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Monday, March 06, 2017

Academics turn smart phone addition into a powerful new learning tool | The Australian Financial Review

"Two Swinburne University academics have turned students' near universal addiction to their mobile devices into a way to help them learn." summarizes Tim Dodd, writes on education specialising in business education, apps and opinion.

Quitch CEO Grainne Oates shows students how to learn on a mobile phone.
Photo: Eddie Jim

Their mobile learning app, Quitch, is being used by 10,000 students, has been bought by four Australian universities and is being tested by nearly 100 educational institutions world-wide.

Swinburne senior lecturer in accounting, Grainne Oates, who is also Quitch's CEO, said the app's origin dates to when she was watching her class of 500 file out of a lecture theatre one and and "every single one of them was attached to their mobile phone".

"So I thought 'it has to be mobile for these students'," she said. 

She worked with Dan Hunter, the dean of Swinburne's law school that was founded two years ago, who is also an expert on gamification in education, to build the Quitch app, which only engages with students via their smart phones or other mobile devices.

Professor Hunter, who is also Quitch's chief technology officer, said that, for universities, using a learning platform for mobile devices made sense because these were the devices students used.

"The university [learning management] systems that you find in use are based around the idea that students will log in via the web and check their email. The reality is they just don't," he said.

This conclusion was reinforced by a focus group study. Dr Oates said there were two main messages from students in the study. One was that they wanted education to be mobile and the other was that they wanted it to be fun.

"They said they spend a lot of time on the train travelling to university and to work and they said they could this time valuably if they could get this information on their mobile phone," Dr Oates said.

Professor Hunter said that Quitch unashamedly uses students' addictive tendencies to keep them engaged in their course. In the daily lead-up to lectures it pushes quizzes out to students, awarding points and badges, and giving students the opportunity to challenge their friends.

"It's addictive to students in various ways," he said.

He said that research likely to be published soon showed that use of the app resulted in a 12 per cent increase in the student retention rate and a 7 per cent improvement in student performance.

Source: The Australian Financial Review