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The term M-Learning, or “mobile learning”, has different meanings for different communities. Although related to e-learning and distance education, it is distinct in its focus on learning across contexts and learning with mobile devices. One definition of mobile learning is: Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. In other words mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices.
The term covers: learning with portable technologies including but not limited to handheld computers, MP3 players, notebooks and mobile phones. M-learning focuses on the mobility of the learner, interacting with portable technologies, and learning that reflects a focus on how society and its institutions can accommodate and support an increasingly mobile population. There is also a new direction in MLearning that adds mobility of the instructor and includes creation of learning materials “on-the-spot, “in the field” using predominately smartphone with special software such as AHG Cloud Note. Using mobile tools for creating learning aides and materials becomes an important part of informal learning.
M-learning is convenient in that it is accessible from virtually anywhere. M-Learning, like other forms of E-learning, is also collaborative; sharing is almost instantaneous among everyone using the same content, which leads to the reception of instant feedback and tips. M-Learning also brings strong portability by replacing books and notes with small RAMs, filled with tailored learning contents. In addition, it is simple to utilize mobile learning for a more effective and entertaining experience.
Arguably the first instance of mobile learning goes back as far as 1901 when Linguaphone released a series of language lessons on wax cylinders. This was followed up in later years as technology improved, to cover compact cassette tapes, 8 track tape, and CDs.
1970′s – 1980′s
Alan Kay and his colleagues in the Learning Research Group at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center [PARC] propose the Dynabook as a book-sized computer to run dynamic simulations for learning. Their interim Dynabooks are the first networked workstations.
In May 1991, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) in partnership with Orange Grove Middle School of Tucson, Arizona, use mobile computers connected by wireless networks for the ‘Wireless Coyote’ project. Universities in Europe and Asia develop and evaluate mobile learning for students. Palm corporation offers grants to universities and companies who create and test the use of Mobile Learning on the PalmOS platform. Knowledgility creates the first mobile learning modules for CCNA, A+ and MCSE certification using the core tools that later became LMA.
The European Commission funds the major multi-national MOBIlearn and M-Learning projects.
Companies were formed that specialize in three core areas of mobile learning.
- Authoring and publishing
- Delivery and Tracking
- Content Development
Conferences and trade shows were created to specifically deal with mobile learning and handheld education, including: mLearn, WMUTE, and IADIS Mobile Learning international conference series, ICML in Jordan, Mobile Learning in Malaysia, Handheld Learning in London, SALT Mobile in USA.
Analysis (costs / benefits, forecast)
The value of mobile learning – Tutors commented on the value of mobile learning as follows.
- It is important to bring new technology into the classroom.
- It will be more light weight device compare to books, PCs, etc.
- Mobile learning could be utilised as part of a learning approach which uses different types of activities (or a blended learning approach).
- Mobile learning supports the learning process rather than being integral to it.
- Mobile learning needs to be used appropriately, according to the groups of students involved.
- Mobile learning can be a useful add-on tool for students with special needs. However, for SMS and MMS this might be dependent on the students’ specific disabilities or difficulties involved.
- Good IT support is needed.
- Mobile learning can be used as a ‘hook’ to re-engage disaffected youth.
- It is necessary to have enough devices for classroom use.
Technical challenges include:
- Connectivity and battery life
- Screen size and key size
- Ability for authors to visualize mobile phones for delivery
- Possibilities to meet required bandwidth for nonstop/fast streaming
- Number of file/assets’ formats supported by a specific device
- Content security or copyright issue from authoring group
- Multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, multiple operating systems
- Reworking existing e-Learning materials for mobile platforms
Social and educational challenges include:
- Accessibility and cost barriers for end users: Digital divide
- How to assess learning outside the classroom
- How to support learning across many contexts
- Content’s security (or) pirating issues
- Frequent changes in device models/technologies/functionality etc.
- Developing an appropriate theory of learning for the mobile age
- Conceptual differences between e- and m-learning
- Design of technology to support a lifetime of learning
- Tracking of results and proper use of this information
- No restriction on learning timetable
- Personal and private information and content
- No demographic boundary
- Disruption of students’ personal and academic lives
- Access to and use of the technology in developing countries
Over the past ten years mobile learning has grown from a minor research interest to a set of significant projects in schools, workplaces, museums, cities and rural areas around the world. The mLearning community is still fragmented, with different national perspectives, differences between academia and industry, and between the school, higher education and lifelong learning sectors.
Current areas of growth include:
- Testing, surveys, job aids and just-in-time (J.I.T.) learning
- Location-based and contextual learning
- Social-networked mobile learning
- Mobile educational gaming
- Deliver M-Learning to cellular phones using two way SMS messaging and voice-based CellCasting (podcasting to phones with interactive assessments)
According to a report by Ambient Insight in 2008, “the US market for Mobile Learning products and services is growing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.7% and revenues reached $538 million in 2007. The data indicate that the demand is relatively immune from the recession.” The findings of the report indicate that the largest demand throughout the forecast period is for custom development services, content conversion, and media services and that the healthcare sector accounts for 20% of the total US market for mobile learning.
