R. Aragües, R. Igual, J. Gallardo, E. Ibarz, E. Gil, I. García-Magariño, R. Lacuesta, E. Baron, B. Garzon, C. Valenzuela, R. Maicas, I. Plaza

Escuela Universitaria Politecnica de Teruel (EUPT), Universitiy of Zaragoza (SPAIN)
Smartphone applications have become very popular among university students. They present high penetration and acceptance rates. Thus, these applications provide new communication ways with students [2]. Despite their interest, universities have not fully explored the potential of Smartphones as educational tools [1]. Specifically, one of the areas in which this technology could be applied is the tutoring and mentoring of first-year students that have just joined the university.

In this paper we present a study conducted on the Escuela Universitaria Politécnica de Teruel (EUPT), University of Zaragoza. The EUPT has a specific program, called POU-EUPT to help first-year students incorporate to the university. This program consists of different Tutoring-Mentoring sessions performed during the first academic year. These sessions are conducted by several university teachers (called the Tutors) as well as several last-year volunteer students, called the Mentors. Both tutors and mentors collaborate together to guide the new students and to make their integration in the university easier. One of the main goals of the program is to prevent the high dropout rates associated with Engineering studies, which takes place usually during the first year. This program has been introduced at the EUPT during the academic year 2015-2016 for the first time.

One of the ways to ensure the success of the program is to have a high participation rate among students. The classical way to contact students and inform them of the Tutoring-Mentoring activities is by e-mail. We were interested in studying an alternative method to facilitate the communication with students based on the use of Smartphones.
For this reason, in one of the Tutoring-Mentoring sessions, students’ opinions and preferences were collected regarding the possibility of having a Smartphone application that could be useful for them. In this paper, we present the results of this study.

Around a 30% of first-year students were surveyed. They showed unanimous interest in the following functionalities: messaging services with mentors, access to the school calendar, professors’ office hours, examination timetables and class schedule. In addition, the functionalities of messaging services with tutors and access to the contact data of tutors highly attracted students (90% or higher). Other functionalities such as messaging services between students, or information about the university events received considerable support (70%-90%). Finally, the options that obtained the lowest rate were the ones related to agreeing on the Tutoring-Mentoring session hours, having a personal planner, and having access to the contact data of the remaining students. Based on the results of this survey, a Smartphone application has been designed with the most highly valued functions. This application is expected to be useful in order to facilitate the Tutoring-Mentoring activities and help decrease the dropout rate.

[1] K. Bowen, M. D. Pistilli. "Student preferences for mobile app usage." Research Bulletin, Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, forthcoming, available from http://www. educause.edu/ecar, 2012.
[2] W. Zhao, Y. Sun, L. Dai. "Improving computer basis teaching through mobile communication and cloud computing technology." Int. Conf. on Advanced Computer Theory and Engineering, 2010.