20 May 2013
20 May 2013,

From a learner perspective being online can be a barrier. For the learner it is better to have rich, engaging resources at their fingertips, that can connect when needed, while allowing freedom to study without distraction or allow study in remote places. This is true mobile learning.

Mobile learning, as discussed by current experts, is implicitly an online activity. Yet for a learner the time spent offline may be the most constructive and rewarding.

There is a simple solution that revolves around re-interpreting the definition of mobile learning, and the placing learners’ needs at the heart of teaching and learning.

In its broadest sense mobile learning is not about being online, it is about providing the resources for learning where the learner needs them. Paper resources are highly mobile under this definition, but may not deliver an ideal learner experience.

A learner-centred definition of mobile learning would therefore be: providing the right information and connectivity, through the right media, at a time and place that the learner can fit into their lifestyle. In the past we have used printed resources, but now we can offer video, audio, interactivity, as well as print. And we can do this without complete reliance on an Internet connection.

Kathryn MacCallum

Kathryn MacCallum

New Zealand is at the beginning of the adoption curve when it comes to mobile learning, says Kathryn MacCallum, when discussing her recent research into the differences in attitudes between lecturers and students to the use of mobile devices in tertiary education.

Kathryn has found that although there is an equipment set-up cost for students it is largely the lecturer who does not have systems and practices in place. Even so, Kathryn expects huge growth in the uptake of mobile learning in coming years.

In a tertiary setting, in order to offer quality and consistency, processes for mobile learning need to be informed by research, agreed, tested and then implemented.  This makes the system of implementation slower than the rate of technology change.

However, educators have the tools to construct resources that are rich, interactive, and semi-independent of the Internet, and in many cases they can simply replace or mirror the online resources. The real barrier is the academics’ view that mobile learning is an online activity.

The time will never be right to change to new systems if the implementation is system-wide. The process is to slow. But we can use technology to enhance the experience for learners: yoke technology to existing pedagogy and practice.

If we want to make change, and to be truly learner centred, then we must revise the definition of mobile learning to ‘providing the right information and connectivity, through the right media, at a time and place that the learner can fit into their lifestyle’.