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The UOC develops mobile apps to support learning and foster community spirit

Open Apps UOC
The aim of the Mobile Apps meeting organized this February by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) was to publicize and present the wide range of mobile applications it has developed. The session formed part of Tecno Week, a week to showcase and promote the internationalization of the technological sector organized by CTecno and partners from Catalan industry. The UOC Office of the Vice President for Technology organizes monthly technical meetings to publicize the projects in development and spread the knowledge generated internally. The last such meeting took place on 21 February.

Wireless connectivity and wide-ranging devices have changed the way we see learning. There has been a paradigmatic change which the UOC has responded to with its M-UOC: multidevice, multichannel and multimedia project. "The devices complement one another, providing more opportunities to learn and teach. They offer a versatility of multimedia that needs to be explored. This is what has led to the creation of the UOC's multimedia space," explained Francesc Santanach, a member of the Basic Technology and Quality team, which took charge of presenting the virtual m-learning environment that lets students and faculty share experiences and knowledge of using mobile devices in learning and learning support.

In turn, Raúl Romero, a collaborator on the Community Tools team, presented My Mobile UOC. This is the UOC Virtual Campus application for mobile devices. It is designed to respond to the needs of all students. The application lets them access classrooms, mailboxes and agendas or consult the learning resources.

One of the newest applications to be presented was Guixa (currently available for iOS, but soon to be available for Android too), which converts devices into blackboards that users can write on while recording audio and video. This makes it easier for teachers to explain concepts or help students with doubts. This application, which is being updated constantly, aims to offer more features in the future, including adding images, embedding webpages, adding pages or exporting different projects, among others.

The UOC, a socializing institution

Alongside the applications being worked on to improve learning directly, two other experiences were also presented that focus on the social and human side of the UOC: UOC Maps and Open Minds.

UOC Maps is a social tool to foster the community spirit, the feeling of belonging, and communication through geolocation of UOC members. Its key features are geolocation, seeing other users, accessing their profiles, segmenting profiles and chatting via instant messaging.

Work is currently underway on a search engine to find people and on improvements to the instant messaging system with the creation of chat groups, contact lists and linking to Twitter. Alumni groups, events and the UOC's regional centres will also be geolocated.

Finally, UOC Director of Communications Eric Hauck talked about the Open Minds social forum. "Identifying, fostering and publicizing the activities developed by our members is what will make our community vibrant and have them identify with the institution." This identification also inspired UOCTalent, a project to create a group of "ambassadors" for the University able to provide local solutions to global problems.

The applications developed at the UOC are designed to aid and encourage use of mobile devices to make the most of any moment anywhere to learn. The UOC's greatest challenge is to maintain constant development of the applications to ensure an optimal user experience.

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