In order to inform our decision about learning technologies that will best meet MMU’s needs going forward, we have found it useful to tease out variety in behaviours that institutional and personal systems are likely to need to support. We have captured that variety through a series of scenarios, which appear below. These are not written to express intended norms for MMU staff and students, but rather to create debate about the requirements that institutionally-provided technologies would ideally fulfill:
Sally, a senior lecturer, checks her diary and is reminded of her 11am first year tutorial. She checks the VLE to see which students in this tutorial group have engaged with the preparation activities she set and decides to print a summary. She disconnects her netbook from the large screen and keyboard in her office and walks down to the tutorial room via a printer, where she swipes her staff card and collects the list. In the tutorial room she connects her netbook to the large screen and talks her students through the activity she planned before dividing them into four groups. While the activity is progressing the tutor has a quiet word with each of the students about their engagement with the tutorial preparation and notes that two are missing. In the tutorial the four student groups prepare mini-presentations to summarise their findings using netbooks that some have brought with them; they use the wireless network to upload their mini-presentations to the VLE and take turns presenting, while their colleagues take notes – some on paper, others use electronic annotation and note-taking software on devices they’ve brought to class. After the class, the tutor logs details of the two students against the tutorial they missed, knowing that the Year Tutor will contact them if their overall engagement has fallen below the threshold expectation for the course.
Jaspreet, a second year engineering student, signs on to Windows Live using the gaming laptop he keeps in his flat; he sees an alert reminding him of an assignment deadline later in the week and decides that he’s going to take advantage of the unlimited texts package on his phone to receive Windows Live alerts by text in future. He’s made a start on the assignment, but wants to check the brief again so he logs on to MyMMU. He scans the latest news from each of the Units he studies and sees that his tutor is offering online assignment support between 2pm and 3pm – he creates an appointment in his phone to remind him. He sees that a new list of revision podcasts has been set up for another of his Units so clicks on the link, which launches iTunes so that he can subscribe. He docks his iPod Touch, which automatically picks up the first audio briefing about the upcoming exam. Jaspreet listens to the briefing on the bus on his way into university. When he arrives he uses Skype on his iPod Touch to call a friend to meet for coffee using the new microphone-headphones he treated himself to recently – he’s pleased his new purchase works. At 1:45 Jaspreet’s phone reminds him of the assignment support session at 2pm, so he checks the display screens and sees that a nearby IT dropin zone has free machines so he heads there. He logs on to the VLE and joins an instant message chat with the tutor in which several of Jaspreet’s classmates are asking questions about the assignment. Jaspreet watches the questions and answers, which cover most of his concerns, and asks a specific question about the relative weighting of conclusions versus the detail of option appraisal. Jaspreet decides to save the Q+A instant message thread to his SkyDrive so that it will be available later when he works on the assignment that evening back in his flat. Having synched his phone with his personal timetable, Jaspreet’s calendar shows a guest lecture this week at 4pm but at 3pm he receives a text reminder telling him the speaker is from a local engineering company. Jaspreet sees in the VLE that a couple of his classmates are online so he asks them via instant messenger whether they are going to the guest lecture. One says he’s down in the cafe and suggests they chat about the upcoming assignment before going along. The two of them chat and then decide to check out the website of the company of the guest speaker. Jaspreet and his friend gather round his iPod Touch and see that the company is recruiting for summer placements. During the guest lecture Jaspreet takes some notes on his iPod Touch that he hopes will be useful if he decides to apply for the summer job.
Over the last few days Sue, a final year marketing student, has been collaborating electronically with three colleagues on a Powerpoint presentation for a group assignment. From the laptop in her house she sees from her Live@Edu collaborative workspace that Harvinder made some changes late last night to the last two slides; they look good. By instant messenger last night the group agreed that they would practise the presentation this afternoon and that Sue would book a room between 3pm and 4pm. Sue works in a bar on Thursday nights and is therefore not keen to bring her laptop with her today, so she logs on to MyMMU and searches for a room with a PC and projector available between 3pm and 4pm – she finds one free in the Sandra Burslem building and books it, giving her student number and the code of the Unit the presentation is for. She clicks the “download appointment” option to put a reminder in her Outlook diary as she knows this will synchronise automatically through Live@Edu with the calendar on her iPhone. Sue uses Live@Edu to share the appointment with the other members of her group, updates her Facebook status and heads into university for her 11 o’clock lecture on digital marketing. While waiting for the bus, she checks Twitter on her iPhone and smiles to see that her digital marketing lecturer has asked his students to identify a brand based on facts he’s tweeted about the nature, scale and success of their operations. Sue thinks she knows who he’s talking about, but wants to be sure, so grabs a chair in the social study zone on arrival and uses her iPhone to check.
In the lecture, the mystery brand is revealed and the Digital Marketing lecturer builds up a mind-map of the topic of “Search Engine Optimisation” using the online MindMeister mind mapping tool. Sue is able to use her iPhone to participate directly but is too nervous to do so. The lecturer invites those who are able to contribute topics or questions using Tweets with a hashtag of MMU followed by the Unit code. The evolving mind map is projected on the wall, but the lecturer tabs to contributions coming in via Twitter at regular intervals using Twitterfall. Harvinder doesn’t have a mobile data contract, but asks a question using her cheap and cheerful Samsung S5560, which supports Twitter over WiFi. The lecturer spots the question and asks the class for answers. He allows a small debate to develop and then suggests they settle the matter with a show of hands; he captures the outcome on MindMeister. To finish, the lecturer adds the URL for the online Mind Map to his set of Diigo bookmarks for the Unit, which appear automatically within the Digital Marketing Unit area of the VLE for later reference.
After the lecture, Harvinder and Sue decide that they’ll make some final tweaks to the presentation over lunch. Neither has a laptop with them, so Sue checks MyMMU on her iPhone to see if there are any loan laptops available from the library: there are four left. Sue books one out on her library account, and the two of them head to the social learning zone. Over lunch Sue downloads the Powerpoint from Live@Edu, adds a new graph and a reference from this morning’s lecture, and updates the file in the collaborative workspace.
Implications for institutional technologies:
- All university spaces have WiFi coverage which allows authorised users to use popular messaging applications such as Skype and MSN
- Assignment deadlines are stored in a system that can be integrated with the alerts feature of Live@Edu to give personalised reminders
- Announcements from units in the VLE appear within the MyMMU portal, which is integrated to give seamless pass-through from MyMMU to the VLE
- Audio and video “podcast” material will be made available using popular standards like iTunes IPC and RSS
- Personalised timetables will be available to students in a format that enables synchronisation with Live@Edu, Outlook and calendar software available on mobile phones
- Instant-messaging tools and presence information will be integrated with the VLE
- Students will have access to cloud storage (such as Live@Edu SkyDrive) that can be used easily on or off campus
- Digital signage will be used to advertise real-time availability of resources like drop-in PCs
- All staff will have mobile devices: laptops or netbooks
- All classrooms will have presentation equipment and WiFi coverage
- All printing will be on a collect-on-demand basis
- Timetabled tutorial group information will be available for organising students in the VLE
- The VLE will be accessible from the types of mobile device students bring onto campus: netbook, iPod Touch, etc
- Not all students will bring netbooks/laptops onto campus
- Staff will have access to VLE tracking data
Every MMU student already has a Microsoft Live@Edu account, which provides internet file storage, email, instant messaging and alerts
MMU is currently engaged in a major project to improve its wireless network