Mobile Learning In Higher Education Education Essay

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This essay provides the research done on various colleges and universities on the usage of mobile application in promoting Mobile Learning or mLearning within the premises of the college. It also gives a brief overview of the fundamental learning advantages and some of the challenges that occurred in adoption of the mLearning over the learning done by the use of mLearning than through traditional face to face instruction or paper based learning and the current trend which is being followed. This essay also tells us about what are the various projects or programs or models going all around the world to promote the mLearning and how many have already implemented mLearning.

KEYWORDS

Educational Technology, Higher Education, Mobile Applications, Mobile Learning, & mLearning.

INTRODUCTION

The aim of this essay is to investigate the concept of m-learning and the extent to which it is being implemented in higher education and to educate the students and institutes that how technology can be helpful in learning the programmes or getting the knowledge about the subject of their interest anytime anywhere they are located with the help of devices such as Smart Phones and the applications are being used in those Smart Phones.

Examples of the mobile apps: Apple's iTunesU, BlackBoard Mobile, the Amazon Kindle etc.

Ally (2009) stated that "Mobile learning is done through the use of wireless mobile technology that allows anyone to access information and learning materials from anywhere and at anytime." As a result, learners have control of when they want to learn and from which location they want to learn.

Students and trainers/teachers are empowered to communicate with each other from anywhere at any time to share thoughts or data with each other and at the same time they can access the learning resources from anywhere at any time to plan the lessons which are too delivered to the students.

Bereiter and Scardamalia(1994) said that the users can upload contents such as videos, word file or photos through their smart phones directly, into the discussion threads just by logging into the thread which is ongoing or they can create a new thread at any time they want despite of their location. This will enhance the functions provided by 3rd generation mobile phones and help in making the discussion more interactive.

Lonsdale et al(2004) "Mobile learning is distinguished by rapid and continual changes of context, as the learner moves between locations and encounters localised resources, services, and co-learners. Informal learning covers any learning that takes place beyond the classroom and formal curriculum, including learning for hobbies, curiosity, personal development, community involvement and everyday survival."

What is Mobile Learning or mLearning?

Osman et al. (2010) cited "learning by means of wireless technological devices that can be pocketed and utilized wherever the learner's device is able to receive unbroken transmission signals".

Sharples et al. (2007) argues that "learning supported by mobile devices such as cellular (mobile) phones, portable computers, and personal audio players".

It has been suggested by Brasher and Taylor(2004, p33-37) "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".

Rajasingham (2011) states that "an activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis and has reliable connectivity and fits in a pocket or purse".

With the help of Mobile learning participants are not required to sit in the classroom, just similar to distant learning. Because of increase in Mobile Learning, learning has taken a new route that can occur anywhere and at any point of time. Sharples et al (2007) states that Mobile Learning can occur "wherever people, individually or collectively, have problems to solve or knowledge to share".

Traxler (2007) and some others defined mobile learning as learning that is wireless and is done with the help of digital devices and technologies that are currently in trend, which is generated to help the general public, and it is being used by anyone who is trying to learn something remotely. And some of the others define mobile learning by concentrating only on the mobility of learners and the mobility of learning by the means of mobile devices used by learners such as smart phones.

Osman(2010) cited in his article that "Traxler (2007) writes: "so, mobile learning is not about 'mobile' or about 'learning' as previously understood, but part of a new mobile conception of society"". Mobile Learning is not only to provide learning to learners whenever they are mobile but it should overcome the outdated concepts and the assumptions that were made about learning and how & what it can change in the society(also from the technological point of view).

Osman(2010) notes that some of the definitions and the understandings for mobile education/learning, which put the basic focus on the technologies and hardware, and it doesn't matter that it can be a handheld device such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile device such as Smartphones or Tablets. He also states that "These definitions undermine a proper understanding of the uses of mobile technology in learning by confining their explanations and descriptions to the actual physical way in which the technology operates." According to him some of the definitions puts "more focus on what learners experience when they use mobile technologies in education, while others inquire how mobile learning can be used to make a unique contribution to the advancement of education and other forms of e-learning."

