Jan 13 2015

Inside Emory University's Mobile App Strategy

As tablets and smartphones continue to dominate campuses, Emory has expanded its mobile efforts into the apps arena.

Some universities have been seizing the opportunity for enhanced learning and engagement that mobile devices offer faculty members and students.

Mobility is king on campus. In the 2014 State of ResNet Report, which included input from more than 400 higher education institutions, 73 percent of respondents estimated that tablets were the biggest bandwidth consumers on campus, followed by notebooks and computers at 69 percent; smartphones were close behind at 64 percent.

Over the past three years, Emory has made infrastructure upgrades that benefit mobile platforms. Stephen Wheat, chief IT architect for the university, told Baseline that Emory had looked at the computing landscape and "it was clear that mobility was at the center of things."

The university has also released several mobile apps that augment campus life and enhance classroom studies. The flagship app, Emory Mobile, helps students stay connected to campus activities through a calendar, offering quick access to news, faculty contacts and GPS information on maps and available transportation services. The app even includes features for alumni, allowing them to search for old friends and make new connections through EagleNet, the alumni association's online community.

The university has also provided subject-specific apps, such as iChoose Kidney, which helps healthcare workers make informed decisions about kidney treatments; another app aids in both teaching and learning the surgical anatomy of the liver.

Emory's mobile app strategy is similar to one that's taken off at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The UW–Madison Mobile Learning Incubator team develops apps alongside faculty and students to blend mobile technology with classroom lessons.

Their apps have included WeBIRD, a bird identification app used by students in the school's Animal Science and Zoology departments; and AtomTouch, a molecular simulation app created in partnership with the university’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.