I presented yesterday at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University E-Learning Lab, and was impressed by what they are doing. Although it is not the only thing they do, I quite simply have not seen anyone as advanced in mobile learning functionality - and I think it is because they have a nice combination of (#1) idea generation (hosting conferences and visiting with other scholars), (#2) technical expertise in developing the ideas (with the base of dozens of computer science students working right there), and (#3) the resources to make it all happen (including funding from Intel, China Telecom, BT, etc…).
Prof Shen showed me how students can view a live class room experience from their cell phone, toggling back between views of the teacher, the presentation material (if any), the live class, and at the same time send an SMS to the teacher in real time. I toured one of the “Smart Natural Classrooms” that make this possible. Immediately after each class session, they are archived and available for retrieval at any time, with students even being able to make calls to a call center for additional support as needed. The messages sent by email or SMS are first scanned with a natural language processor that extracts the meaning of the question and sends an automated response based on similar answers to previous questions. If that answer is not adequate, then the student can contact the teacher. The main idea behind it all is to have the class-room experience that people are already familiar with, but simply to extend the audience through mobile learning functionality.
The main current limitations seem to be that only one type of phone is currently compatible with the system (at least it is a Nokia :), but they are already working on extending the options of phones that will work. On the other hand, these lectures are a part of is a premium degree-granting program, so students are willing to pay more to be a part of the university, etc. The desire in China to have a degree from a top university probably can not be overstated. Also, my personal (admittedly somewhat biased) opinion is that they should be using technology not simply to mimic and extend existing class-room experiences, but also leverage the opportunity for student’s to engage in more web 2.0 kinds of learning and teaching experiences. Not just consuming content, but also creating, synthesizing, sharing…
My presentation to the lab today was in two parts: (1) Web 2.0 Paradigms & Platforms for Harnessing Collective Intelligence (with case: Agillix BrainHoney), and (2) Web Analytics and Decision Automation in E-Commerce and E-Learning Contexts (with case: Omniture/ Touch Clarity).
Afterwards - Dr. Minjuan Wang and I toured a part of old town Shanghai - enjoying ice cream bars - the treat in the center being sweet green peas (although Minjuan’s was sugar free, of course).