Ally (2009) writes in his book of Mobile Learning the major benefit of using wireless mobile technology in his book which is to reach people who live in remote locations where there are no schools, teachers, or libraries. With the help of Mobile technology that can be used by anyone despite of their geographical location which will in turn benefit communities in such places as a result students and workers will stay with their families and are not suppose to move for jobs or to go to a different location to learn or to access information. He also said that "At the same time, business owners, agriculture workers, and other working sectors can access information to increase productivity and improve the quality of their products by learning about agriculture and there aspects remotely using mobile devices. Finally, because remote access using wireless mobile technology reduces the need for travel, its use can reduce humanity's carbon footprint on earth to help maintain a cleaner environment".

ECAR (2012) reported that "students value anytime, anywhere access to the Internet. In the most recent ECAR study of students and IT, 78% of students considered Wi-Fi extremely valuable to their academic success. While a wireless telecommunications network is obviously preferable because it allows interaction, updates, hyperlinks, and more, it is still not ubiquitous. The ECAR research report Mobile IT in Higher Education, 2011 found that 76% of institutions report good or very good mobile communication signal coverage in the area of our institution. This is a positive trend for on-campus mobile learning; however, off-campus access to networks is important as well."

Application Store for Mobile Learning in the Market

According to a survey done by ECAR in 2011 it states that "App Brain & BlackBoard website where Stand-alone mobile learning applications are proliferating at an astonishing rate: As of September 2011, the iTunes App store offered 46,340 apps in the education category, accounting for 9.35% of all apps available; as of October 2011, the total number of education apps for the Android platform (available from the Android Market) was 12,129. Established e-learning systems have evolved to offer mobile components, fostering anytime, anywhere access to coursework. Blackboard Mobile is a mobile interface for the Blackboard learning management system that runs on iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and WebOS mobile devices."

Description about the use of BlackBoard App in Higher Education

Most effective use of this use is to provide the users or learners with the benefit of accessing the information anytime irrespective of their geographical location and enhance the ways to enrich teaching &learning. As a result it gives the students the benefits to stay connected to teachers & the discussion forum and updated to the information regarding their studies. Everyone will have everything they need right on the mobile devices they wanted just a click away or a touch away from their variety of mobile devices including Android"', BlackBerry and IPhone OS. With this application students and teachers can access and upload and download the multiple format document or information. This application also provide user to create thread or discussion forum to share their thoughts on a particular topic or they can seek help online by posting their problem in the discussion thread and get a reply as soon as possible from the ones who are in present in the thread.

Benefits of using a BlackBoard application on a mobile device at just £1.99 a year or £5.99 for life:

Drop Box Integration: it helps to stay updated on the android devices or iOS with the content on the phone and their drop box account so they can upload as well post that information on to the discussion thread.

Mobile Tests: students can take online test which are available on the blackboard and can submit the test as well at the same time.

Push Notification: students can receive notifications for new announcements, new graded items, a test being posted, and many other course activities

Announcements: this place is where instructors will post the news that students need to know. Students can access them instantly anywhere, anytime.

Grades: here students can have the access of their marks of their midterms or homework assignments.

Discussion: is a communication tool which helps to post a topic and all the participants can post their comments in that discussion forum.

Content: can have the access of all the information related to student's course they opted for.

Roster: this feature provides the access to the roster of the class i.e. class list and can create a group to study.

Three basic concepts of Mobile Learning

Osman(2010) showed Figure 1 in which he tried to cite the three basic concepts of Mobile Learning.

Mobility of Technology: means with advancement of technology nowadays the processors of mobile phones are very fast as compared to the earlier smart phones. At present day we can say that there is a tsunami coming in respect of the technology as new mobile phones are being launched in every two or three week of time. Wi-Fi networks are moving the capability as of a home broadband with 3G and now 4G in market:

Wikipedia states 4G networks promise up to 1 GB per second transfer speed for walking or stationary pedestrian usage.

