Originally posted on The Mobile Garage by David Small, Mobile Evangelist

Last week, Kayvon Beykpour, Olivia Spain, and I traveled to the UK to meet with university administrators as they begin to think about their mobile strategies. We had three spanning much of the country – we started in Wales at Cardiff University, then headed northeast to the Aston Business School in Birmingham and finally southeast to foggy London-town for our last session at BPP University College.

These meetings were collaborative efforts where we were able to learn how universities in the UK are approaching mobile technology. Peter Rayment from Cardiff University and Jake Gannon from the University of Liverpool each discussed their university’s mobile strategy, how they are using mobile to enhance the learning experience, as well as making sure all of their campus services are available to constituents anywhere, anytime.

Peter shared Cardiff’s progressive take on mobile: “Mobile started out at Cardiff as a project but now it has evolved into a program.”

While some people think of mobile applications as a threat and something to get out of the way as soon as possible: (insert crotchety voice) “Oh those kids and their i-tablety gizmos. I see them texting and using the Twitters all day long….Let’s get this app-thingy out of the way and move on to more exciting projects like data-base restructuring…” that’s not the approach at Cardiff University. They’re not interested in building an app just to get it in app stores, but rather they’re thinking strategically about how an application can evolve into an on-going solution that will touch all parts of the university. Peter and his team have seen how much the mobile industry has changed in the last few years and are taking steps to make sure their solution will constantly be evolving and never outdated.

Picture2Jake Gannon at the University of Liverpool has a similar take on mobile. The day Jake presented, Liverpool had just launched Blackboard Mobile Learn on campus and had developed some innovative marketing collateral to get the word out to the students and professors.

They realize that leveraging apps is not worthwhile if nobody knows about them. Liverpool is currently developing their Blackboard Mobile Central app and are already thinking about the forthcoming phases that will add new modules and functionality as well as leverage in-house development using the Blackboard Mobile SDK.

In addition to our great client speakers, our roadshow included breakout sessions where small groups shared ideas about how mobile technology can relieve some of the pain points universities are feeling.  How do we connect with today’s students? How do we prepare our technology departments for the surge of mobile devices coming to campus? How do we keep young alumni engaged with their alma mater?Photo3

Not only was this a great opportunity for attendees, but it was a great exercise for the mobile team as its always useful to hear how apps are used and perceived far, far away from our San Francisco office.

Of course it wouldn’t be a roadshow without plenty of devices to play with!  I doubt it will ever get old telling the U.S. customs officers about the bag full of iPods and iPads in my carry-on…

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