Course:ETEC522/2010ST1/MobileTechnologies/Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

From UBC Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Total Cost of Ownership for Mobile Learning

created by venturo bryan


Mobile Learning (M-Learning) or anytime anywhere learning is fast becoming a major discussion topic in many educational institutions worldwide. The use of portable computing devices (such as PDAs, Netbooks, iPod Touch and smart phones) connected to wireless networks equipped with internet capabilities will certainly impact learning. This new paradigm in education will totally transform the teaching and learning experience of teachers and students alike. The technologies offer increased flexibilities and new and different opportunities for interaction and collaboration. But just how much will the successful implementation of mobile learning cost?

One of the major concerns in this drive is the total cost of ownership that would be incurred in a successful implementation. The implementation of a mobile learning initiative in any institution will have significant costing implications for that institution. Educators must be aware of all the direct and indirect costs associated with acquisition and use of mobile devices in education. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model is very important in analyzing the direct and indirect costs associated with the actual cost of mobile technology implementation. Unfortunately, many administrators, educators and IT professionals conveniently factor in only the costs of purchasing mobile devices and software when doing TCO analysis and ignore critical factors such as training, support, curriculum design, infrastructure and depreciation among others. The major costs of any mobile technology initiative often exceeds the initial cost of acquiring the devices. In fact, the resources needed to support the technology are of far more importance and costly than the initial expense of purchasing the devices.

This presentation will examine the total cost of ownership for a mobile learning implementation with the iPod Touch and Smart phones.

Factors to consider in Mobile Learning TCO

  • Device Costs: This is the actual cost of devices including shipping and handling, data and voice plans etc.
  • Infrastructure: This refers to all the hardware and software that is required for fully functional wireless network.
  • Training/Support: These are cost associated with the training and support for staff and students.
  • Curriculum redesign: This refers to the costs for redesigning the curriculum to maximize the effects of mobile learning
  • Software Costs: This refers to the actual cost for educational applications for devices.
  • Depreciation: These are noncash expenses that reduces the value of an asset as a result of wear and tear, age, or obsolescence.

Total Cost of Ownership Consideration in Mobile Learning

Device Cost

iPod Touch: The cost of this device is dependent on the storage capacity. Prices range for $199 - $399. 8GB - $199, 32GB - $299 and 64GB - $399. Educational institutions could take on this initial cost and then pass on this cost to the students in student fees. However, many institutions have forged key partnerships with Apple to reduce cost of the device. Stanford University iPod Touch and iPhone costs

Smart Phones: Many pundits argue that the price is right for mobile devices such as smart phones and the iPod touch. Purchase plans for devices such as the Samsung’s Instinct and iPhone can cost $79 to as much as 599 without contracts. Additionally broadband data plans can range from $30 to $60 per month with accompanying voice plans costing any where between 29.99 and $59.99. In many tertiary institutions where mobile learning using smartphones are incorporated the students incur the cost of the data and call services. Smartphone rates are decreasing but could still prove quite expensive for students.


iPod Touch/Smartphones: For the successful implementation of mobile learning using the iPod touch a wireless infrastructure must be in place. Costs are dependent on the size of the campus. Initial infrastructural cost could range from $75,000 to $125,000. Cost can go as high as 2,500,000 as in the case of University of Tennessee. At Abilene Christian University, approximately 700,000 was spent to upgrade the wireless infrastructure. For the iPhone mobile providers already have infrastructure in place, however if the wireless component of the iPhone is to be incorporated additional cost will be incurred in wireless setup. In addition to the wireless infrastructure, the cost for podcast servers will also have to be absorbed by the university. In the case of Abilene Christian University $50,000 was spent on a podcast server.


iPod Touch/Smartphones: Despite the fact that these devices are relatively easy to use, providing professional development for teachers to help them become comfortable with these devices, as well as training on how to integrate mobile learning effectively into classrooms will also attract significant costs. In addition to the training of staff ongoing support will be required for both teachers and students. This would require the hiring of full time staff to support this initiative. The wireless infrastructure will also require additional support staff. These costs may vary depending on the size of the institution. Abilene Christian University spent $40,000 to remodel their student-support centre for the mobile learning project. The university also spent approximately $21,000 for training and development for faculty members. Apple also provides support for their devices. The Apple Care Protection Plan can be utilized at a cost of $59.00 per devices. However, if partnerships are forged that cost could be much less.

Software Costs

iPod Touch/Smartphones: Both the iPod Touch and the iPhone contain several free applications. However, institutions may have to purchase additional applications to effectively utilize the mobile devices in eduucation. These costs could range from $1.99 to $9.99 per device. Custom written applications could cost much more.

Curriculum Design

iPod Touch/Smartphones: One crucial factor in the calculation of the total cost of ownership for mobile learning using iPod touch and smart phones are the cost associated with curriculum design. Soloway (2009) posits that to use technology to the fullest there must be a change in the mind set of the curriculum. In redesigning the curriculum to make the best of any mobile learning venture the educational institutions will incur additional costs. These cost will vary depending on the level of implementation.

Other Indirect Costs

The indirect cost of faculty time, software development and redeployment of faculty must also factor in the total cost of ownership. The indirect cost a very difficult to quantify, but must be factor in the overall cost of any mobile learning initiative.


In regards to depreciation the crucial depreciation costs are not associated with the devices that are given to the students, but on the devices that are used in the wireless infrastructure and servers. The hardware and software will depreciate in value over time. Cost to maintain and upgrade infrastructure should be factored in the TCO.

TCO Concerns when Planning for Mobile Learning

Mobile learning is here to stay. This is not a new technology that will disappear anytime soon. The number of people with smart phones and other mobile tools have almost doubled over the past five years. Technology companies are constantly developing new devices and better applications. In planning for mobile learning ventures administrator must be aware of the real cost associated with a successful implementation. Educators can not afford to enter into such venture without knowing the total cost of ownership. An attempt must be made to explore all the direct and indirect cost associated a mobile learning venture.

Institutions must answer the following questions.

  • How much will it cost to setup wireless infrastructure?
  • How much will it cost to pay support staff?
  • What is the cost for additional hardware (podcast servers)?
  • How much will the mobile services cost?
  • What is cost for training staff and students?
  • What is the cost of Technical support for students?
  • How much will is cost to secure infrastructure and data.
  • What is the cost for devices and software?
  • What are the indirect costs involved and how can we quantify them?
  • What is the cost for curriculum design?

Report Card Rating

The successful implementation of mobile learning require significant cash inflows.

Mobile Learning - Total Cost of Ownership: C+


Attewell, J. (2005). Mobile technologies and learning [Electronic Version]. A technology update and mlearning project summary, Technology Enhanced Learning Research Centre, Learning and Skills Development Agency Retrieved, June 2, 2010 rom

Belanger, Y. (2005, June). Duke University iPod first year experience final evaluation report. Retrieved, June 2, 2010 from

E. D. Wagner, "Enabling Mobile Learning," EDUCAUSE Review, Vol. 40, No. 3, May/June 2005, pp. 40–53, see p. 42, <>.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, Mobility and Mobile Learning, 2006, <> (accessed June 4, 2010).

Geser, H. (2004). Towards a sociological theory of the mobile phone. Retrieved June 5, 2010 from University of Zürich,

Roschelle, J. (2003). Unlocking the learning value of wireless mobile devices. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 19, 260-272.

Prensky, M. (2005). What can you learn from a cell phone? Almost anything!. Innovate 1 (5). (accessed June 4, 2006)