JISC - Mobile Oxford: opening access to information - Emerging Practice in a Digital Age

Uploaded by JISCmedia on 31.08.2011

(narrator) Mobile Oxford grew out of the JISC-funded Erewhon Project
led by the Oxford University Computing Services, or OUCS.
Mobile Oxford is designed as a website
that customises itself depending on the phone being used.
The wealth of information available includes real-time transport information
which is accessible by students as well as the local community.
Paul Jeffreys and, firstly, Tim Fernando
explain the initial thinking behind the Mobile Oxford project.
We saw the mobile market, the device market, exploding at a staggering rate.
And we thought, well, they're going to start expecting services
from the university as well.
And we thought, it's probably best
to start thinking about that now rather than later.
We do a survey when students come up to university
and we find most students don't carry laptops around, they're too heavy.
And so we felt that it was important
that we began to make our services, or parts of our services,
available to mobile devices.
And we looked to see, on the basis of that,
how mobile technology can support the pedagogy.
The majority of our work is actually getting the data,
putting it into a sensible form,
and then being able to merge it with lots of other data
to create something more powerful.
At the moment it's very much aimed at performing discrete tasks.
So for example a user can search for a contact inside the university.
They can find a university building, with a map and a route to it.
They can search for a library book,
and that's location-sensitive so the phone will know where they are.
We can use that to display a map of Oxford's many libraries
and where that book is available in relation to them right now.
There's podcasts which they can download, view, watch, listen to.
So the user interfaces and the speed with which the actions are performed
have to be really well tuned for the mobile device,
because people don't want to invest any time in using it.
I'm a university lecturer in physiology.
I'm also, at the moment, the director for the new biomedical sciences course
which will have its first intake of students this coming October.
We saw an opportunity to use Mobile Oxford
to help, in effect, deliver the course,
in the first instance using it perhaps
as a way to deliver information relating to their course.
Timetabling information, information about the location of components -
practical classes, lectures, seminars and the like.
In the longer term I think we will look at whether we could do things with it
such as, for example, do away with paper-based handouts
and have electronic resources, accessed through Mobile Oxford,
that students are using as a lecture or a class unfolds.
(narrator) Peter Quinn is head of the Disability Advisory Service.
He's been involved with Mobile Oxford from the beginning
and has been impressed with the project development.
We've got a lot of students with dyspraxia in the university,
and one of their challenges is direction, spatial awareness.
And if you can immediately go to your phone and tap in where you need to be
and it gives you a direct route, that was very beneficial.
Another thing was the library book system that they've got on there
where you can identify your nearest library.
If you've got a fatigue condition where you've got limited amounts of energy,
if you can get a book from two libraries down the road
or one from right across the other side of town,
that saves you a lot of time and a lot of energy.
I think accessibility is essentially really good customer service.
And if you don't have it then the big impact
will be on the person with the visual impairment or the dyspraxia
or the Asperger's or all those types of difficulties,
who couldn't do as well without it.
(narrator) Mobile Oxford is an open-source project.
Tim Fernando believes this approach, along with regular user feedback,
gives the project the depth required to ensure its sustainability.
(Fernando) One of the key things we did was created this simple feedback form.
There's a button on every single page of Mobile Oxford.
And so we get lots of badly formed phrases
saying "this doesn't work", and bad grammar and so on.
But that's perfect, because we get the context about the page,
we know what they're looking at.
And we can then work with it, fix it, improve it to better suit our users.
We believe that a user using a service like Mobile Oxford
shouldn't really require any support.
It should be intuitive, it should be self-explanatory.
If it isn't, we think we've failed as user experience designers.
And certainly we think the service could almost run itself
for a good number of years for minimal cost.
It's clearly going to grow and grow.
So I think it's going to become the means of presenting information
from the systems that we run in the university, more and more.
I think it will become a core part of the services we offer to the university.
Mobile is no longer a little add-on.
It's very much part of the key computing experience in universities.
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