Dec 08 2014

University of Wisconsin Developers Blend Classwork with Apps

The Mobile Learning Incubator team is working with faculty to create interactive experiences that enhance learning and campus life.

The Mobile Learning Incubator team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is working to help students broaden their classroom experience using their phones.

The incubator team is dedicated to advancing mobile learning on campus by partnering with faculty. It has released apps such as Mobile UW, which unifies campus information and activities; and Sustainable U, which allows students to explore the campus through an environmental lens.

The team has also been developing apps along with input from professors that tie directly to class materials. The result is apps that combine game elements with field research activities.

Apps the team has created include WeBIRD, a bird identification app created in conjunction with the school’s Animal Science and Zoology departments; a plant identification app developed with input from students; and AtomTouch, a molecular simulation app created in partnership with the university’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

The team’s activities haven’t escaped the attention of students. In the spring 2014 online Student Computing Survey conducted by the UW–Madison Division of Information Technology, students were asked in open question form which technology trends the university should focus on. Mobile apps was the choice of 43 percent of students.

David Gagnon, the program manager for Mobile Learning Incubator, said these apps are giving students an additional tool for understanding the material they’re learning, while also introducing play mechanics to further engage them with the lesson.

“Generally, simulation games are going to take all the power of simulation, but now they're going to give it structure, and they're going to give it play, and they're going to give it the ability to explore and see if you really understand it or not,” Gagnon says in a video about AtomTouch posted to Vimeo.