The University of Southern California (USC) recently teamed up with TouchAppMedia and 2tor, Inc. to create the first mobile app for higher education (Wired.com). This mobile app utilizes technologies similar to Skype, Facebook, and Twitter in order to create a rich, interactive online learning experience.
USC’s iPhone and iPad app allows you to do everything that you would do on a laptop. It is currently being used in [email protected], the country’s first online Master of Arts in Teaching program. [email protected] graduated only 100 students in 2007, but since switching to an online model, it is set to become the largest not-for-profit teacher prep program in the country by 2013. There are students in 45 states and 25 countries enrolled in the program.
What Makes [email protected] Online Program Different?
Online education is nothing new. From the well-known online degree programs offered by the University of Phoenix, to the free online courses from Yale and MIT, many schools provide online learning experiences. So, what is it that sets [email protected] apart?
The strength of [email protected] lies in its similarity to a real school. [email protected] app offers all of the advantages of an offline classroom and is accessible via laptop, smartphone or iPad. The classroom features a Brady Bunch-style grid of video feeds of the professor and a dozen students. During classes, which are scheduled several times a week, professors can post slides or discussion questions on the screen and students can press a button to virtually raise their hands.
Each student has an online profile similar to a Facebook page and has the ability to message other students or create online groups outside of class. Students can also watch supplementary videos or videos of past classes. Most students are pretty comfortable using the Internet to socialize, so [email protected] app is just an extension of what they do everyday.
Is USC’s iPad App the Next Big Thing?
USC’s iPad app is making waves in the education sector, as it has taken online education beyond worksheets and pre-recorded lectures. But is it a sign of times to come? Will mobile apps eventually replace face-to-face instruction?
The biggest critics of [email protected] are professors at other universities, who claim that you have to be in a traditional classroom to learn teaching. But USC professors who’ve taught classes with the app are converts and claim that teaching in [email protected] is the most fun they’ve had at work in a long time.
Slowly, other schools will likely follow in the footsteps of USC. The change might not happen quickly, but program by program online education is growing and more technology advances like [email protected] are in the future.