-academic staff, sessional lecturers and conference attendees.

Seasonally some groups relocate, or almost disappear, while others are constant. Some groups will number in their thousands remain for years, while others will be small and their needs considerable for just a few days. User needs can change quickly as semesters progress.

How do we deliver effectively the content they want to a screen often little larger than a credit card, via sometimes costly, and possibly intermittent connections? Looking to our websites for a moment, it is clear that a homepage of grouped or tiered links and notifiers just isn’t suitable.

As the Twitter conversation developed, a theme emerged – survey the users, create audience specific ‘split’ content, review web analytics and research from other institutions; seasonally adjust content and try to anticipate mobile use-cases like being on a train – or really, really needing to get someone’s number NOW!

Did we provide the answers? Or did we simply rephrase the question? These issues and more on the topic of mobile provision for HE will be the focus of the “Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web” discussion at this year’s Workshop.

Note that due to a family bereavement Andrew was unable to run this session. In his absence the session was facilitated by Michael Nolan and Mark Power.