Student Microblogging And Recording Timelines (SMART):
This project aims to utilize mobile technology to ascertain the study spaces used by students at University of Leicester. Free wifi access is readily available on the University of Leicester campus, and students will be required to use the Twitter microblogging system regularly to record short messages (up to 140 characters) describing where and what they are studying using an iPod touch (or on a personal mobile phone via SMS if they choose). Participants will be recruited by email and will use the iPod touch for three weeks before passing it to another student in the project. This way, a maximum of 90 students will be able to use the iPod touch, with all participants being entered into a draw to win one of the devices at the end of the academic year. Student posts will be tracked by RSS and data aggregated centrally for analysis. Use of Twitter will allow us to use RSS feeds to collect and record the data streams from the participants without costly administration associated with alternative methods such as paper diaries. In addition, Twitter provides automatic time stamps, immediacy and offers the potential for real time tracking.
Participating students will be required to post messages (tweet) at least four times per day, e.g. "I am in the library writing an essay for module x". Ten devices over 6 months active recording will provide a minimum of 7200 observations, which will allow us to build an accurate picture of where and when student-defined learning spaces on and off-campus are utilized, and for what purposes. By rotating the devices through various student cohorts, we will be able to localize preferred learning spaces for the disciplines covered by the project (School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Arts) in time and space. The current interest in the student experience has included those looking at the learning environment and in particular the physical space and tools used by students when studying. The widening participation agenda has increased the proportion of registered disabled students and the numbers of those choosing to study from home or at their local university. These changing patterns of learners, increasing pressure on existing study spaces, and increasing use of technology will undoubtedly continue to challenge the traditional model of studying solely in lectures, laboratories and library study cubicles.