Mobile Devices Now Welcomed Tool for Enhancing Coursework

When was the last time you saw a college student without a phone in their pocket? Chances are it’s been a while. But although cell phone use is rampant, it’s not all bad. In fact, students are increasingly using their mobile devices and apps for learning purposes.

In a recent survey, “70-79 percent of University of Washington students reported using smartphones for academic purposes in at least one class. Other study results show that 78 percent of students consider their phones to be at least moderately important to their academic success.”

How can educators capitalize on this? Can students use their mobile devices in class to enhance their experience with coursework? With digital tools, study resources, and the ability to complete coursework on the go, web and mobile are proving powerful game-changers in the student experience.

Digital creative tools are easily accessible on mobile devices

Digital creative tools can enhance the educational experience across disciplines.

“There are so many possible applications for Adobe’s creative tools in the academic world,” said Adobe Executive Vice President and General Manager Bryan Lamkin. “Biology students can use Adobe Illustrator to create an infographic explaining the impacts of a public health issue. Business students can use Adobe Audition to create a podcast exploring a current topic in marketing or finance. And chemistry students might use Adobe XD to design a mobile app that teaches the principles of chemistry in the form of a simple game.”

When students use these tools, they build digital literacy. They’re able to create innovative projects, enhance communication, and build proficiency in soft skills such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration to prepare for the evolving workforce.

But where do mobile devices fit into all this? Using mobile devices in class may require a shift in thinking, especially in an environment where handheld electronics are often characterized as counterproductive.

“Educators and parents have been asking students to lead a double life,” said Michael Hernandez, a broadcast journalism and film production teacher at Mira Costa High School. “The life that they lead in the classroom, which is about textbooks and writing on paper and turning in essays, and then the life that they lead outside of the classroom, which is on social media, YouTube videos, and networking and collaborating digitally.”

But Michael has found that encouraging students to use devices has been a positive experience: “By teaching students how to work on projects using their own smartphones, allowing them to… be creative wherever and whenever they’d like, [he has] been able to engage students in a combination of guided and self-guided learning and discovery using tools like Adobe Spark.”

Students and educators have many options for using digital creative tools on mobile devices, allowing them to adapt for individual circumstances. One suggestion might be for students to use Adobe XD to create mobile apps that teach scientific principles in the form of a game. Experience design is available to use on a smartphone, allowing students to be flexible and spontaneous with where and when they create.

First-generation and other disadvantaged students can use mobile devices and web to better understand classroom material

Web and mobile may be an as-yet untapped resource for addressing gaps in first-generation students’ college readiness.

“For many first-gen college students, especially those from low-income, underserved high schools, our research tells us that technology can have a positive impact on their transition to the college classroom,” said Ana M. Martinez Aleman, Heather Rowan-Kenyon, and Mandy Savitz-Romer. “Using mobile devices and Web 2.0 technologies to support first-gen student learning and academic engagement can improve their postsecondary success and completion.”

In their research, Ana, Heather, and Mandy encountered many examples of web and mobile technology helping underserved students. In one instance, students were allowed to use mobile phones and iPads to look up words used by faculty.

“Students shared that they would not have been comfortable raising their hands to ask what the particular words meant, for fear of being seen as unintelligent or uneducated by their peers and faculty,” the researchers said. “Whether discipline-specific vocabulary or terminology common in academic language, students used technology to access meaning in order to be fully engaged in learning.”

Another way to support underserved students is to allow students to go beyond writing text-based research papers. In a history class, for example, faculty might consider allowing students to use Adobe InDesign to create and publish interactive online documents. Rather than having to focus exclusively on traditional academic research, they can use web and mobile to compile images, video, and audio from historical sources to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Students taking online courses can use mobile and web to complete coursework on the go

Online students are online students for a reason — they’re often balancing multiple priorities, with school being just one of the many. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 49 percent of undergraduate online students and 70 percent of graduate online students work full time.

“There’s a good chance several of your students are doing their reading and coursework on a mobile device during a lunch break or while their kids are napping,” said Kevin Toney, public relations specialist at Utah State University Online. “If you want to engage your students in the learning process, you’ve got to make sure the resources are where they spend their time. While most of them won’t carry around a laptop or be near a desktop, many of them will almost always have their mobile devices on hand.”

Digital creative apps available on mobile devices can keep these students engaged and accounted for. For example, Adobe Creative Cloud tools are available as mobile apps. Ordinarily, online students may find it hard to sit at a computer to complete large creative projects. But through Creative Cloud mobile apps, students can “easily access everything [they] need to create… anywhere [they] are.” This convenience, along with easy sharing for a connected creative workflow, makes online students’ lives much easier — and more creative!

Educators can capitalize on all the time students spend using their phones. Using mobile devices for coursework can enhance students’ experience. Because of digital tools, study helps, and the ability to complete coursework on the go, students are enabled to develop digital literacy and prepare for the modern workplace without missing a beat.

See how other educators are using Adobe Creative Cloud mobile apps.