The mCommunity Project is led by Pembrokeshire College in collaboration with Gower College Swansea and TSSG and is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Cross Border Programme 2007-2013 (INTERREG 4A).
this issue... Businesses log-on Staff training goes mobile APPropriate APPS Whoâ€™s Astrid?
putting opportunity in your hand... The story so far...
Itâ€™s a long time since the inception of the mCommunity project back in 2009 by Dr Geoff Elliott, Director of Marketing, Skills and Development at Pembrokeshire College. Mobile technology has moved on at lightning speed with smartphones as powerful as laptops and the birth of tablet computers offering greater usability on the move. These multifunctional devices with camera, video and sound recording features, offer access to third party downloadable apps which can support and organise activities in our everyday lives and enhance our access to information. Using this technology the vision was to create an app that could deliver agreed learning goals to individuals and use communication technologies that would nurture positive social networks and one-to-one support from a dedicated tutor. The mCommunity project also wanted to look at how the same development could be used in small to medium enterprises (SME) to develop employees and explore how mobile devices might improve the efficiency of the working environment. The project, which commenced in July 2010, is in its third and final year with development ongoing. Pembrokeshire College, Gower College Swansea and our developers, the Telecommunication Software and Systems Group (TSSG), have all contributed to the successful creation of the mCommunity app, which has now been deployed to over 60 individual beneficiaries and 17 businesses.
“We are exploring new mobile technology to help improve the efﬁciency of the working environment,” said Caroline Grifﬁths, Project Manager. “Employees will be able to access their staff training on a smartphone or tablet.”
TSSG - Making it hAPPen... TSSG are responsible for the development of the mCommunity app using the Android operating system and the electronic Individual Learning Plan (eILP), an element of Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - open source software used extensively in education. “Initially we deﬁned the app by creating user stories, a series of scenarios describing how the users would interact with the app,” said Sean Lyons, Project Manager at TSSG. “Key to this process is the Agile Development Methodology, which encourages all project partners to feedback on each stage of development, meet regularly so problems can be addressed and to share ideas of functionality for future versions.” The first version of the app was released in February 2011 and has since led to the development of five trial and four live versions of the app being released. Work continues to enhance the current version of the app with new features being added and improvements made to the user interface. This is a truly collaborative project and by working with direct access to the target market, TSSG believe they can produce a stronger final product that can support businesses, educational institutions and individuals alike.
An APPropriate Aid for Business Celtic Quest & Kayak King Celtic Quest is a successful coasteering company operating from a mobile base at Abereiddy Beach in North Pembrokeshire and Kayak King offers the chance to experience Pembrokeshire’s sea caves, waves and marine life from modern ‘sit on top’ kayaks starting from Lower Town, Fishguard. As project beneficiaries they are exploring the use of the mCommunity app, installed on a tablet device, for training their own instructors and as a coaching tool for their activities. The development of relevant resources and goals that will populate the mCommunity app for both companies are ongoing and other functions within the mCommunity app like instant messaging and the open source ‘twitter like’ social media function are used to send relevant links between the mCommunty tutor and the beneficiaries. Cleo Brown, owner of Celtic Quest said “The mCommunity app has the potential to be a great learning aid within my business, staff training can be made easier, more interactive and fun, I see multiple uses for the mCommunity app going into the future.”
Both SME’s have also benefited from the wider functions of mobile technology assisting them with business efficiencies and marketing strategies. Cleo said “Mobile technology has enabled us to remain on location all day, saving time and money. As a mobile activity operator, mobile technology is vital to our operation, we use the tablet to check emails and bookings and have a live feed to our calendar which is connected to partner operators. Social media is a key element to our marketing strategy and the ability to upload footage of our adventures to social media sites like Facebook and YouTube is priceless.” Development of future versions of the app will benefit from the feedback and involvement of Celtic Quest and Kayak King, as we further build on the success of the current version. In the future both businesses will look to support other mCommunity activities that will bring together both the SME and learner sides of the project.
