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Dublin university test-drives wireless learning

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A research group has set up a Wi-Fi network on a Dublin university campus to investigate how wireless services affect group interaction.

The Nomad research team has just completed trials with 20 students. Each participant was given a Wi-Fi enabled PDA and mobile phone. The team set up forums for the students to use, a move which proved very welcome.

Final-year student Mark McNally said the forums had led to a greater level of "communication between different students, thanks to the fact that they do not require students to be in the one venue or even on-line at the one time".

Access to the Web meant also that students didn't need to go to the library or computer lab to do research.

The project will investigate the technological, psychological and design aspects of what makes a useable and useful wireless service.

Researchers said the project had been a good blending of disciplines. Dr. Mark Riordan, head of technology, argued that a combination of expertise in human behaviour and technology is needed to create software that people will be motivated to use.

The Nomad Research team believes that carefully-designed technology can have a positive effect on the way people interact, particularly in developing social capital, or an individual's sense of belonging in a group.

The Nomad group is a research consortium comprising the Software Technology Research Centre at Dundalk Institute of Technology, the Waterford Institute of Technology's Telecommunications Software Systems Group and Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

A wider trial involving more than 100 people is scheduled later this year. ®

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