Lambton College well on its way to creating leading edge learning environment

babbey everatt lambton collegeIt's difficult enough for most of us to anticipate the latest (or even close to the latest) technology trends.

But for people like Terry Babbey and Ann Everatt it's particularly challenging given their clientele—people who have not only grown up virtually glued to a mobile device, but as students, perhaps the most demanding of Lambton College's customers.

Yet neither Everatt, the school's vice president, academic, nor Babbey, director of information technology, are put off by the pressure that comes with helping to fulfill a strategic plan that includes "providing students with innovative and flexible learning options."

In its most distilled form, that means one thing: mobile.

With Lambton College focussed on becoming a mobile learning college by 2016, Babbey and Everatt both have their work cut out for them.

"This is an integration that's going to take a few years to achieve," notes Everatt, who joined the college last August, having served in a similar capacity at Fort McMurray, Alta.-based Keyano College. 

At the same time, she notes that faculty are already working hard on ways to bring mobile learning to their students.

Indeed, Lambton College plans to roll out three programs—Business, Practical Nurse and Developmental Services Worker—this fall.

In the meantime, Babbey and his team are working to beef up a network that will be at the heart of a system that's intended to eventually support several thousand mobile devices, something he acknowledges will require a good bit of foresight as well as the financial commitment to see it through.

At the same time, and something that Everatt is stressing, flexibility will be key to achieving the mobile delivery of learning part of the strategic plan.

And clearly understanding what role she plays as Lambton College moves forward.

"My responsibility is to manage the framework in a way that makes sense to students and makes sense to the learning environment," says Everatt.

That, she adds, will put Lambton College on the leading edge of education, even as the school follows what can be described as an evolution of the way people learn and communicate with one another, whether it be student to student or with faculty charged with teaching key skills for a future workforce.

"We're talking about a generation that has clearly embraced this type of learning," says Everatt. "While we're being proactive about our approach, we have to appreciate that students are already using various mobile devices—phones, tablets, and laptops—to communicate with one another. What we want to do is provide them with opportunities in the coursework that better reflect the way they've come to learn."

Whether it's a faculty member sending out course notes electronically, a video or audio podcast being produced for in-class discussion, or any of several other options that may become available, Everatt says she's excited by what's ahead and what's being done already to move adapt to a mobile learning environment.

What's at least as encouraging as students seeing the strategic direction as a positive one is the reaction Everatt and others have seen in faculty, who are seeing the direction as one where they can be inspired to deliver learning content that makes sense to their students.

Everatt and Babbey both say mobile learning doesn't mean distance learning.

"We see our move to develop more Learning Studios as part of the strategy," notes Everatt, referring to flexible rooms where furniture can be moved and configured for a variety of learning scenarios. "But mobile devices will be used in the classroom—not just in an online environment."

Having a robust network will be critical to the success of the mobile learning strategy, notes Babbey, referring to the several thousand mobile devices that will ultimately be connected to a network originally designed for perhaps a few hundred or more at a time.

"We'll be working hard to keep things flexible, anticipating the needs of both students and faculty," he notes. "But what is clear is that being able to support an additional network load will be part of what the network needs and we'll be working hard to achieve that."

Security will also be key.

"When you're dealing with student data, the need to maintain a secure network is obviously something that's critical."

Even with the challenges ahead, Everatt says the opportunities represented by embracing the mobile learning strategy are immense.

"Being able to adapt to how students are best able to learn, and even their style of learning, is something that's going to be bringing both students and faculty dividends for many years."

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