Mobile devices create remarkable opportunities for college students and faculty to engage with technology and learning materials. IT departments, however, are being forced to rethink how they deliver technology to their customers. A 2011 by EDUCAUSE, Mobile IT in Higher Education, examined the efforts of colleges to make their applications and services mobile-friendly. The results were not promising, largely because IT departments are addressing symptoms rather than the root of the problem— a fundamental shift in computing.
Few phenomena better illustrate the current pace of technological change than the recent rise of mobile computing. Technology that a decade ago would have seemed pure science fiction has become an indispensable accessory for modern life. The majority of the students, faculty, and staff in higher education now wield powerful mobile devices that sport high-resolution video cameras, geolocation awareness, and omnipresent high-speed Internet access—features that will forever change our classrooms and campuses. As IT people, we always have recommendations to make, but from the freshest undergraduates to the most seasoned university executives, consumers are making their own mobile-device purchasing decisions. Students, for example, now bring with them a combination of devices, applications, and usage preferences that are as diverse as their personalities. What’s more, students bring their own bandwidth and attitudes toward security and privacy. Campuses are grappling with what it means to support mobile users. More than providing infrastructure, this support involves harnessing technology to deliver totally new services and rethinking—at some pretty deep levels—how we go about the business of teaching and research.