Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning
The workshop series was funded by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) as part of the Emerge Community within JISC’s own Users and Innovation research programme. This exploration focused on identifying emerging issues for the sector arising from the increasingly likely large scale use of Smartphones, PDAs and camera phones by learners in HE and FE, both on campus and in the workplace. This was carried out through scenario generation using three different futures prediction tools in three workshops.
The following issues were identified as being the most likely to appear in the future of mobile learning five years from now: the increasing use of ‘just in time’ and ‘as and when necessary’ training. the need for always on affordable connectivity and power. increased support for an approach to teaching and learning that is more collaborative than didactic. concerns over scalability; learning communities are divided over whether there is a role for mobile devices in formal teaching, especially in large groups and lectures. oncerns over the merging of personal and vocational information and practice.
The strong match between affordances of mobile devices and learning opportunities in work based and experiential learning across the board. increased peer to peer networking and collaboration. the need for design specifications for a secure online all-purpose data repository accessible by different browsers according to device at hand. Other emerging issues for mobile learning in HE and FE include both ethical and practical implications.
These include cultural barriers and resistance to change amongst lecturers and associated teaching professionals. Examples are: fears for the erosion of lecturers’ personal time; concerns over security related to the increasing amount of information and number of images to be stored and privacy issues related to the ease with information can be captured in a range of locations. There is also the opportunity to reconsider assessment practices, recording the process of developing an assignment rather than simply marking the product.
One last issue, one that is in need of urgent attention, is the need for the development by students and staff of agreed practice, establishing how mobile devices are to be used responsibly in institutions before inconsiderate use or ignorance of their potential to enhance learning results in banning a valuable learning tool. Acknowledgements The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by members of the Adding a Mobile Dimension to Teaching and Learning network who played a major part both in the scenario development activities at the workshops on which this paper is based and to the review of the scenarios generated.
We are also grateful for the financial support from JISC via the Emerge community for this project. 1 Introduction This report details the scenarios developed in a series of discussion workshops exploring visions of how mobile technologies and devices will influence the practice of users in Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) in the future five years hence. The workshop series was funded by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) as part of the Emerge Community within JISC’s own Users and Innovation research programme.
This current exploration focuses on identifying emerging issues for the sector arising with the increasingly likely large scale use of Smartphones and mobile phones with the capability to record both video and audio by learners both on campus and in the workplace in HE and FE. These devices have become well established throughout the student community, a survey of 177 students at the University of Southampton found that 94% were regular users and owners of mobile phones (Davidson and Lutman 2007).
This dovetails with data from Ofcom (2008) which shows that mobile phone ownership in the 15-24 age group of the UK population is stabilising at around 95% and students to come will be even more experienced in their use. For example, older students in schools that ostensibly ban mobile phones are now regularly being allowed to use the cameras on their ‘phones to record special events or experiments in lessons to help them revise. What is mobile learning? The field of mobile learning has been developing fast as a research topic over the past eight years and accordingly ideas of what exactly mobile learning is have also developed.
Winters (2006) noted how various groups researching mobile learning have used definitions that fall into four categories: one – mobile learning as technocentric, where learning is seen as something that makes use of mobile devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones; two – defined by its relationship to e-learning, where mobile learning is seen as an extension of elearning; three – as augmenting formal education and four – as learner centred, enabling the possibility of lifelong learning.
These does not address the unique selling point of mobile learning which is closely linked to the capability of the mobile learner moving between traditionally separate contexts such as the work place and the teaching base supported by handheld technology that they can work with interactively to capture, access and store quantities of information in different multimedia formats. Thus mobile learning can be best described as “the processes (both personal and public) of coming to know through exploration and conversation across multiple contexts amongst people and interactive technologies” (Sharples, Arnedillo Sanchez, Milrad & Vavoula 2007).
Mobile learning in post-compulsory education in the UK A presentation from Traxler & Sugden (2007) places the current state of mobile learning in the UK as consisting of considerable numbers of small scale trials and pilots taking place over fixed periods of time. Confirmation that the practice of using mobile technology to support learning in post-compulsory education is not yet embedded in current practice within institutions was demonstrated during the search for previous research for this paper, where no ongoing large scale uses were found.
From currently available sources there is little or no indication as to the extent to which mobile devices are being used in Higher and Further Education. Findings from interviews conducted by Bird and Stubbs (2008) with mobile learning innovators in ten Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were surprisingly consistent with most respondents reporting that they experienced or expect to experience the same kind of issues. These were mostly in the form of barriers to establishing and sustaining an m-learning innovation in a university 2 environment.
