Dartmouth's four mobile applications have yet to be widely used by the student body, but they offer access to course materials, a steamlined interface to the Dartmouth website and closer connections to campus news.
The applications include Blackboard Mobile Learn and Dartmouth Sports, which connects users to Big Green athletic news. The College has also launched iDartmouth, a mobile events application for alumni and m.Dartmouth.edu, a web-based application that provides a streamlined interface for mobile visitors to the College's website.
Of the four, m.Dartmouth.edu is most used, with 23,221 page views since Oct. 16. Blackboard is relatively popular among mobile users, with 841 unique visitors in January, and iDartmouth has been downloaded roughly 2,300 times since its launch in fall 2011. Data was unavailable for the Dartmouth Sports application, but varsity athletics communications director Rick Bender said the application was unlikely to be used widely since it is only available on Android devices.
For the Blackboard application, approximately 89 percent of unique users and 95 percent of total views came from iOS devices, which include iPhones and iPads. Assistant director of educational technologies Barbara Knauff attributed the high proportion of iOS usage to the widespread use of iPads on campus.
The Blackboard application is accessible and easy to use, allowing people to contribute to discussion boards and blogs through Blackboard directly from their mobile devices.
"If you wanted to attach a file, like an image or even a movie to a discussion board posting, that's really easy to do from the mobile app," Knauff said. "In that sense, it opens some doors and encourages student participation."
Dartmouth's upcoming decision to switch from Blackboard to a different learning management system will partly depend on the strength of each system's mobile application.
"The access needs to be there both for content and also student interactions," Knauff said.
The College appointed a team, Learning 21, to evaluate Blackboard and alternative learning management systems at the College, since Dartmouth's contract with Blackboard expires in 2013. Following its initial assessment, Learning 21 supported three systems Blackboard, Canvas by Instructure and Desire2Learn. The team will collaborate with a steering committee of students and faculty to make the final decision.
John Comerci '16 said that Blackboard was an "attractive application," and that he would be willing to access other web-based content through mobile applications.
M.Dartmouth.edu went live four months ago, and the page provides access to news, calendars, athletic information, media and social networks. The application was designed by Motolab, which also designed m.Harvard.edu and m.MIT.edu. Plans to add a campus map are in the works.
Most students interviewed said they did not know Dartmouth had mobile applications available.
"I didn't know there was an app, so I guess they should probably publicize it more if they want people to use it," Nick Hodgson '16 said.
While the iDartmouth application serves a relatively small portion of alumni, alumni communications director Diana Lawrence said it has been economical and effective. "Right now we've hit a sweet spot," she said. The application offers a campus map, Twitter and RSS feeds, photos and video.
The iDartmouth application was the only application created in-house without work by outside developers, and was developed in 2011 by James Payne, managing director for information architecture and new media. Payne said he and a co-developer typically update the application before Homecoming and other alumni reunions.
The Dartmouth Sports application for Android was developed this summer, and it provides live sports coverage, including audio feeds. An iOS version of the application is in development.
Mobile compatability is a key consideration for future technology investment, Knauff said.
"We are looking at better media management solutions and making sure that any media we make available to students works on mobile devices," she said.