A “revolution” in learning is what the Laurier School of Business and Economics is promising from its new partnership with Research In Motion in the latest reach of a decades-old drive to put the “e” in education.

Hugh Munro heads Laurier’s MBA program and says bringing BlackBerries into the classroom will take the classroom everywhere.

“It’s the beginning of a journey for us,” he says. “(We’re) looking at how we can take advantage of the enabling capabilities of technology and change the way we structure and deliver curriculum … We can bring the outside into the classroom and also make the outside an ongoing classroom.”

Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University is another post-secondary institution that has embraced the idea of e-learning, only they’ve been mobilizing education for almost 30 years now. It started with TV shows on a local station and added the cutting-edge technology of video tapes mailed to students. Its distance-learning program is now on digital cable and DVDs and half of such courses are fully online.

Peggy Watts, head of MSVU’s distance learning, says by using programs like Moodle and Elluminate Live, the university can create a virtual classroom that allows students to chat with professors, give presentations in front of the class, watch videos and use programs like Excel, even if they don’t have Excel.

“Within the White Board (of Elluminate), an instructor can take control of a student’s desktop and show them something on their own desktop,” she adds.

Watts says the main users of e-learning at MSVU are in Nova Scotia, but chose the remote approach to give flexibility to their schedules and avoid commuting.

Back at Laurier, students and faculty will use their smartphones for voice, text and email applications as well as video, voice notes and pictures. Faculty will push content to their students’ smartphones and will have access to metrics to gauge which content is being used in the one-year pilot involving 100 students.

Munro is confident the “hybrid” model of classroom and e-learning is the way of the future.

Business has gone mobile and education should follow, he says. “If our learning environment mirrors the kind of challenges and opportunities they’re going to face in the real world, then it’s a good thing.”

RIM, which is headquartered in Waterloo, is giving students a deal on the BlackBerries and Rogers is providing the connection at a small fraction of the usual cost, Munro adds.

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