Which Academic Fields will Dominate Mobile Apps?

These days, a smartphone is practically worthless without apps. It's like an empty vessel without cargo or passengers. A window with no view. Ok, you get the picture.

In the past year, we've witnessed an explosion in the number of apps being created and used for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. All education sectors, from K-12 to Higher Ed to museums, have embraced them as tools for enhacing the in-class and out-of-class experience. Students can walk on the moon, learn a foreign language, visit a historic building that doesn't exist anymore, and check their course schedule and grades -- all in a matter of minutes from a single device. Teachers can send instant alerts, update a class syllabus, put together a collection of helpful resources, and devise brilliant lesson plans thanks to apps.

It's no surprise that the Horizon Project Advisory Boards this year voted mobile apps into the near-term horizon for the NMC Horizon Report > 2012 HiEd Edition, which defines the apps as follows:

There is a revolution that is taking place in software development that parallels the changes in recent years in the music, publishing, and retail industries. Mass market is giving way to niche market, and with it, the era of highly priced large suites of integrated software is giving way to a new view of what software should be. Smartphones including the iPhone and Android have redefined what we mean by mobile computing, and in the past three to four years, the small, often simple, low cost software extensions to these devices — apps — have become a hotbed of development. New tools are free or sell for as little as 99 cents, and anyone can be a developer. A popular app can see millions of downloads in a short time, and that potential market has spawned a flood of creativity that is instantly apparent in the extensive collections available in the app stores —themselves a new way of delivering software that reduces distribution and marketing costs significantly. Apple’s app store opened in July 2008; Google’s followed in October of that year. Since then, simple but useful apps have found their way into almost every form of human endeavor.Sos

So, the question is no longer when academia will use apps, but how many apps will be used. Fortunately, NITLE is helping us investigate just how this in our current Horizon Market

The official Horizon Market question is: Which academic fields will dominate mobile apps? Does STEM, humanities, or the social sciences take the cake? Or, is it evenly distributed across all disciplines?

NITLE is able to assess the answer by tracking the subject matter of the top 10 most downloaded educational apps in the iTunes store. And what fun is an investigation if we can't all speculate and share our answers?

> Make your prediction now.

This post is part of the ongoing Horizon Market series by NITLE, in collaboration with the NMC.

Photos: flickr Creative Commons. Top: by mangusfranklin; Bottom: by Percy Sacarballo

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