- 05/18 - 5k Walk/Run & Farmers Market (UESeP)
- 05/20 - Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program
- 05/20 - Urban Nutrition Education Program
- 05/21 - Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program
- 05/21 - Urban Nutrition Education Program
- 05/22 - Urban Nutrition Education Program
- 05/23 - Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program
- 05/28 - Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program
- 05/28 - Urban Nutrition Education Program
- 05/29 - Urban Nutrition Education Program
(Photo by FinnsDeal, Wikipedia, 2012)
Anyone that has ever worked for Cooperative Extension in America knows that it’s an institution of constant change. Organizations like the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) undergo change to meet administrative, consumer, market, and/or technological demands. In today’s economic climate, change often means performing high wire acts to maintain excellent service with less fiscal and human resources. Technology enables organizations like ACES to offset resource shortages; however, technology can also bring its own set of challenges. For those of us in the business of disseminating information today, a clear and present challenge is learning how to stay afloat in the sea of mobile applications.
Mobile Phone User Facts
At the end of 2011, six billion people or 87% of the world population use mobile phones and that number is expected to reach eight billion by 2016 (ITU, 2011). While 88% of American adults have cell phones, nearly 60% use smartphones or have phones that run on smartphone platforms.
In a July 2012 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 58% of individuals between the ages of 25-34, 49% of individuals ages 18-24, and 44% of individuals between the ages of 35-44 now own a smartphone. Residents living in urban and suburban areas are two times more likely to own smartphones than rural residents. Of smartphone users, 87% access the Internet or e-mail via a smartphone, 68% use it to go online in general, while 25% mainly use a smartphone to browse the Net. Even young people ages 18-29 with an income of $30K or less, however, continue to dominate the smartphone market compared to adults over 50 who earn higher salaries. Also, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to own a smartphone than white Americans. With the wireless touchscreen capabilities of a personal computer, it’s no wonder that users become transfixed with these handy, interactive, pocket-size gadgets.
How Consumers Obtain Information
With the proliferation of electronic devices Extension educators, information technologists, and communications specialists are exploring and using new avenues to disseminate information without alienating traditional learners. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation, Americans use many resources to obtain information about their local community. In regard to learning about Extension events and activities, for example, newspapers continue to be the major source for local news. However, newspapers tie with the Internet as the main source for information on housing, schools, and jobs. In addition, demographics play a critical role in how information is obtained. Individuals under the age of 40 are more likely to use the Internet first to obtain local information, whereas older individuals use traditional sources. Smartphones, on the other hand, allow us to navigate the Web not only to meet “just-in-time” needs like coordinating a night on the town among friends or finding the nearest gas station, but to access what Extension is best known for—educational information.
Mobile Phone Use in Education
The use of smartphones and other electronic devices for program delivery is a growing trend in education because it allows users to have instant access to information. Many universities have developed mobile-friendly websites and a software application, better known as an “app,” that allows students to access class schedules, online directories, or other institutional information. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) has mobile friendly Web pages, as well as an android app that allows users to access ACES resources (www.aces.edu).
Mobile apps can be developed on any subject. But before you get started, be sure to do your homework by taking a look at similar apps that are already in existence. You don’t want to duplicate a product necessarily and you want to make sure you create the right product for your target audience. Also, be sure you have the right software and hardware to develop your app. You will need to decide on things like an app platform such as iPhone, Android, Blackberry, or Windows Mobile. And last, but not least, it’s important for you to put together the right team of marketing, communication and technology specialists to not only help you develop your app, but to test, maintain, and promote mobile applications that are user friendly.
The good news is that although information delivery tools change, you can rely on Extension professionals to deliver timely, reliable, research-based information to the public.
Greer, T. (2011, July 15). Worldwide eLearning market to reach $49.9 billion by 2015.
Monarch Media. (2011, Fall). Take your content mobile by developing and distributing apps.