Wikipedia says that 4G wireless began rollouts in the United States in late 2010, and by 2015 the United States will have the largest 4G coverage in the world.

The processing of mobile devices is increasing along with that of the networks:

Phone CPUs, the chips that power mobile computing; have recently reached the 1 GHz speed, comparable to netbooks.

Almost every smart phone has sensors for landscape & portrait depending upon the comfort of the user for example Nokia N8, iPhone's etc.

Mobility of Learning/Learner: with the help of this it doesn't depend where the user or learner is located he or she can get the access of the information whenever they want to and from wherever they are located geographically, for example: Distant Learning.

The m-learning projects WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION SECTOR

Through out the world many projects and programs are going on in development of the mLearning applications and to promote mLearning within the educational institutes among the students and educators or trainers and help them to communicate remotely to share views and data.

Projects going on within US

Almost all the colleges and universities are taking Mobile Learning into the account to help learners to get the benefits of Mobile Learning and according to the ECAR research report done on mobile IT, "53% of colleges and universities had mobile-enabled at least one service, application, or website in the previous year. Similarly, a 2011 U.S. survey by the Campus Computing Project showed that 55.3% of public universities, 43.6% of public colleges, and 40.9% of community colleges have activated mobile apps as of fall 2011".

Projects going on within UK

ECAR (2012) states in their research bulletin that "Outside the United States, mobile learning is growing by leaps and bounds. The U.K. MoLeNET program, "possibly the world's largest and most diverse implementation of mobile learning," fueled by more than $25 million in funding by government and academia, involves upwards of 40,000 learners in 104 different projects involving 147 colleges and 37 schools."

ECAR (2012) states in their research bulletin that "mobile learning project called MyArtSpace provided children on school trips to museums and galleries with mobile phones running apps linking multimedia content with the exhibits they were attending. The students could take photos, record themselves speaking, and enter notes, which the app then relayed to a website that students could share upon returning to their classrooms."

Challenges in adopting mobile learning

A major challenge for educators and trainers is how to develop learning materials for delivery on mobile devices. The learning materials should be in manageable learning chunks and should make use of multimedia. One approach is to develop the learning materials in the form of learning objects and then link them to form a "learning segment." There are many advantages of using learning objects in mobile delivery including: they can be re-used and changed without affecting other learning objects, and they can be stored in an electronic repository for remote access at any time.

YouTube (2012) states some of the challenges in a video for adopting Mobile Learning and they are as follow:

Flash player which is in every smart phone but adobe said that they will not give it for every mobile device.

How many devices users should have with them to access the mobile learning?

To upload the data or information onto the mobile devices as the data are of heavy size so they are more and are not as good as for a Tablet(iPad's, PDA's) more than a Smartphone.

INCREASE IN production of Smart phones and iPad's then laptops or desktops

Figure 2: Source IDC, Gartner, Morgan Stanley Research

The above figure tells the increase in the production as well as the sale of the smart phones and tablets gradually since the year 1995-2010 as compared to that of a notebook or a desktop.

CONCLUSION

This paper gives a brief overview of some of the challenges and benefits of mLearning within the educational society to improve the outcome for learners and teachers as well. Mobile applications are growing day by day in market to help and support the learners and the teachers which in turn affects the way to communicate and share the information regarding learning perspectives.

With the development of the technology the mobile technology is also increasing and it has advanced in such a way that mobile have the same chip size of the normal computer so we can use the same device to produce same outcome but it is more portable now and smaller in size. There are various applications like Blackboard Mobile in the market using which we can study on the portable devices such as smart phones, tablets, iPod's etc which are smaller in size and they do the same work as a laptop or desktop wherever and whenever it is required to submit or download a document and can meet the deadlines on time.

The use of mobile learning is new in education, it is important for learners and teachers to share what works and what does not work in mobile. This is critical because mobile devices are changing constantly with increasing capabilities and there is not enough time for everyone to conduct research and complete projects to learn about the best practices in mobile learning. This book is one attempt to give educators and trainers the opportunity to learn from the research and mobile learning projects so that they can build from where others have left off rather than start from the beginning.

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