Issues which dominated were: skills gaps (in IT support and especially academic staff and somewhat unexpectedly students who despite being heavy users ), lack of technical support (IT services provision), procurement and accounting policies based around PC usage, inclusion issues due to cost of devices and/or data, ethical and legal issues, quality assurance especially with respect to data ownership, sustainability (all projects were based on external funding), device limitations, standards churn, privacy and security, and lack of a ‘killer application’ for the context.
Interviews with users trialling PDAs at the Open University (Pettit and Kukulska-Hulme, 2008) indicated that the wireless infrastructure was widely regarded as a critical factor in influencing adoption of the device. Most papers reviewed for the current investigation referred to theoretical speculation about future potential, others discussed projects outside of the UK in Europe or East Asia, however, in the remaining 20%, an impressive range of pilots with different handheld devices was described.
These indicate that there is considerable potential for engaging and supporting learners via mobile technologies. These pilots point to greater use of context relevant information especially images and video in learning and to greater collaboration enabled by easily portable, handheld devices connected to the internet via wi-fi or broadband. The following examples indicate the range of activities tested and are included by sector. Higher education Lecturers have evaluated a range of devices from multi-function PDAs and Smartphones to simple texti messaging (SMS).
In one of the first examples of the use of PDA’s in an undergraduate setting Ramsden (2005) successfully tested giving undergraduate Economics students at the University of Bristol access to VLE’s and course materials via internet-enabled PDAs. As well as enabling access to course resources any time, anywhere, having the PDA allowed the students to hold question and answer sessions via the online discussion board during lectures which they found this particularly helpful.
The University of Birmingham has evaluated the use of PocketPC handheld computers to offer multiple mobile applications to university students in the form of a ‘mobile learning organiser’. The main uses were for issues of time and course management and access to course materials. Other functions included the ability to communicate via email and instant messaging and to organise notes. The participating students made good use of the calendar and timetable facilities as well as communication tools and were keen for more content to be delivered in this manner. (Corlett et al, 2005) At London
Metropolitan University the Reusable Learning Objects (RLO) Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) works on the design, development and use of learning objects many of which run on mobile phones. Smith et al (2007) discuss the motivation they have seen in students (sports science in this case) to learn via subject specific learning objects (programs) such as Flash animations of muscle groupings and movements that run on their own or loaned mobile phones. Other animated tutorials, language learning for example, include multiple choice quizzes (Tschirhart et al, 2008).
In another study Cook, Pachler and Bradley (2008) found that loaning postgraduate students Nokia N91 phones to make notes and take images for upload to web based media board such as Lifeblog and tribal’s Mediaboard led to blurring the boundaries between study, work, and personal time and between formal and informal practice. In the Spatial Literacy in Teaching (SPLINT) CETL at the Universities of Nottingham and Leicester applications aimed at Geography students are being developed for PDAs and tablet PCs where the PDA screen is held up towards the real scene to offer additional information about that scene, ‘augmenting’ reality for the user (Priestnall and Polmear, 2007). For example, trials of a PDA application designed to teach the geomorphology of the Lake District, NW England showed that students the students learned to appreciate the power of geocontextualised visualisation to support their understanding of landscape processes (Jarvis et al, 2008).
The University of Nottingham has used mobile phones and similar software to enable group blogging as a tool to support Chinese students in the process of enculturation as they get used to a new society and to enter the local community. The “learners showed a obvious interest in flexibility of time and space that potentially extends ‘antennas’ of the group blog to deeper insight of local culture. ” (Shao, Crook & Koleva, 2007). Other examples used simpler devices and text messaging.
The Mobiles Enhancing Learning and Support (MELaS) project saw the University of Wolverhampton test using text messaging with first year undergraduates in five departments aiming to enhance the student learning experience. In all 27 staff successfully interacted with 938 different students through at least one of: one way (staff to learner) communication, formative assessment with feedback, and a collaborative learning discursive tool (Brett, 2008).
In another study sports education students at the University of Bath reported that SMS messages to their mobile phones from faculty were found welcome in assisting them to learn time management skills and as an extension of the tutor’s voice beyond the traditional lecture environment. This helped to reduce the perceived psychological distance between students, their peers and tutors (Jones, Edwards & Reid, 2008). SMS messaging has been trialled in lecture theatres too.
Elliman (2006) reports successfully using a system that allowed students to provide feedback by SMS on their level of comprehension during a lecture. The system displays a histogram showing understanding level which is continually updated during the lecture together with comments and question in a scrolling area of the screen. At Brunel University, first year undergraduate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) students found that revision podcasts, downloaded to their personal digital media players were popular and perceived as more effective than revising from traditional textbooks (Evans 2008).
