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Mobile Computing: Infusing Technology to Meet the Evolving Learning Needs of Medical Students

Michael Casdorph, Director, Instructional Support & Educational Design - Medical College of Georgia

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In 2009, the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) implemented a mobile computing initiative delivering a mobile application suite, a suite of medical applications and custom mobile applications.

Delivering a highly integrated, technology-infused curriculum that reflects and responds to students' evolving learning styles is one of MCG's strategic themes. With the influx of millennial students and their desire to embrace technology into all aspects of life including learning, MCG undertook a mobile computing initiative called MCG Mobile. MCG took a multi-faceted approach with delivering the Mobile Central application suite, a suite of medical applications and custom created applications by MCG instructional developers.

In 2009, MCG became the first public health sciences university to publish a suite of mobile applications in iTunes, entitled MCG Mobile. MCG Mobile was based on Blackboard's Mobile Central, a suite of mobile applications that brings multiple campus services to the palm of the student's hand. The suite, a mini mobile portal contains applications such as a GPS-enabled campus map, directory lookup, course catalog, events, news, and video delivery.

While Mobile Central provided a great deal of value, providing students with instructional content and tools was paramount to the MCG Mobile initiative. We wanted to shift the paradigm to include a heavy instructional and reference component in our mobile initiative. In this second phase of MCG Mobile, MCG licensed and branded a suite of existing mobile medical applications including: MediMath Medical Calculator, ICD9 Consult, Medical Abbreviations, Perfect OB Wheel, ATP3 Lipids, Optics Clinical Calculator, and Medical Mnemonics. These applications are available free for all MCG faculty, staff and students.

In the spring of 2010 MCG became the first Blackboard customers to successfully use the Mobile Central software development kit (SDK) to achieve a very important milestone in the development of MCG Mobile. Prior to this time, students downloaded MCG Mobile from iTunes and used a different and very unfriendly method to download the Medical Application Suite, which is limited to MCG users. The SDK allowed us the ability to add our own custom applications under the "hood" of MCG Mobile to create a true portal of content. Students go to iTunes to download MCG Mobile where they download one application and install one main icon on their device.

The Blackberry version of MCG Mobile was also released in the spring of 2010; this created true native mobile applications to provide Blackberry users a more robust experience. Other mobile devices that are WPA compliant are supported via a mobile web version though the user experience is much more limited.

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Over the past year, MCG's Instructional Support & Educational Design team have partnered with faculty across the organization to create a variety of custom mobile applications from scratch. These applications range from reference to learning and include features and functionality such as videos of procedures, self-assessments/quizzes, and various multimedia elements. The surgical procedures consult is an application where students can search select and view surgical procedures. The application provides the student the pre-procedure, procedure and post-procedure including assets such as video, images, and radiology. The team has created that application so that it functions as a template where content can be easily and quickly imported to create other custom applications based on different subject matters or topics. The MedLab Tutor application was designed for family medicine to provide a tutorial, reference and self-assessment tool for students on how to read, interpret and diagnose with lab reports.

The future of MCG Mobile is developing mobile applications in-house that address the campus life needs of the faculty and students and instruction but we also believe there are patient education and clinical opportunities. We are currently breaking ground on educational research studies to test the effectiveness of mobile learning on learning outcomes including a project with students as well as patient education.

Member Viewpoints

Featured in issues of the GIR Newsletter and the GIR website, these articles are contributed by GIR representatives on current IT-related issues, challenge solutions, and technological innovations in academic medical institutions.