Educators know that technology is becoming more and more important to their students, and that there is a need to incorporate technology into the classroom. Some colleges, however, have taken this idea to the extreme. In Japan, Cyber University, the only college in the country to offer all of its classes exclusively on the internet, has taken the next step in digital education. They now offer a class that students can take via their cell phones.
How It Works
The class, which teaches students about the mysteries of the pyramids, is available to the public for free – if they can access it. It can only be seen through some phones manufactured by Softbank Corp., who owns seventy one percent of the virtual university.
Eventually, the online classes may expand to other carriers. Users listen to the lecture and can view the PowerPoint slides on their cell phones. Currently, only one class is offered through cell phones, but more may be coming. While in traditional classrooms, teachers fight to keep distracting cell phones out of the classroom, this classroom relies on and can only be found on cell phones.
The Japanese university, with a student body of almost two thousand, offers about one hundred courses in addition to the pyramid class on the cell phones. All of these other courses can be taken online. Typically, while the student listens to the lecture from their computer, they view accompanying text and images on their screens with a little picture of their professor, who they will probably never see in person, in the corner of their monitor. The college claims to be able to monitor lecture usage digitally, ensuring that students are listening to the lecture in its entirety, and not skipping their virtual class.
Networking on the Net
Some may claim that an online college robs students of their “college experience” that traditionally helps students build relationships and hone networking skills. Supporters of virtual learning disagree, and assert that the benefits of making a college education accessible to more students far outweigh the costs.
Some students who are constrained by jobs, family obligations, distance, or disabilities are able to take advantage of educational opportunities that may otherwise not be available to them. To facilitate social networking on a virtual campus, many internet colleges promote social networking in a different sense, utilizing chat rooms and message boards to allow students to interact.
Obstacles to Overcome
Before (and if) cell phone courses become mainstream, developers have some obstacles to overcome. The current arrangement of free access by the public presents difficulty in regulating enrollment and awarding credit to students who successfully pass the course.
Also, the university must find a way to open the courses to students with cell phones through carriers not financially invested in the university, and not discriminate against competitors. When the kinks are worked out, students may literally be able to take their classroom anywhere!