Thursday, 5 March 2009

Case Study 2 – London School of Economics (LSE)

Yesterday I went to London for a visit to LSE and to meet with Jane Secker (Learning Technology Librarian) and Dave Puplett (Data Librarian) to discuss mobile learning.

The day got off to a good start, glorious sunshine and a train that departed on time…if only my map reading skills were as good as my enthusiasm…on arriving at Euston I initially took a wrong turning (whoops) but realised my mistake pretty sharpish when I arrived at the hospital (that hadn’t been a landmark in my directions!)…after an 180 degree turn and asking for directions from a couple of really helpful people I managed to make my way to LSE, arriving only a few minutes later than planned!!

Jane and Dave gave me some good insights into the kinds of mobile orientated learning currently in action at LSE. Firstly Dave showed me some stats which highlight that the iPhone is the fourth most popular access method for their library catalogue totalling 869 times in a four month period. This is promising as the students are choosing this access method, mobile learning is yet to be fully realised at LSE yet the students are bridging the gap between their personal devices which they use so ubiquitously socially, and their personal study.

An interesting comparison between LJMU and LSE is the level of support that we offer to our students and staff with regards to mobile access, as advertised on our webpages. LSE seem to interlink mobile devices with laptops, so any support they offer to laptop users is mirrored in that offered to mobile device users. This is achieved through their laptop surgery service. The IT services homepage states:

‘For assistance connecting to LSE resources from off-site and connecting personally-owned laptop and mobile devices to the LSE network’

In a mobile learning culture this invisible connection which blurs the devices, laying emphasis on the support, not on the device, is definitely a promising way forward. Here at LJMU it appears that support for mobile devices is offered in separate places. Firstly we have the ‘other devices’ page which actively promotes different access channels for staff and students with regards to their email. Then there is the ‘via POP/IMAP’ page which guides users on how to configure mobile devices in order that university email can be accessed but stipulates that at LJMU we offer ‘as is’ the information on our webpages. This implies to students that there isn’t a physical support layer with regards to using mobile devices to access the university network when in truth this is not actually the case. Computing Assistants offer front line support to our students and staff across our 3 LRC sites. The Off-Campus Support Team also offer support in terms of students and staff that are based away from the campus in accessing the university network via mobile devices, we should openly advertise this fact in order to instil a mobile learning culture. We are doing it so why not let our staff and students know about it?

LSE also offers a service called VITA (Virtual IT Assistance) which seems quite similar to the services offered by the Off-Campus Support team here at LJMU. VITA (as with Off-Campus Support) allows students and staff to chat online in order to resolve any issues they may have with software etc. and provide a level of IT support.

Back on the mobile front, LSE have a WAP page that indicates which PCs are free so as their students travel into the university knowing that they need a PC on that particular day, they can access information that will allow them to make informed decisions as to the best location for them. This idea is an excellent example of enabling the 21st century learner to make use of their travelling time in a constructive manner (if they so wish) and in turn save them time (by directly leading them to free PCs taking away the ‘looking’ element)!

Something that I have only recently started looking into is that of lecture capture systems. LSE uses Echo 360. Echo 360 automatically captures, manages, and publishes class lectures therefore the lecturers don’t have to do anything differently than they would normally. Jane showed me an example of the data that is captured and made accessible via the VLE and indicated that lecturer uptake was positive as was student opinion. Interestingly from a mobile learning point of view, the audio file could be extracted in order that it be downloaded onto an MP3 or iPod. This would enable students to learn on the go, whilst travelling, maybe printing off particular slides to use in-conjunction with the audio in order to revise a particular topic area or concept.

We finished the morning talking briefly about social softwares including Facebook and Twitter. Both very topical within libraries and HE at this moment in time – but that’s a whole new blog posting!!

The morning spent at LSE made me even more invigorated with mobile learning, I truly believe we need to start advertising the elements of mobile learning that we currently ‘do.’ Whether it be academics experimenting with podcasting or the LRC staff showing students how to connect to the wireless through a mobile device. A mobile learning culture isn’t going to happen over night but each step we take is getting us one step nearer to a successful and innovative blended learning environment.


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Many Thanks Sheela, I'm glad that you are enjoying the blog. I have been extremely busy over the last couple of weeks however report writing (hence the lack of blog postings!!). I am luckily attending LILAC 2009 next week so keep your eyes open for blog postings about the conference and interesting sessions!!