Mobile Learning: its advantages, challenges and prospects

TOPIC: CONCEPT OF MOBILE LEARNING

INTRODUCTION

From the earliest times the process of learning have always involved a direct contact between teachers and students. This traditional method of learning is faced with the challenge of a fast  developing and globalized society1, educationists and experts from around the world have over the years been in search of the perfect learning method that would make education available to a lot more people in these global village. The 21st century educationists in a bid to make education available for everyone is looking towards technology because some of the recent inventions in the field of technology can potentially make education available to a larger group of persons at little or no cost, This paper discuss the role, importance, challenges and practical applications of mobile learning in the educational system.

OBJECTIVES

At the end of this presentation, you should be able to;

  1. Explain mobile learning
  2. List and explain content delivery methods in mobile learning
  3. Identify the types of device used in mobile learning
  4. State the advantages and disadvantages of mobile learning
  5. Recommend solutions to the various challenges affecting the deployment and implementation of mobile learning in Third world countries.

CONCEPT OF MOBILE LEARNING

Mobile learning, also known as M-Learning, is an educational system which involves the use of mobile device to gain access to study materials, curriculums and visual or audio learning aids. Mobile leaning can broadly be defined as the exploitation of 21st century easy handheld electronic technologies to facilitate, enhance and support teaching and learning2 (Nsofor. C. C & Bello Ahmed , 2015).

Mobile learning can also be said to be the act of learning across different environment through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices. Mobile learning is a form of distant learning method which allows users to use mobile device to access educational resources at their time and convenience3.

Research conducted on the use of mobile technology in education has shown great promise for a future that would be dominated by an educational system that cannot be caged within the walls of a class room or a lecture theatre4. Positive outcomes and positive learner experience have been reported from most of the studies carried out on the use of mobile learning in education. Wu et al. (2012) conducted a meta-analysis of 164 mobile learning studies and found that 142(87%) of the studies reported positive outcomes from mobile learning5.  The University Of Athabasca, Canada conducted a research on the use of mobile learning in language training (Ally et al. 2008). The results indicated that learners like the flexibility that the use of mobile learning provides and the independence and control that comes with the use of mobile learning6.

Mobile learning provides cheap and equal access to knowledge irrespective of age, race or class in society. That is one reason why governments of third world countries who are faced with the challenge of delivering quality education to their citizens are fast keying into the idea of mobile technology because it is an affordable solution to the challenge of delivering quality education to every corner of the planet without having to build the usual expensive physical structure7. With mobile learning distant learning is now a reality in our present educational system.

Mobile learning presents an opportunity to address the problems in our educational systems such as delimitating the learning environment to the classroom with mobile technology learning could be done from anywhere so long as one has the necessary instruments for mobile learning. Mobile technological device when placed in the hands of our students will become a vital tool for innovation and research.

Several new innovations have made mobile learning more effective and accessible such innovations as 3G/4G internet connection, Cloud storage, Video Streaming, video calls, internet radio etc, have made the delivery of mobile learning materials faster and easily accessible from any part of the world. From the comfort of the bedroom one can easily gain access to thousands of books, journals and articles available in online libraries across the world.

Technology driven learning could increase the interest of kids in learning. Educators need to figure out how to use mobile devices for instructional purposes and use them to improve the interest of students in learning, according to a research carried out by Project Tomorrow Speak-up Surveys, students love mobile technology and already use it every day in their personal lives8. Mobile learning allows students to access their study curriculum from home, connect with their teachers, and share ideas with their counterpart from other parts of the world. The primary benefit of mobile technology is that they allow a student to connect, communicate, collaborate and contribute using the cutting edge technology that is available in mobile device.

Mobile learning can either be through web-blog, forums, video streaming and podcast amongst others. A teacher can pre-record him/herself and post it online for students to download and listen to at their convenience.

Mobile learning has greatly minimized the need for physical contact between teachers and student. Large multinationals are now keying into mobile learning to train their globally dispersed work force. Webinars and video sessions are now widely used by organizations where the majority of their employees are in different countries. These have greatly reduced the cost and hassle of moving hundreds of workers yearly to attend trainings, workshops and conferences at different locations9.

