New smartphone course begins trial run at Kent State

Alexandra Taylor

Be Smarter Than Your Phone, a first-of-its kind technology course at Kent State, began this fall and offers students a chance to look at the smartphone industry from science, marketing and communications perspectives.

“As far as we know, nobody else has done it,” said John West, director of the Liquid Crystal Institute and Be Smarter Than Your Phone course creator and co-instructor, said. “If you go online and you want to buy a book, there is no textbook that covers all of this. So, we’re just drawing from a lot of different areas and pulling things together.”

The class is offered only to Honors College students this semester to avoid making an immediate decision as to what college the class would be listed under.

“One of the things that we tried to do when creating the course was to make it interdisciplinary so that it really doesn’t belong in any one discipline,” said Gary Hanson, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “I guess if we were to pick a place, we’d probably use a cross-listing, which is a university technique where you can have the same course listed in, in this case, it’d be in Arts and Sciences, Business Administration and (College of Communication and Information).”

Be Smarter Than Your Phone is an upper-division-level class and qualifies as an elective. With this being the trial semester of the class, there might be a hiatus in the class for spring to work out any kinks. The professors and administrators behind the course hope that the class could be offered online as soon as Fall 2014.

“What we’re really looking at in the class is this intersection of technology, and business and marketing decisions, and content in communications,“ Hanson said. “What we’re really teaching students is a bit of all three of those. We just happen to be using the smartphone as the artifact that allows us to look at that.”

The current class size is only at a dozen students, but the goal is to surpass that number the next time the course is offered.

“I always enjoy going to (this) class,” said Alex Kokinov, senior actuarial math major and current Be Smarter Than Your Phone student. “We are gaining perspective on innovation that can be applied to much more than the smartphone.”

For more information on Be Smarter Than Your Phone, check out to see the class discussions and what other currently enrolled students are saying about the course.

Contact Alexandra Taylor at [email protected].