If you can't beat them, join them, the old adage goes and for Abu Dhabi University (ADU), mobile phones are the way forward in education.
In a unique approach and leveraging media tools that are most appealing to the younger generation, ADU has embarked on a new education mechanism, using the Blackboard Mobile (BM) method where students can receive course materials via their mobile phones.
"Seventy-seven per cent of students in Europe spend up to ten hours weekly on their phones; in the UAE this figure might be even higher," Nicholas Klotz, Blackboard Channel Regional Manager, said.
"Students are wedded to their mobile phones. BM capitalises on their frequent use of androids in an attempt to keep them in tune with their classes and assignments," Dr Rick van Sant, director of Centre for Faculty Development at ADU told Gulf News.
"Over the last 10 years new ways were created to assemble course content, moving from pencil to digital courses. A textbook used to be the student's content management system; then came the laptop. BM is the newest system, created to move education from laptop to mobile phones," he explained. "By implementing BM, we enable students and teachers to gain instant access to their courses and content materials using their handheld devices. All assignments, teachers' announcements, class discussions, grades… etc can be checked on their mobile device," Dr James Mackin, ADU Provost, said.
"ADU is the only university in the GCC to implement a mobile education solution. This technology is powered by etisalat in collaboration with Blackboard Inc," Dr Mackin added.
By utilising mobile phone capabilities, students can attend lectures from wherever they are. "Etisalat is leading a new era of learning and is investing significant resources to elevate the education mechanism to a higher level," Abdullah Hashim, senior vice-president, Business Solutions at etisalat, said.
"Currently etisalat is offering internet at 21.6 MBPS (mega bytes per second) and will eventually enhance it to a higher speed; at this speed the programme can run efficiently. "In the future this tool can provide training possibilities from mobile phone and be cost effective," Hashim said on the sidelines.
There will be a broader implementation of the three BM courses' pilot project across ADU in the coming fall semester and eventually an extension to other universities that will follow the experience closely.
Students will be provided with the latest BlackBerry smartphone, courtesy of BlackBerry UAE and 40 free data packages of 5GB from etisalat with full access to the Blackboard Mobile application.
This new technology will enhance student interaction with their teachers and among one another. It will reinforce the learning process and help students remember what they learn. It will also help monitor student activities such as applications used, courses studied, and the total time spent on the software as well.
"This advance technology will help me manage my time, especially in my English class where I can participate in class discussion. The more you take part in discussion the more you learn," Nada Blikir, an ADU student said.
"We have too many subjects and it's not easy to track them all," she added.