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Qatar students view mobile tech as an aid to education

AILYN AGONIA

DOHA QATAR students see a need to integrate mobile technology in education, according to a study conducted by Texas A&M Qatar and US-based non-profit association EDUCAUSE among 369 students from seven universities in Education City.

The study titled ‘Profiling Student Mobile Computing Habits in Education City’, which also involved 26 students in a focus group discussion, shows the need for institutions to invest in mobile devices enabling websites for mobile access, training programmes and integration in curriculum as a means to address the gaps in mobile learning support.

It further reveals that Qatar students find mobile technology engaging and instructors and institutions can better connect with students through it.

The study was presented during the opening of the two-day Technology in Higher Education (THE) Conference 2012 at the Qatar National Convention Center on Monday.

“Mobile computing has created new teaching methods that allow educators to convey content differently, create more student engagement and introduce more efficient campus operations.

Texas A&M at Qatar is in the forefront of the mobile computing trend with its research and practices,” said Khalid Warraich, chief information officer at Texas A&M Qatar.

He presented the findings of the research together with Eden Dahlstorm, senior research analyst at EDUCAUSE.

The study shows that Qatar students are avid mobile device users and are open to expanding the ways in which they use them.

Of the total number of respondents, 90 percent said that mobile technology made it easier for them to get help when they needed it.

Eighty-four percent said mobile devices made them feel connected to other students and 82 percent said it kept them updated on what’s going on at the college/ university.

According to the research, 95 percent of the respondents are mobile users. Of the 84 percent who use smartphones, 46 percent are Blackberry users while 40 percent use iPhones. Twenty-two percent of them even own more than one smartphone, the survey further revealed. Relative to academic use, 86 percent of them use mobile devices for emails, 64 percent for course or learning management system and 64 percent for wikis (e.g. wikipedia).

But despite the popularity of smartphones among the students, 95 percent of them still consider laptops as ‘extremely important’ for academic use followed by USB thumbdrive/ portable hard drive (69 percent) and ipad (28 percent).

Students mainly use their mobile devices for quick searches, finding factual info, and communicating, the study further revealed.

“As a reference tool, a mobile device is good. As a learning tool, it is not as powerful as a laptop,” said one of the participants of the focus group. Another student said, “[I think] because the screen is different, students tend to use laptops for research and homework. A mobile device is for communication, chatting, and email.” Meanwhile, other topics covered at the conference included applying mobile learning in higher education, improving student engagement with mobile learning, providing technology support for mobile computing, switching from textbooks to e-books and using mobile computing in campus research.

Speaking on the occasion, Texas A&M Dean and CEO Mark Weichold said, “Technology has transformed higher education.

Amid bursts of cutting-edge communication technologies, we sometimes find ourselves asking not how to implement technology in education, but rather how to implement education in technology. You are proof of that - with the iPhones and tablets you carry, by the tweets you are posting now, from the global connectivity your Blackberry offers.

Technology is a lifestyle, and our challenge as educators is to adapt it for the lessons we teach and the learning we cultivate.” THE conference co-chairs are Dr Hamid Parsaei and Ghalia Farzat.

Juliet Little, vice-president for teaching, learning and professional development at EDUCAUSE delivered the opening keynote address.

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