CONTENT DELIVERY METHOD IN MOBILE LEARNING

Mobile learning is made possible by the technology behind mobile devices like smart phones, laptops, tablets, Personal Digital Assistants and other mobile device. Now there are methods, protocols and platforms through which these devices deliver contents to their users and some of them are listed below.

  1. Website: websites are web pages that are linked together with hyperlinks, they can also include multimedia content, a website is identifiable by a single domain name and they are usually published on one or more servers. websites are traditionally made for use on desktop browsers but with the creation of mobile phones that can access the internet, web developers and software developers have come up with browsers that are both accessible on mobile and desktop browsers these websites are known as mobile optimized websites.

Types of websites include blogs, forums, search engines, wikis and social networks.

  • Mobile optimized websites: websites optimized for use on mobile devices are websites that was designed to be compatible with mobile device. Courses and school curriculum can be accessed and downloaded directly from these websites using a default mobile browser.
  1. Info graphics: info graphic means visual representation of information or data on a chart or diagrams. Huge information or data can be delivered on few charts or diagrams which can enhance or facilitate teaching and learning in our education system. These charts can be downloaded as image files or pdf documents into a mobile device for future use.
  2. Videos: one of the major content delivery methods in mobile learning is through videos which can be downloaded into the mobile device or streamed live online. The advantages of video lectures are:
  • Easy to access at anytime; with video lectures students can learn anywhere from their mobile devices tablets and smart phones.
  • Students can learn when they are primed to learn.
  • Student can pause, rewind and re-watch the lecture because of the play back function of mobile video players, a student will be able to freeze the video, unfreeze it, rewind and bookmark a part of it to be watched later.
  • Students can follow along with the lecture at their own pace, going more slowly or quickly.
  • Greater accuracy the use of videos for learning will give the student a better understanding and they can always go back and make sure they have not misheard anything.
  1. Quizzes: One of the content delivery methods in mobile learning is quizzes also known as gamification. This comes in form of games where the students would play the game which was developed and loaded with content related to the topic which requires the student to play on his device which he would later be tested and chose from the option given to him
  2. Podcast: Podcast is one of the more frequently used delivery methods. Podcast is just like an online radio station which has the features of saving already broadcasted content. Students can either listen to it live or later play it. When the teacher has presented the content and split it into topics or sub-topics, the students can now choose from the available options.
  3. e-Books: e-books are the electronic versions of conventional books made available for viewing in computers and mobile devices. Presently there are thousands of e-books on different subjects available on the internet. Some of them are free while others are available in online book stores like Amazon and Kindle. Reading an e-book on a mobile device would require the installation of an e-book reader such as Adobe reader, Aldiko reader and the mobile version of the Microsoft word software. e-book readers are available for download on various mobile application stores online.
  4. Audio books: audio books are the recorded versions of books, journals or articles. Audio books are very useful in the education of students with visual disabilities. Audio books can be stored in a mobile device and played back.

MOBILE LEARNING DEVICES

Mobile phone technology have greatly improved over the years, presently there are varieties of functions available on a mobile device compared to the device of the past. Mobile devices  now pack cutting edge next generation technologies such as Bluetooth, wifi, 3G/4G internet connectivity, large storage capacity, high quality cameras and touch screen LED display. The addition of this technology into mobile devices has made them the perfect platform for mobile learning. Some of these devices are:

 

Smart phones

Smart phones are mobile phones that have certain features that are usually only found in desktop computers. These features are; operating systems, large processors, internet access, Wi-Fi connectivity, touch screen, hotspot, Bluetooth, camera, speaker among other features.

some of the common smart phones used in mobile learning are;

  1. Apple smart phones such as iphone5, iphone6, iphone7 among other series. These smart phones are manufactured by the Apple Corporation in California. The Apple smart phones fields an apple iPhone operating system popularly known as IOS which has sophisticated features that can perform task almost as flawlessly as a desktop computer.

