Date: 14 September 2015 (Monday)
Time: 15:30–17:00 Hong Kong time (07:30–09:00 GMT)
Video Replay: Online Replay
Speakers: Dr. Ishan Abeywardena
Director of International Academic Relations Division, The Open University of Sri Lanka
Facilitator: Dr. K S Yuen
Director of Educational Technology and Publishing Unit, The Open University of Hong Kong
Abstract: The Android operating system (OS) is currently dominating the smart phone and tablet markets. The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) frameworks and the ease of use have made Android the most sought-after OS for use by mobile device manufacturing giants. With thousands of apps available through the ‘Google Play’ store, Android provides a feature rich experience to the user and has an app for just about anything imaginable. The substantial growth of the mobile device market over the past few years has caught the attention of many sectors including governments, industries and educators. The most notable development comes from higher education institutions (HEI) which are investing heavily in developing customized apps to facilitate content delivery, students support, information dissemination, social learning and assessment feedback, combined with learning analytics, to give their students that extra edge in learning.

Traditionally, Android app development is a highly specialized field reserved only for software engineers and programmers. However, the growing demand for customized apps has led to the democratization of Android app development through the concept of ‘Visual Programming’ (VP). VP is a concept which allows non-programmers to build powerful application using visual building blocks. It can be best explained as constructing a jigsaw puzzle using fitting puzzle pieces. The leading visual app development platform at present is the ‘App Inventor’ platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) of the US. It has joined forces with Google to provide a robust solution for customized app development for the Android OS. This Web conference focuses on how the concept of VP, through the exclusively web based App Inventor platform, can be used to empower nontechnical ODL practitioners in their content delivery, assessments and student support. A comprehensive toolkit, developed by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), is introduced which enables teachers to create their own Android apps, use them in their teaching activities and engage students in creating project apps for collaborative learning.