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Evolving content for mobile delivery report march 2011


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Evolving content for mobile delivery summary workshop report March 2011 by Gill Needham Associate Director (Information Management & Innovation) the Open Univeristy

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Evolving content for mobile delivery report march 2011

  1. 1. Event Held 7th March 2011Summary Workshop ReportEvolving content for mobile delivery: a workshopOn March 7th 2011, a select group of representatives from the Publishing industryand senior librarians and educational technologists from HE met at the OpenUniversity. The objective was to address the challenge of a lack of appropriateacademic content which meets the needs of increasing numbers of mobilelearners. Librarians had identified this as the major barrier to the developmentand delivery of effective mobile services. The workshop was an opportunity toengage publishers and suppliers in a constructive and creative dialogue withlibrarians and to address the challenges together.Delegates were encouraged to consider the ways in which the world ofpublishing has been transformed by the Internet. Does the publishing industrystill have a role in an environment where individuals have direct access to infinitequantities of content and where anyone can be a publisher (and most of us are)?There is a pressing need to review and re-evaluate the functions of the industryand its relationship with higher education. Research being carried out at theOpen University with users of mobile devices suggests that we should focus lesson the technology itself and more on the diverse behaviors and preferences oflearners. The value of the technology is where it supports particular needs suchas pressure on study time and the need for flexibility like being able to studywhile travelling or to maximize so-called ‘dead time’. The level of demand formobile services cannot be ignored and is likely to increase in line with ownershipof smartphones and tablets. 10% of Open University students now access theironline learning environment via mobile devices and the University is now able tooutput learning content in a mobile-friendly format.It is clear that the speed of technical development has supported a phenomenalsuccess of the eBooks market with the availability of cheap readers such as theKindle. However, these devices are limited in their ability to meet theexpectations of users who are accustomed to interactive and multimediaexperiences via the Internet. The development of the iPad has opened up thepossibility of a new breed of eBook which fully exploits the technology so thatusers can access and interact with content, (including video, audio, images anddiagrams) manipulate and annotate, add their own content and share with peers.This has huge significance for education and begins to blur the distinctionbetween what have traditionally been regarded as learning content, on the onehand and textbooks on the other.1
  2. 2. As numbers of mobile learners increase, it becomes more important for librariesto be able to deliver services in this way. Many libraries now offer mobile friendlywebsites but these are merely portals to the ebooks and eJournals whichstudents need for their studies. A recent survey at Edinburgh University foundthat 89% of students who responded said they would like to access the libraryand its content via their mobile devices. In the majority of cases, once a userclicks through the Library’s mobile website to an article they wish to read, theywill encounter problems. Access may be denied, or they may be asked to log intoa supplier’s website and supply passwords. If they are able to open the article,the presentation may be fragmented and difficult to read. They are unable todownload the article to read offline, so if a connection is lost they have thefrustrating experience of having to start the whole process again.It would be misleading to suggest that there have been no attempts in theacademic publishing industry to address mobile delivery – that is not the caseand there are pockets of exploratory work. Many publishers have developedapps but this is currently an unsatisfactory approach for libraries because, first,they are often promotional rather than delivering the full content required by theuser and, more importantly, because the business model for apps (individualpayments through iTunes) does not work for libraries. There is as yet nolicensing model for apps.Discussion at the workshop explored many of the challenges and identified areaswhere the industry and the HE library community could work together to identifyand implement solutions. The most significant of these were the need for generaladoption of standards for eBooks, the need for an integrated approach toauthentication and access, the need for more flexible and straightforwardlicensing arrangements for eBook content, the importance of catering for differentlevels of device with alternative formatting and the value of sharing skills,experience and evidence in this rapidly expanding area. The over-archingmessage was a general agreement for commercial publishers and the HE librarysector to collaborate to identify and implement solutions which will ultimatelybenefit all concerned.It was particularly encouraging that colleagues from JISC were actively involvedin the event and announced a forthcoming funding call to support work in thisarea.Gill Needham 18/3/112