 

  1. Android smart phones: There are many different manufacturers of android smart phones. The examples are Tecno, Infinix, Gionee, Samsung, Lenovo, Motorola, among others. The Android Smart phones have very fast processors, They also have the Android Operating System ( AOS) with processor of up to 1.6GHz and storage capacity up to 32G depending on which product and preference one choose to obtain. Some of them have fingerprints e.g Infinix Note 3, Gionee M6 among others. these cutting edge features  gives them the capability to  perform complex task  like the standard desktop computer.

 

  1. Window Smart phones: these are smart phones that are manufactured by Nokia in partnership with the Microsoft Corporation which fields a mobile version of the windows operating system.

 

Tablets

A tablet is a kind of compact device that in diverse ways functions as a mobile computer. Tablets are gradually growing in popularity due to their ease of use, portability, and functionalities. Tablets can be used to surf the Internet, check email, download and read eBooks, play games, watch video, organize contents, and much more.  Most tablets have a touch screen interface and are of different sizes but they are usually bigger in size than the average smart phone. The device comes with a built-in keyboard

 

ADVANTAGES OF MOBILE LEARNING

Because of the rapid growth of technology. Mobile learning is having a great impact on our education system ranging from its usefulness in school administration to the teaching and learning process Mobile learning have is making knowledge available at anytime and anywhere. Some of the advantages of mobile learning are:

  1. Flexibility and convenience: mobile learning offers flexibility and convenience to the learners due to the fact there is no fixed school environment or time for learning, with mobile learning, learning can take place anytime and anywhere. The idea that learning can only take place within a class room is gradually becoming obsolete.
  2. Education aid: with smart phones, students can easily search for additional information or content in the internet through search engines to compliment what the teacher has given them in the classroom.
  3. Time saving: mobile learning provides the opportunity for students to learn on the go, thus giving students the chance to spend more hours studying. Using mobile technology students can download videos of lectures, audio books, and e-books and then spend time to go through them at their own convenience.
  4. Access a wide range of information: with mobile device, students have access to read review and criticize articles posted by past students, researchers and even instructors. The main advantage that mobile learning brings to students is access to a very wide and diverse range of information. Students can at any time access information about a particular topic and even contribute to the body of knowledge on that topic by making their work available online for future researchers.
  5. Collaborative: with mobile learning, students can learn and collaborate with their counterparts from all over the world and share ideas and suggestions on a particular subject of concern.
  6. Relevance: Due to the creation of search engines and the availability of a wide range of resource on different subject on the internet, getting specific materials for a particular research topic have never been easier. One can just open a browser and search for materials on a particular topic and get access to hundreds of materials available online for that topic.
  7. Special education to the physically challenged student: mobile learning can also be of benefits to those students who are in need of special attention giving them equal chances with those students who are physically normal. They can sit at the comfort of their home and receive the education they desire through the mobile device audio books can also be very useful in the education of the visually impaired.
  8. Consider different learning style: we all know that students learn differently and at different rate in our classrooms, some students tend to learn faster than their fellow students. While some learn better through reading books, watching videos, listening to audios and searching through the internet. Mobile learning offers almost all of these options to cater for the needs of different types of learners in the traditional classroom.
  9. Good use of dead time: Mobile learning gives presents an opportunity for the productive use of “free time”, with mobile learning one can easily learn a new language, start a post graduate degree program or learn a computer programming language even if the only free time you have in a day is during your lunch break at your place of work. Because mobile learning can be done at anytime or anywhere people can now put their free time to productive use learning something new.
  10. Cost saving: the traditional learning method is expensive because of the conditions that have to be met for learning to take place, some of the conditions are: face to face contact between the trainer and trainee. Now this would be a very expensive project to undertake in a situation whereby you have your trainees distributed all over the world, they may have to travel down and congregate at a specific location for training to take place, which would lead to the loss of money to transportation, but this does not have to be the case; with mobile learning a single teacher can reach out to students from different parts of the world, without having to be in a class room with all of them at the same time. This could be made possible through a live video broadcast that is accessible on mobile or through a live audio broadcast, popularly known as a podcast.