“Mobile technology has enabled us to remain on location all day, saving time and money.” Cleo, Celtic Quest
An APPropriate Aid for Business Pembrokeshire Paragliding Nick Bamber, Pembrokeshire Paragliding owner, has been paragliding in west Wales for the past 12 years and is a qualified advanced instructor registered with the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA). Nick teaches paragliding throughout south west Wales and so was interested to find out how mobile technology and the mCommunity project could support his business. Soon after an initial evaluation of business needs we were able to loan Pembrokeshire paragliding a Motorola Xoom tablet equipped with 3G data access and loaded with the latest version of the mCommunity app. We worked with Nick to discuss how elements of his day-to-day business procedures could be administered from the Motorola Xoom, this included remote calendar access, email integration, mobile access to social media channels to post updates and access to training documentation held in cloud storage. Initial meetings were face-to-face and then using the mCommunity app continued support was maintained by using its instant messaging feature. Currently mCommunity are working with Nick to digitalise parts of the BHPA Student Training Record and handbook for paragliding, here’s what Nick had to say... “The app has enabled me to structure our current training regime in a digital format and by the use of the pad it has enabled direct reference and interaction with the students during their training course.
I believe that after having recorded more videos illustrating the various stages of the training it will act as an amazing resource enabling the students to have ‘forward knowledge’ of the next stages of the course they are due to complete, as well as revising the steps they have already taken. Mobile technology is very useful as it enables us to both video the students during training, and then show them, from a third person perspective, how they are performing, they can then directly observe their strong points and their weak points. In the near future we hope to record lectures illustrating the various stages of the training and this will enable the students to revise before even commencing any new stages.” We will be continuing to work with Nick to enhance current activities and to explore other possibilities of intervention with project beneficiaries and piloting additional functionality that may be part of later releases of the mCommunity app.
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Tablets at Work: A tablet can be a valuable productivity tool and is able to accomplish the same tasks a laptop can most of the time. Together with available multi-tasking and some extremely clever third party apps, anyone can use a tablet for work related tasks. From a practical point of view, the large screen and long battery life make the tablet an ideal companion to carry when travelling, or at meetings, and there is no reason why you cannot deal with the most common document formats and communication methods over a wireless connection. Apps like QuickOffice let you download, view and edit spreadsheets, Word documents and even presentations, and this is particularly handy if you have to make changes before an important meeting. You can also communicate via social networks, private company networks, email, IM and of course, the mCommunity app! The wireless connectivity can be used to even greater effect to let you ‘dial-in’ to your work desktop. Apps like Splash Desktop let you see your desktop screen on your tablet and interact with it as you would if it was in front of you. If you take the time to source apps that are able to help you complete specific tasks, there is no reason why you cannot use a tablet for the vast majority of your work tasks.
your desktop to your phone or tablet device. You can view pictures, send and receive SMS text messages, install and remove apps, manage contacts in addition to a whole lot more.
Smooth Calendar: A simple calendar widget that can be customised by the user. Displays anything from one to six upcoming events. Works with the sync providers on your phone and thereby supports Google Calendar, Exchange and Facebook. DoForms: You can create forms on your desktop
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As the mCommunity Tutor at Gower College Swansea working with SMEs, I am increasingly aware of the pressures that businesses are under in the current climate. I talk to business owners, directors and managers on a regular basis. They recognise the importance of highly qualified and trained staff and the role which the Colleges can play in achieving this however, compressed training budgets and the current ‘all hands on deck’ mentality makes this difficult to achieve. The mCommunity project offers employers a new approach to learning and training which fits the demands of business and works with them to achieve their staff training needs with minimum disruption to the day-to-day running of the organisation. One of the training options being offered by Gower College Swansea via the mCommunity project is a Leadership and Management course aimed at giving practising or aspiring first line managers a solid foundation in their formal development as a manager; an area which has been identified by employers as critical to business growth and development. We are also currently working with a group of unemployed graduates with a view to helping them achieve a management qualification to sit alongside their degree and increase their employability. This has created interest from some of the SMEs involved in the project who will be offering a number of the graduates work-experience placements with the hope that some will turn into full time employment.
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Pembrokeshire College 01437 753 202 Gower College, Swansea 01792 284 447
mCommunity participant: Craig Jackson, Sales Manager, Ospreys Rugby “ I’ve been looking for a Management qualiﬁcation for sometime, however, it has been difﬁcult to ﬁnd a course which is suitable, as I work long hours, and during the rugby season weekends and often evenings. Learning through mobile technology allows me to study around my job and the app allows me to communicate with my tutor when convenient for me. I would recommend this way of learning to any busy manager looking to develop.”