Learning, to go

June 10, 2011

Businesspeople from across the nation and outside the United States gathered for a mobile learning symposium in the Caterpillar Global Communications Center June 10 to discuss the best strategies for designing and developing mobile applications and best practices for engaging people on the go. Bradley’s own faculty and students joined an elite group of presenters sharing research with nearly 100 guests.

“What we’re seeing now is that because people can get information anywhere, they can access information on-demand anywhere, you can push information to them anywhere, there are new opportunities for how you would use the device for learning,” said James Ferolo, chairman of Bradley’s Department of Interactive Media.

The department co-sponsored the symposium along with Float Mobile Learning of Morton, Ill., which specializes in helping reach their clients anytime, anywhere. Float’s managing director, Chad Udell, is a Bradley graduate and teaches interactive media courses at Bradley.

In order to maximize their mobile efforts, companies and educators must first consider how people prefer to use their mobile devices. Students in Ferolo’s Issues in New Media Theory tackled that question with an integrated marketing campaign last semester. They wondered, when called to action, is a mobile device user more apt to respond via text message, QR code, or an Internet browser?

Juniors Alex Miner, Matthew Vroman and Adam Zimmerman shared with symposium guests the results of their eight-week campaign, a contest held in conjunction with Bradley’s interactive theater production “America Live!” Advertisements for the production distributed on campus and throughout Peoria encouraged the public to enter a contest via text message, QR code or a website. The class utilized posters, postcards and stickers, radio spots, viral videos and a local cinema advertisement, which all offered the chance to win an Apple iPad. Measuring the response rate from each modality told the researchers which methods were more effective in spurring mobile device users to action.

“One of the greatest takeaways, and what I found most interesting, is that when people are in an immobile setting – at their laptop or desktop – they were just as likely to take out their mobile phone to respond as they were to type in a website address to the machine they’re already using,” said Vroman.

Indeed the group received the greatest number of votes, 54 percent, through text messaging. Posters proved the most successful mode of advertisement, as measured by response rate alone, with poster responses accounting for 44 percent of the overall participation.

Research like this can help businesspeople like Kerry Brown determine the best way to draw consumers to his publications. His company, Training the World, creates learning technology for life management and training.

“If a person is riding a bus or on a train, maybe they’ve just had an argument with their child and want to learn how to be a better father or mother – we could offer a 30-second application for a mobile device that would tantalize them into checking out our extended training,” Brown said.

As more and more companies and educational institutions seek mobile methods to educate, produce, and ultimately profit, there’s a good chance they’ll utilize research and technology born at Bradley. Engineering students recently created a mobile app for Caterpillar that allows the manufacturer’s engineers to diagnose and solve problems on the factory floor – no more running back to the office to run calculations or consult a bulky product manual.

“It’s about helping consumers make more informed decisions, helping workers do their jobs better. It’s about helping educators use these incredible new avenues to build relationships and experiences with students,” Ferolo said.

And it’s all going on at Bradley.