January 29, 2008

Case Western Reserve University, industry partner to debut break-through mobile technology


Most university professors would frown upon the idea of students using cell phones in the classroom, but at Case Western Reserve University, chemistry professor Mike Kenney is actually encouraging college kids to bring their phones to class.

Beginning February 1, students, faculty and staff at Case Western Reserve's Cleveland, Ohio, campus will be participating in the nation's first trial of "2D codes"—commonly referred to as "QR Codes"—by bringing the cell phone technology to campus.

The 2D codes, first introduced on campus during fall orientation, are not unlike bar codes found on cereal boxes and other grocery store items. Only instead of revealing the price of corn flakes, the printed symbols link to mobile content in the form of pictures, music, videos, news articles and other interactive media.

For companies, the codes present an avenue for extending the value of their product packaging. For students, the codes are a way to deliver information and entertainment to friends. For professors, they allow a new level of interactivity for engaging the Facebook generation.

Mobile Discovery, in partnership with all U.S. wireless carriers and Scanbuy, plans for 2D codes to appear at Case Western Reserve on everything from shuttle stops to campus flyers to ads and articles in the school newspaper.

David Miller, CEO of Mobile Discovery, says the codes "will enable an entirely new ecosystem of on-campus technology. We are hoping the codes will become a normal part of university life."

The 2D code trial is one of many ways in which Case Western Reserve is establishing itself as a leader in new technologies and educational innovation. Lev Gonick, Case Western Reserve's vice president of information technology services (ITS), is thrilled to have the university as the first large scale beta site for mobile 2D codes in the United States

"I am happy to have Case Western Reserve at the center of this new technology introduction," says Gonick, who emphasizes the role of "structured innovation" in the university's five-year technology plan. "[Our plan] includes exploring and delivering on innovative concepts like mobile technologies, user-generated content and social networking. This trial hits the mark."

Miller has made multiple trips to Case Western Reserve and has been working in conjunction with Mace Mentch, manager of learning technologies, and Bob Sopko, manager of strategic technology partnerships, for months to plan and prepare for this trial. Case Western Reserve's chemistry department also has jumped on board: Kenny will beta test a new student survey tool, which will allow professors to solicit instant feedback from students via their cell phones.

"The intent is to use the technology already prevalent among the students in ways that enhance the learning experience," Kenny says.

But the trials will not be confined to the Case Western Reserve chemistry department. Students at the Cleveland Institute of Art, which shares the university's campus, also will be studying the codes and their potential creative uses. Animation professor Dave Fleisher sees the codes as "a virtual reality bridge."

In addition, professors Gary Wnek and Stanton Cort, from the Master of Engineering and Management (MEM) Degree program at Case Western Reserve, will coordinate two student teams to guide the new product introduction process of codes on campus. The team projects are part of a two-semester course on product design that Wnek and Cort co-teach.

The MEM students will fulfill various corporate roles as they relate to the new product launch, including marketing, sales and business development, engineering and corporate communications. In the process they will develop real world experience as they learn first-hand about the challenges companies face as they bring new products to market.

With support from Mobile Discovery headquarters in Reston, Va., the MEM students will provide the on-site leadership and support required to make this new product launch a success. Wnek, who serves as faculty director of The Institute for Management and Engineering, home of the MEM program, believes that "the projects with Mobile Discovery will offer students a unique opportunity to assist in the development and launch of an exciting technology in real time.

"A distinctive feature of our MEM program is experiential learning," Wnek continues, "and these projects highlight that particularly well. We look forward to the national spotlight."

All faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the university who have a case.edu e-mail address can enroll in the pilot beginning February 1 at http://www.mobilediscovery.com. From this Web site, members of the university community will be able to download to a cell phone the software needed to read the codes, create their own 2D codes and connect the codes to content—for free. Some wireless carriers may charge users for each code read and content downloaded to the phone. Check your contract or call your carrier for details.

For more information contact Paula Baughn, 216.368.4443.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, January 29, 2008 10:21 AM | News Topics: Campus Life, Case School of Engineering, Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Staff, Students, Technology, Weatherhead School of Management

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