DISADVANTAGES OF MOBILE LEARNING

Mobile learning presents us with an opportunity to move beyond the traditional class room method and take learning with us everywhere we go. But despite its advantages mobile learning has its own disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages of mobile learning are;

  1. Financial cost: for you to participate in mobile learning, you must have a mobile device to fully access or take advantage of this trend in technology. There are a lot of mobile device out there but if you intend to use your mobile device for e-Learning then you will have to purchase a mobile device that supports the various content delivery methods of mobile learning and such device can sometimes be very expensive, Added to that is the cost of internet subscriptions and other telecommunication charges.
  2. Internet connection: Some aspects of mobile learning may require an internet connection to connect you to contents and materials that are available online. Now some areas are not yet connected to the internet especially in the developing countries11. People in these areas cannot take advantage of the vast amount of resources available online because they do not have access to the internet.
  3. Battery capacity: One of the major problems with mobile device is the usually short battery life of most of this device, most mobile device will drain out quickly when placed on 3G or 4G internet connectivity and sometimes mobile learning may require long hours of internet connection on these networks.
  4. Storage: most of these mobile devices have limited storage capacity which may not be able to accommodate the large size of video files, documents, audios and pdf files which the learner may intend to save on their mobile device for later use.
  5. Usability: the visual display, the control methods and the graphical user interface of some mobile device especially the touch screen device are a bit complex and it would take some time for a new user to get around it.
  6. Electric power supply: to power and charge a mobile device, electrical power is needed. A lot of cities in the developing world do not have access to electricity and because of this, people from these areas may not be able to use their mobile device and consequentially people from these areas may not enjoy the benefits of mobile learning12.

SUMMARY

Before the dawn of mobile technology, the teaching and learning process was possible only through the traditional method. But the 21st century came with its advancements in technology which has impacted on our educational system through mobile learning or m-learning, making distant learning a realized possibility.

Mobile learning is delivered via so many content delivery methods, some of them are: websites, online videos, video calls, e-Books, podcast and info graphics. These are some of the common means of content delivery methods for mobile learning. Mobile learning offers a wide range of services in the educational system, it is; flexible, convenient and time saving, resourceful, open sourced and it is available for physically challenged persons. Mobile learning however, has its limitations and these limitations are: it is too expensive, it needs internet connection which is not widely available in the underdeveloped world, The unavailability of electric power in some third world countries has made it almost impossible to use mobile devices in these countries. Governments and International Organizations should look towards providing clean and reusable energy in areas that do not have access to electricity; efforts should be made to connect rural areas to the internet so people from these areas can also benefit from the concept of mobile learning.

References

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Barnes, D.,& Van Der Plas,R.( 2012) Tackling the rural energy problem in developing countries.  (pp. 1-3)Washington: World Bank

 Crompton, H. (2013). “A historical  overview  of  mobile  learning: Toward learner-centered  education“. In Z. L. Berge & L. Y. Muilenburg (Eds.), Handbook of mobile learning (pp. 3–14). Florence, KY: Routledge.

El-Hussein, M.O.M., & Cronje (2010) Defining Mobile Learning in The Higher Education

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Motlik,S.(2008)Mobile learning in developing nations. International Review of Research in    Open and Distance Learning, 9(2), 2-4. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewFile/564/1071

Ngini, C., Furnell, S., & Ghita, B. (2002). Assessing the global accessibility of the Internet. Internet Research 12(4), 329-338.

Nsofor .C. C. and Bello Ahmed (2015): Emerging Trends in Educational Technology. Emmi

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Project Tomorrow Speak Up Survey, “From Chalkboard to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner”, June, 2013

Stewart, V.(2015).World class education: Globalization and Education. Retrieved from       http://www.ascd.org

TowardsMaturity(2014).Mobile learning in the workplace:Practical perspectives on implementing mobile learning, 8-9.  Retrieved January 24, 2018 from http://mybenchmark.towardsmaturity.org/library/1410/0000/0000/In_Focus_2014_Report_Mobile_Learning_in_the_Workplace_Aug_2014.pdf.

Wu, W., Wu, Y.J., Chen, C., Kao, H., Lin, C., & Huang, S. (2012).Review of trends from mobile learning studies: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 59(2), 817-827. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.03.016.

 

 

 

 

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