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Mobile for Ed Tech Updates

I just read about another open source mobile web effort for higher ed. UCLA’s mobile web framework was developed and deployed in 2010 at UCLA, and now many other UC campuses are adopting this framework.

The framework project began in early 2010 as a joint venture between the UCLA Office of Information Technology and UCLA Communications as a means to reach the vast majority of campus mobile users via a single platform in a reasonable and cost-effective manner; the framework first went into production at the beginning of Fall 2010 with the launch of UCLA Mobile. The initiative has since grown both at UCLA, now with more than ten participating campus units, and across the UC system, with three other campuses planning to launch sites leveraging the framework by the end of Spring 2011 and additional campuses currently in the planning and development phases for an MWF-driven mobile presence.

This effort joins the JASIG effort (actually vice virsa, as JASIG effort is just starting) as viable alternatives for higher ed institutions to develop and deploy mobile solutions.

Jasig is launching uMobile, a new initiative that will help institutions expedite the delivery of campus applications, content, and data to everyone using mobile devices.

uMobile is the latest addition to the tried and true line of Jasig community open source projects. As with all Jasig projects, this is 100% free and open source. This project will offer a whole new user experience, while leaving institutions in the driver’s seat by providing a delivery platform that is built upon the proven enterprise-quality Jasig frameworks.

A couple of items to note:

  • According to this UCLA effort, initial work of the framework to initial deployment of UCLA mobile took less than a year.  Further deployment to other UC campuses is happening in the first half of 2011. Additionally, open source solutions are available from the beginning of the ‘market’. There really is not a large barrier to entry in the mobile EdTech market, and I suspect it put a lot of pressure on vendor solutions (e.g. platforms from LMS vendors) to either keep prices low or offer mobile as a free add-on.
  • Like Blackboard Mobile, these frameworks are targeting campus life apps first – maps, directory, schedules, announcements, etc. Desire2Learn recently announced it is targeting campus life mobile.  These apps must be the low-hanging fruit.
  • In my opinion, mobile is an emerging technology that calls for local, pilot programs rather than centralized, large-scale deployments. The UCLA and JASIG frameworks seem to be a good approach, with open source and framework for sharing tools or development. Not all schools can handle a development framework, but these efforts are good for higher ed in general.