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GCN : September 2013
26 GCN SEPTEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM is currently available. The iOS version is awaiting approval from Apple.) In addi- tion to receiving notifications and viewing grades, the new version allows students to take quizzes and exams, to turn in assign- ments, to access files and assignments, and to participate in discussion boards. Blackboard, too, has released an updat- ed Blackboard Mobile Learn application that, according to Terry, "recreates the experience of our online learning man- agement system, Blackboard Learn, onto mobile devices. It gives learners the ability to create and view important course infor- mation in their pocket, including docu- ments, announcements, discussion posts and content." Students can also take tests via the mobile device, view class rosters and check to-do lists. Blackboard said its mobile app has been downloaded 6 mil- lion times. Blackboard also offers its own set of so- cial networking tools. "We worked with over 600 students over the last few years to observe how they want to interact with one another and what their expectations are," Terry said. Students told Blackboard that they don't want to do their homework on Facebook --- they want their social media life to be completely separate from their academic life. So, Blackboard built social media elements into Blackboard Learn. Students can create profiles and follow and message other users with simi- lar interests. A feature called "Spaces" lets students set up their own study and work group pages to collaborate with others via the app. MAKING THE GRADE According to instructors, students' initial response to the new mobile tools has been very positive. Mathur said students regularly use the mobile applications to check announce- ments and grades, and some students use the mobile applications to post to dis- cussion boards. Surprisingly, she added, some students even compose assignments using the mobile application. Kevin Reeve, an instructor in the infor- mation technology department at Utah State University, said his students liked what they found in Instructure Canvas' mobile application. "They thought it was cool," he said. "They would get an alert when there's something they need to pay attention to. It will also tell them when as- signments are due, and they could partici- pate in discussions." Reeve is expecting even more out of the new Version 2. "It's going to be a huge benefit to students," said Reeve, who also leads the school's efforts in mobile devel- opment elearning. Students are asking for things like just-in-time information, he said. "They want to be able to do things on the go, walking between classes, wait- ing for class to start, those kinds of things. These mobile devices make it very easy. You don't have to wait for boot-up of a lap- top." The mobile application, he says, gives students the kind of instant feedback they expect. "Students are not into email. They see it as their parents' form of communi- cation. They are into more instant stuff --- text messages and instant messaging." In fact, Reeve said that when he comments on papers he sometimes gets virtually im- mediate response from students. That's the kind of engagement quality education depends on, Reeve said. MOBILE INSTRUCTORS, TOO The reaction of instructors to the new mo- bile tools designed for them has been at least as positive. In addition to appreciat- ing the way students are engaging, some instructors are excited by the flexibility it gives them in interacting with, and grad- ing, students. Reeve is especially impressed by Can- vas' SpeedGrader application, which lets teachers preview and annotate student submissions --- all without having to download or upload files. SpeedGrader also gives instructors tools to highlight, comments or even draw on submissions. "Grading is one of the most unpleasant things I have to do," Reeve said. "Speed- Grader actually made grading fun." And Mobile becoming the new BMOC Canvas' Analytics Reporting Engine lets professors give students continuous feedback, measure the effectiveness of course content, view learning outcomes and intervene when students need extra help. INSTRUCTURE.COM