Progress Report: Hewlett Packard Applied Mobile Technology Solutions in Learning Environments

PI: Prof. P.B. Stark
Department of Statistics
University of California, Berkeley


In 2003 and 2004 UC Berkeley received grants from Hewlett Packard to use mobile technology to increase students' engagement with subject matter, with instructors, and with each other. The HP grants were used to expand a wireless network, initially covering large lecture halls and student gathering places such as on-campus cafes, libraries and study areas; eventually, all general assignment classrooms were included. Faculty in Anthropology, Chemistry and Statistics re-tooled large lecture courses to take advantage of in-class wireless networking. The Anthropology course replaced traditional lectures with forums in which students made team-authored multimedia presentations while graduate student instructors fielded questions using wireless instant messaging. Faculty in Architecture built virtual reality models of archeological sites for the Anthropology students to interact in. The Chemistry course supplemented lectures with rich content—video, slides, and notes—and tools to enable students to annotate those materials during class using the wireless network. The Statistics course supplemented lectures with online interactive demonstrations and simulations that students could follow and replicate using the wireless network. Course materials were distributed over the network, and homework was submitted online. Using online chat during lectures was also explored. Courses in American Studies, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Engineering, English, History, Information Systems, Integrative Biology, Mathematics, Molecular and Cell Biology, Physics, Political Science and Statistics have used in-class wireless for close-captioning. The HP grants have been transformative for UC Berkeley.

Faculty involved in the grant

Grant cohorts: 2003, 2004

Impact on Student Learning

Course evaluations, personal interviews, and student surveys support the conclusion that many students found at least some of the uses of wireless networking helpful and engaging. See survey data and student quotations.

Impact on Teaching

All faculty involved found it valuable to re-think how to spend lecture time. Some experiments had negative results. For example, attempts to incorporate text messaging and chatrooms into classroom discussions proved more distracting than useful. Other uses of wireless networking, including online demonstrations and simulations, student annotation of online materials, discussion boards, and close-captioning, were very helpful and are being continued. Educational Technology Services and the Disabled Student Program have developed a new system for close-captioning using in-class wireless, the classroom PA system, and Skype. Materials developed during the HP grants form the basis of UC Berkeley's first online course, Statistics N21, Summer 2007. The instructor and teaching assistants will hold online office hours and tutorial sessions using tools for text and audio chat, whiteboards, and screen sharing.

Quick Facts

Technology survey results

Students enrolled in Statistics 21, Spring 2005, participated in a survey of mobile technology use. The vast majority of these students are Freshmen and Sophomores who intend to major in Business Administration or Economics. Of 299 enrolled students, 240 responded. Detailed responses are available as a comma separated value file. Selected results are tabulated below.

Selected results of technology survey, Statistics 21, Spring 2005
Own a laptop with wireless connectivity yes 69.6%
Use campus wireless network to access course materials > 5 times per week 11.7%
3-5 times per week 14.2%
1-2 times per week 13.3%
1-3 times per month 10.4%
less than once per month 18.8%
never 30.8%
Use wireless network during lecture > 5 times per week 4.6%
3-5 times per week 5.8%
1-2 times per week 10.8%
1-3 times per month 10.8%
less than once per month 20.0%
never 46.7%
How useful is wireless network? extremely 50.0%
somewhat 30.4%
not at all 18.8%
How useful is wireless network for coursework? extremely 31.3%
somewhat 37.5%
not at all 30.0%
Would study more if wireless network were more available on campus quite a bit 27.9%
somewhat 47.9%
not at all 23.3%
Is others' use of wireless network during lectures distracting? extremely 3.8%
somewhat 30.8%
not at all 64.6%

UC Berkeley students were surveyed more generally regarding their use of technology in 2006; selected results are available at https://osr2.berkeley.edu/Public/surveys/ucues/2006/wc2006resp.pdf.

According to a recent survey performed by the Office of the Chancellor, UC Berkeley students report that the highest priority for campus technology should be to improve wireless coverage.

Selected student quotations

This class has allowed me to go beyond the orthodox "lecture/section" aspects of a class and interactively work with my group members and GSI to put together presentations and films. I have never been able to remember the names of all of the students in my section before or have I been given the opportunity to give a presentation in front of a large class. This class has shown me how to productively work with others to benefit the class as a whole. (Anthropology 2)
The class was definitely my most enjoyable class. The way the class was structured made learning a lot more fun and interesting than the usual go to lecture and listen to some boring lecture. (Anthropology 2)
This class was a valuable experience because I worked with technology like never before. Through this class not only did I produce a power point presentation, but I was introduced to technologies and methods used in anthropology that I wouldn't know of otherwise. (Anthropology 2)
It was a completely new type of setting. It seemed like a preview of what education in the future would be like. It was fun and entertaining. (Anthropology 2)
At first, I wasn't sure if SticiGui [online Statistics materials] would pan out well. However, after completing close to half the course, I can safely say that it has exceeded my expectations. The only possible gripe I have is the network congestion that can be witnessed minutes before a problem set is due. Although I have only experienced this once (lesson learned), it would be nice if bandwidth/load capacity could be increased.  . . . In closing, lecture has been great, gsi's have been helpful, and SticiGui is a killer app! (Statistics 21)
[wireless] is most useful in lecture halls where professors provide slides and such. Groupwork outside of class hours, but inside school buildings is made a lot easier by the use of [wireless]. (Statistics 21)
... I often use [wireless] during lecture as I access the online material for better learning. (Statistics 21)
I enjoy [wireless] mostly in lectures to access online material to go along with the lectures, to access my e-mail and get my things in order while at the same time listening to lecture. (Statistics 21)
SticiGui is a great tool for learning statistics. (Statistics 21)

Last modified 6 June 2007. P.B. Stark.