Mobile notification, pushing the connectivist hub?

Mike Caulfield has posted an interesting reflection:

Identity is now maintained on our phones. … Our portal is our app screen. Our network isn’t Facebook or Google or Twitter. It’s the phone address book that is the union of those three imports. And on the phone we stop dreaming about “If only there was a service that integrated functions of Twitter, Gmail, and Snapchat!” Because there is a service that integrates that — your phone’s notifications screen

When not to display a notification
CC-BY Android Open Source Project

As a smartphone owner I know the power of notification alerts something that has also not escaped mobile operating system developers. The unified shop window to try an entice us back ‘in app’. In an open course context this this is already a powerful component in keeping you connected and engaged, the issue however is course notifications get diluted into the general churn of what ever networks students are piggybacking. For example, if part of a cohort are using Google+ course notifications have to compete this other notifications a user might receive. So within a connectivist context would it not make sense to have a dedicated channel for course specific notifications? These notifications may be duplicates from other networks and collected as part of your general aggregation activities like a blog post on WordPress, a shared photo on Flickr or a course tagged tweet, but used as a nag gentle reminder to connect and engage. Going further you could customise these notification to be personal, selectively pushing content that might be particularly relevant to that individual.
Before going too far with this idea a reality check is in order. First smartphone ownership is currently around 50% (variations for region and age) so not everyone has one. Second the smartphone market is fragmented with different operating systems and different versions of operating systems. Currently Android sits out in front with 81% of phone sales in 2013 (again demographic variations – back in 2010 Blackberry was the device of choice for some students …).
So not everyone is going to have a smartphone and if they do there are variations in what they’ve got. For these very reasons I’ve cautioned institutions away from app development to mobile/responsive web design. So is the notifications screen accessible from a mobile web browser? Whilst there is a W3C Web Notifications spec it is only currently implemented on Blackberry and Firefox OS. Looking for an easy customisable alternative solution Pushover looked promising. With apps already for Android and iOS they have a really simple API which would make it easy to push notifications to selected users. The issue however is users would have to pay for the app £3.05/$4.99 and you’d have to administer the collection of user ids.
So it looks like you are staring down the barrel of app development and deployment <sigh>. Unless you’ve got any other suggestions? Or do you think this is a dumb idea to start with?


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comment 3 comments
  • Sheila MacNeill (@sheilmcn)

    Hi Martin
    I kind of like the idea, but I think it might work better in a self directed way or for people like me who are maybe doing one course at a time. It might all get a bit overwhelming for a “traditional” campus based student. Already we know that there is a fine line between helpful “nagging” via notifications and overloading students with reminders of various things. It would be good to work with students to see what kind of notifications they find most useful and when (frequency).

    • Martin Hawksey

      Hi – yes it’s perhaps a problem better solved by addressing digital literacy. Exploring some of the documentation around this problem it was perhaps not surprising to see how much data could be collected and returned and even used to target messages. I’m sure this is what Coursera and others have in mind
      The solution is this scenario is perhaps to return to the dark social, targeted email optimized for the notification screen e.g. explicit short subject lines/1st sentence …

  • Going Native. | The Toolshed

    […] keep an eye on — possibilities for notification “channels” are emerging.  As  this article points out: “Our portal is our app screen. Our network isn’t Facebook or Google or Twitter. […]

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