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How Important Is Cellular for E-Learning on Tablets?
March 26, 2013 - 9:00pm

I've become enamored with the iPad mini as an e-learning device. 

The iPad mini, which is 7.9 inches tall and 5.3 inches wide, fits nicely in one hand.  It is also a quarter lighter and half the weight of a standard size iPad, making reading or watching course videos a pleasure.  

When paired with the free iTunes U app and the Course Manager site it becomes feasible to deliver the full range of curricular materials to our students, from articles to videos to class presentations, in a secure and easy format.

The small size and light weight of the iPad mini encourages you to bring the thing with you wherever you go.  It fits inside my sport coat, the front pocket of my backpack, and if I had a purse it would fit perfectly.  

The big question I have with the iPad mini, and whatever the Android equivalent is to the mini, is how important is cellular?

My gut feeling is that the WiFi only version is the better deal.   

The reasons to forgo cellular on a tablet for e-learning are:

  • That WiFi connections are ubiquitous enough that the extra cost for the cellular enabled version, on top of the monthly fees, is not a great return on investment.   
  • That the large video files we work with for online courses are better managed with WiFi.  
  • That the amount of cellular bandwidth that you get with a contract would be inadequate to handle the increasingly video intensive nature of online courses.
  • That the storage capacities of the iTunes U app and other apps make it feasible to download e-learning content to access even if a WiFi connection is not available.  That most people who have an iPad (or an Android) table will also have a smartphone, and that it probably makes more sense to tether than to pay another cellular fee.

The problem is that I've never owned a cellular enabled iPad.  I'm not sure if this extra connectivity option increases the likelihood of interacting with e-learning content to a level that justifies the extra initial and monthly expense.

If I got an iPad mini with cellular would I ditch my iPhone?   After all, I hardly ever make phone calls ....... maybe one cellular device is enough?

Are you seeing your students embrace the smaller tablet form factor for interacting with online course material?

Have you played around with e-learning apps and content on a cellular enabled iPad or Android tablet?   

How valuable is a cellular connection on tablets when it comes to e-learning?


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