Monday, February 21, 2011

Quizzes, Checking Grades, and Registering On a Cell Phone?

Students at Abu Dhabi University will soon be able to register for courses, check their grades, take quizzes and contribute to classroom discussions on their mobile phones.

The university launched its pilot of an application called Blackboard Mobile this week. As many as 75 students will participate in the trial before it is rolled out to other regional universities in September.

Officials say the experiment will determine how the smartphone application might improve classroom involvement and grades.

Half of the students in selected courses will be given access to the application, the university announced yesterday. Officials will compare the first half's progress with the other half through surveys, interviews and test scores.

Some classes are already using Blackboard's online services through the university's website. The educational software maker provides a platform for online discussion forums, campus maps, announcements, online tests and assignments.

"I plan to use it as much as I can," Rhema Bhatti, a finance major at ADU, said of the mobile application. "If I am just looking through my phone because I am bored, there is always an opportunity to connect with my teachers, or with other students."

Teachers can link media or related materials to comment threads, or even send out an announcement if they are stuck in traffic before a class.

Having that information in the palm of students' hands would boost the amount of time they spent focused on classroom content, said Yara Azouqa, an English instructor at the university who will teach classes that use the new technology.

She said it would open up the classroom experience to more students. "It is a new style of learning that allows them to participate, regardless of their personalities, and eliminates the roles they take on in the classroom — the leader, the joker, the speaker, the very cautious, those with softer skills.

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