Technologies currently being researched for mobile learning include:
- Location aware learning
- Point-and-shoot learning with camera phones and 2D codes
- Near Field Communications (NFC) secure transactions
- Sensors and accelerometers in mobile devices in behavioral based learning
- Mobile content creation (including user generated content)
- Games and simulation for learning on mobile devices
- Context-aware ubiquitous learning
- Augmented reality on mobile devices
Smartphones are one of the platforms used for mobile learning.
While many think of mobile learning as delivering eLearning on small form factor devices, or often referred to as eLearning “lite”, it has the potential to do much more than deliver courses, or parts of courses. It includes the use of mobile/handheld devices to perform any of the following:
- Deliver Education/Learning
- Foster Communications/Collaboration
- Conduct Assessments/Evaluations
- Provide Access to Performance Support/Knowledge
- Capture Evidence of Learning Activity
Today, any number of portable devices can quickly and easily deliver and support these functions. Cell or smartphones, multi-game devices, personal media players (PMPs), personal digital assistants (PDAs), or wireless single-purpose devices can help deliver coaching and mentoring, conduct assessments and evaluations (e.g., quizzes; tests; surveys/polls; and certifications), provide on-the-job support and access to information, education and references, and deliver podcasts, update alerts, forms and checklists. In these ways, mobile learning can enhance and support more traditional learning modes, making it more portable and accessible. Mobile devices can also serve as powerful data collection tools and facilitate the capture of user created content.
The use of mobile learning in the military is becoming increasingly common due to low cost and high portability.
In the Classroom:
- Students using handheld computers, PDAs, smartphones or handheld voting systems (such as clickers) in a classroom or lecture room (Tremblay 2010).
- Students using mobile devices(such as a Pocket PC) in the classroom to enhance group collaboration among students and instructors.
For Blended Learning
See also: Blended learning
Mobile learning can provide support that enhances training in a corporate business or other classroom environment.
The mobile phone (through text SMS notices) can be used especially for distance education or with students whose course requires them to be highly mobile and in particular to communicate information regarding availability of assignment results, venue changes and cancellations, etc. It can also be of value to business people e.g. sales representatives who do not wish to waste time away from their busy schedules to attend formal training events.
Podcasting consists of listening to audio recordings of lectures, and can be used to review live lectures (Clark & Westcott (2007) and to provide opportunities for students to rehearse oral presentations. Podcasts may also provide supplemental information to enhance traditional lectures (McGarr 2009) (Steven & Teasley 2009).
Psychological research suggests that university students who download podcast lectures achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person, but only in cases in which students take notes (Callaway & Ewen 2009).
Podcasts maybe be delivered using syndication, although it should be noted that this method of delivery is not always easily adopted.
- Learning in museums or galleries with handheld or wearable technologies
- Learning outdoors, for example on field trips
- Continuous learning and portable tools for military personnel
- On the job training for someone who accesses training on a mobile device “just in time” to solve a problem or gain an update.
Lifelong learning and self-learning
The use of personal technology to support informal or lifelong learning, such as using handheld dictionaries and other devices for language learning.
Mobile technologies and approaches, i.e. Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL), are also used to assist in language learning. For instance handheld computers, cell phones, but also podcasting (Horkoff Kayes2008) have been used for helping people to acquire a language.
- Improving levels of literacy, numeracy and participation in education amongst young adults.
- Using the communication features of a mobile phone as part of a larger learning activity (e.g.: sending media or texts into a central portfolio, or exporting audio files from a learning platform to your phone)
Mobile devices and personal technologies that can support mobile learning, include:
- Handheld audio and multimedia guides, in museums and galleries
- Handheld game console, modern gaming consoles such as Sony PSP or Nintendo DS
- Personal audio player, e.g. for listening to audio recordings of lectures (podcasting)
- Personal Digital Assistant, in the classroom and outdoors
- Tablet PC
- UMPC, mobile phone, camera phone and SmartPhone
Technical and delivery support for mobile learning:
- 3GP For compression and delivery method of audiovisual content associated with Mobile Learning
- GPRS mobile data service, provides high speed connection and data transfer rate
- Wi-Fi gives access to instructors and resources via internet
- Learning Mobile Author, e.g. for authoring and publishing WAP, Java ME and Smartphone
The International Association for Mobile Learning
The International Association for Mobile Learning (IAMLearn) has been formed as a membership organization to promote excellence in research, development and application of mobile and contextual learning. It organizes the annual mLearn international conference series. IAMLearn manages a website to collate and disseminate information about new projects, emerging technologies, and teaching resources.
- International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning
- International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation