Taking Advantage of Your Students’ Smartphones

Student on her smartphone
Online Learning
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Author: Machiavelli W. Chao, Lecturer Continuing, The Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine

Many, many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student, the drill was pretty standard: I sat in a classroom for lectures, did my written homework and physically handed it to a TA. And, if I had any questions, I waited in front of my professor’s office and hoped he could see me.  My, how times have changed.

Enter Mobile Technology

With the rapid emergence of mobile technology, students now clamor to take online and hybrid courses. They use their tablets to complete and submit online homework. And, instead of physically showing up at office hours, they use their mobile devices to post questions to online discussion forums.

Because nearly all of my students use mobile devices as their primary source of communication, the challenge for me, as an instructor, is how to reach this generation of students who are not tied to their desktop computers, or even to their laptops. All my course materials and engagement activities must be tailored to take advantage of this dominant delivery method preferred by my students.

Turning Mobile Devices into Mobile Learning Tools

At The Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine, we use Canvas as our online course management system. Not only does Canvas allow the customization of my course website—with lecture videos and integrated publisher tools—but because it supports responsive design, all of my course materials can be easily and properly viewed on smartphones and tablets. As such, with a readily-available WiFi connection, my students now watch my lecture videos, complete online homework and make discussion forum posts pretty much anywhere.

Additionally, the prevalence of mobile devices in my classroom, (try finding a student these days who isn’t tied to their smartphone!), has allowed me to take advantage of online tools and apps to expand my teaching window and access to my students.

For example, in my undergraduate tax course, I have been known to use Twitter to send out rhyming tweets—at all hours of the day—which my students can quickly respond to in order to earn bonus points.  As another example, I use polling software such as Kahoot! and PollEverywhere in all of my classes. This allows me to ask content-related questions about the immediately preceding lecture material, and then receive instantaneous feedback so I can determine whether my students properly grasped the concept I was teaching.  None of these things would have been possible without the use of mobile technology.

Continued Mobile Education

In these last two decades of teaching, I witnessed the availability and use of technology in the classroom advance at such a rapid pace such that things I did just a few years ago are now obsolete.

Because of this generation of students’ wholesale adoption of smartphones and tablets as their primary source for everything, many instructors may believe it will be a challenge to consistently innovate and learn about new mobile technology tools as they become available. However, for me, I see this as just another opportunity to use new approaches to more effectively teach my students.

Make class easier to access on the go with the Cengage Read app. Students can read and listen to Cengage eTextbooks, highlight and take notes—online and off. Best of all, it’s free to download.