In a review of podcasting to support distance learning in the Open University, UK Minocha and Booth (2008) conclude that audio technologies such as podcasts can not only support mobile learning but also entice, motivate, inform and reinforce. Further Education Mobile technology has been used in a number of colleges as a means to bring new learning opportunities to students who might otherwise not have access to college education. Many of these projects have been funded by the Learning and Skills Council under the MoleNET initiative or by the JISC e-Learning Programme.
At Pembrokeshire College, an mlearning trial project was carried out from 2005-7 to support NEET students (NEET – not in education, employment or training) with reentry to education, training or work. Giving students access to PDA’s helped to engage them and improve communication with a difficult to reach group. The use of SMS messaging enabled the teachers to keep in touch with this very transient group of learners and helped identify opportunities for learning as when they occurred. (Pembrokeshire College 2007).
Similar projects working with NEET learners have also been carried out at Accrington and Rossendale College, Tower Hamlets College and Weston College (MoLeNET 2008). 4 Having the capability to learn anywhere by means of handheld PDAs allowed Dewsbury College and Bishop Burton College, West Yorkshire to provide learners in outreach centres and workplace learning environments with similar access to learning resources as their peers on the main college campus (JISC 2005a). Mobile phones have also been found useful to help in location based learning.
The City of Southampton College has been assisting ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) students to improve their opportunities for meaningful language interactions. Visiting locations within the city to help get to know their locality, students were asked location specific questions answered through SMS messaging and posting images to an interactive website. The project found that such techniques enhanced the students’ literacy and numeracy skills and helped to engage hard to reach learners such as those from the multiethnic Southampton community where many students have English as a second language (JISC 2005b).
As in Higher Education bulk text messaging services to support managing learning have proved popular with most students. There are those for whom this sort of service is particularly useful. Derwen College (JISC, 2008a) found that their students who have varying degrees of physical disabilities and learning difficulties responded well to reminders to students for things like surgery and other appointments, dinner times and class notifications.
Simple text based interaction was also used at Lakes College West Cumbria (JISC, 2008b) who piloted the use of iPod nanos to provide multiple choice revision quizzes for Construction students, many of whom have learning difficulties and struggle with paper-based revision processes. The iPod quizzes proved popular with every student in the cohort making use of the iPods during the revision period. The use of handheld devices to record or view multimedia to support learning is also proving popular.
At Southwark College students are using low-priced, pocket-sized camcorders to overcome some of the technical and organisational barriers to using video in the classroom and for recording evidence of learning (JISC, 2008c). Examples included recording students’ oral presentations in English which were then used by the students for practice and reviewing with each other and Level 2 students in Art and Design recording technique demos and talking about their work to inform Level 1 students hoping to progress.
Other projects, such as My Podcast at New College, Swindon (Warren, 2008), involve podcasting with lecturers creating both audio and video podcasts that students can download and play on handheld PDA’s or MP3 players for revision or extra support with a topic wherever they happen to be, in the workplace, at home or in college or moving between the two. Work Based Learning Both HE and FE institutions place students training for professions, whether medicine, building, teaching or hairdressing etc. in the workplace for a significant proportion of their course. Students, often at considerable distance from their teaching bases, need online access to course materials and other context specific information, to communicate with their tutors and to produce records of their progress and assignments for assessment. Mentors in the workplace need to authenticate and support this student learning. A number of pilots have been set up to test how mobile technologies can successfully be used to support students on work placements.
For instance, mobile devices have been used to give instant hands on access to information that would be difficult to carry around on the job. At the James Cook University Hospital in 5 Middlesborough, 5th year medical students tested the use of PDA’s providing access to formulae, clinical guidelines, electronic portfolios and other web-based materials. They found portable access to these facilities useful, as was the ability for supervisors to ‘sign-off’ log books using their normal signatures on the PDA. (Cotterill et al, 2008).
Reynolds et al (2007) found that a PDA proved to be a convenient and versatile mode of access to online education for dentistry students at King’s College, London. The 12 students were most positive about being able to make notes for individual study, to keep a diary of their commitments to teaching sessions and to having on the spot access to online support materials, particularly videos. Teaching is another profession where students need access to a wealth of information. Wishart et al (2007) found that when student teachers trialled the use of PDA’s in school they deemed the calendar or diary to be articularly supportive.
Email was also used, primarily to maintain contact with other students and the university tutor, and the web browser was used to access information both in class and for personal reasons. Some students used spreadsheets to record pupils’ attendance and grades and most, in this pilot involving 14 trainees, used the word processor to make notes from meetings and on lesson observations for essays. However, the prevailing sociocultural climate where mobile phones are often banned and PDA’s a rarity meant that trainees often felt uncomfortable using their device on school premises.
In FE mobile technology has been used in the work place for just in time problem solving, such as through the Hairdressing Training programme developed by the University of Manchester’s data centre, Mimas, and now used by 500 students at Stockport College, which offers step-by step guides to hairdressing techniques for styling, colouring and cutting (Smith, 2008) Also PDA’s have been found to be useful in connecting work based learners in FE who may otherwise be isolated from learning opportunities.
Such devices have been used to assist apprentices in remote rural locations in Lincolnshire to give flexible learning options and to build achievement and self-esteem (Lambourne, 2008) and to provide learning and social networking opportunities to care workers in schools and nursing establishments in the Bourneville area of Birmingham (Brown, 2008).
Finally, one of the largest trials of mobile technology in the workplace, currently ongoing with around a 1000 students in five universities in Yorkshire, is that being run by the Assessment of Learning in Practice Settings (ALPS) CETL1, a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning that focuses on assessment and learning in practice settings and involving nursing and allied health care practitioner trainees.
Initial indications (Dearnley et al, 2008) showed that both students and lecturers were positive about a range of benefits having a PDA enables however, introducing mobile technology into the clinical setting will require a significant shift in culture and a significant level of training and support. 1 http://www. alps-cetl. ac. uk/ 6 Summary While the above mentioned projects demonstrate the range of learning activities that have been trialled in UK institutions, recent advances in the abilities of the mobile devices themselves offer the chance to deliver new services to learners that have not yet been tested.
The 2009 Horizon Report notes how the adoption of novel interfaces (like the iPhone), the new ability of mobile devices to download applications and to be location aware through GPS signals, all offer new opportunities for learning. With the addition of broadband-like data connections, the boundary between what is a mobile phone and a portable computer are being ever more blurred (New Media Consortium 2009).
It is in this technology context that the workshop participants came together to imagine future scenarios for the use of mobile technology in learning, drawing on their wide experiences of previous research projects and contemplating how developing mobile technologies could open up new opportunities for connecting learners and teachers. 7 Methods: Developing Future Scenarios In this project three different tools were used to support future predictions.
The first used for the workshop focusing on the practice of users in Higher Education (HE) in the future five years from today was the Cognitive Foresight toolkit available from the UK Government Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Office of Science and Technology, 2005). It was developed for strategic futures planning and provides guidance on different techniques that can be used in the different stages of developing future scenarios and the ways they can be combined.
This first workshop employed driver analysis to build internally consistent future scenarios from an assessment of the way current trends and drivers are influencing the present use of mobile technologies in HE. First the workshop participants ‘brainstorm’ a range of drivers for the currently observable trends. Next scenarios are produced by taking the drivers identified as having the highest importance and highest impact as orthogonal pairs of axes and visualising up to four scenarios that match the chosen combinations.
This method is illustrated in the example below. More of … Scenario Decrease in … Increase in … Less of … The second used the Futures Technology Workshop method (Vavoula and Sharples, 2007) to look at future scenarios in work based learning. This is a structured method whereby people, in this case with experience in the specific area of the use of mobile technologies in education, envision and design the interactions between current and future technologies and an activity.
Through a series of structured workshop sessions they collaborate to envisage future activities related to technology design, build models of the contexts of use for future technologies, act out scenarios of use for their models, re-conceive their scenarios in relation to present-day technologies, list problems with implementing the scenarios exploring the gap between current and future technology and activity. The workshop method was edited slightly within the time constraints of the day so that the structured sessions comprised: i. i. Imagineering: brainstorm on desired future learning activities. Modelling: in groups, producing models that demonstrate the envisioned activities, complete with related props. 8 iii. iv. Retrofit: developing a role play for another group’s scenario using only current technologies. Futurefit Requirements: listing requirements for the future technologies that have to be in place for the scenario to be realised.
The third workshop on future scenarios in Further Education (FE) followed a method devised by FutureLab, an educational thinktank aimed at transforming the way people learn that focuses on the potential offered by digital and other technologies. This method for developing scenarios uses non-specific images of people of different ages in different locations printed on cards as a stimulus to thinking. The workshop used cards such as these shown below from the Building Visions for Learning Spaces sequence of cards.
The workshop participants are then asked to envision first a range of learning activities that could be happening within the image and the people involved in them, then the anticipated outcomes and the technological resources that will be needed. One of these activities is then chosen by each of the groups for fuller development into a future scenario. In each of the above three cases the workshop was set up to start with two initial keynote presentations designed to stimulate thought and discussion from recognised experts.
These keynotes (found under workshops 8-10) are available from the Adding a Mobile Dimension to Teaching and Learning web site2. These were followed by a series of discussion activities informed by the futures prediction method being used and facilitated by the research team. A discussion workshop is a recognised method of collaborative knowledge construction through discussion and debate amongst peers or experts. The workshops were run as focus groups with the facilitator encouraging discussion and debate and following a qualitative, phenomenological research approach.