Mobile learning

MOBILE LEARNING CONCEPTUALIZATION AND PERCEPTION AMONG HIGHER EDUCATION DISTANCE LEARNERS; MALAYSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Abstract

Introduction

Prensky (2004) warned that students will increasingly demand to use wireless technology such as the cell phone to pursue educational endeavors. In addition, Rushby (2005) recommended that educators investigate the potential pedagogical advantages that mobile learning has to offer. Mobile learning also may offer logistical pluses such as increased portability of educational tools at a reduced cost (Motiwalla, 2007; Riva & Villani, 2005).

Higher education distance learner' perceptions of what mobile learning might contribute to and distract from the teaching and learning process and the students' input regarding the barriers to implementing mobile learning is not clear in AeU University.

The multipurpose cell phone may soon become a personal asset that the majority of higher education students may view as a technology that would be as foreign to remove from learning activities as it would be for some participants to discard eyeglasses and contact lenses (Prensky, 2004).

If the ubiquity of connectivity and intuitive reliance on the cell phone come to pass, the smart phone will drive consumers of higher education to demand mobile learning opportunities in live classes, blended courses (those with both live and online components), and distance education offerings (Alexander, 2004; Prensky, 2004; Wagner, 2005). Therefore, research in this area should be of interest to post-secondary academic and technical professionals involved in facilitating multiple delivery formats, and might actually be necessary at some point now or in the future in order to address a paradigm shift the higher education community may not be able to ignore.

How mobile technologies might contribute to teaching and learning in higher education, Kim, Mims, and Holmes (2006) found that little research has been conducted on mobile learning.

In what may be the most significant of current ICT trends, the convergence of wireless access to data, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) functions, and established cell phone capabilities is taking place (Medoff & Kaye, 2005).

The functions being added to the cell phone may at some point in the future make life almost impossible to live normally without the device (Rainie & Skeeter, 2006).

Alexander (2004) argued the impact of the wireless, cell phone, and convergence trends on higher education will be the creation of an anywhere, anytime approach to education called mobile learning that should not be ignored by colleges and universities.

Wagner (2005) contended that m-learning, as mobile learning is often labeled, represents a potentially powerful pedagogical opportunity. Wagner made a very powerful contention that mobile learning is going to be thrust upon educators, "whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not, mobile learning represents the next step in a long tradition of technology-mediated learning" (p. 44).

Holmes (2006) argued that to implement mobile technologies successfully, uninformed enthusiasm needs to be curtailed and replaced with critical and careful analysis into how available mobile learning tools should best be matched to specific educational goals.

Mobile learning is expected by some scholarly observers of educational trends to be the next significant innovation in post-secondary education (Alexander, 2004; Wagner, 2005).

Academic decision makers at the university where the study was conducted indicated concurrence with the contention that there existed a need to gather data regarding mobile learning (CITATION NEEDED)

The administrators at the university determined research into student perceptions of and attitudes toward this new paradigm in teaching and learning would contribute to the investigation into mobile learning.

* Malaysian mobile users population

* Malaysian Mobile learning studies

Definitions:

PDA.

A personal data (digital) assistant is a self-contained personal tool that gives the user computing ability and sometimes includes a telephone (Kiernan, 2006; Kim, Holmes, & Mims, 2005).

Smart phone.

A smart phone combines the functions of a cell phone, PDA, and Web tool into one device (Corbeil & Valdes-Corbeil, 2007).

Literature Review

Variety of meanings exists for the term Mobile Learning. Almost all relate in some way to the use of electronic technology to enable students or trainees to better facilitate learning that is not fixed in one location. For a number of generations of students, learners have carried texts, notebooks, and pencils with them in order to study and learn while on the move. However, it does not appear that the term mobile learning was ever used to describe any of these efforts to keep up with schoolwork before electronic information and communication devices became relatively portable.

Defining mobile learning by example.

Winters (2007) contended that mobile learning has not yet been adequately defined and represents an example of a phenomenon that means all things to all people. An endeavor is considered to be mobile learning, or not, based upon the context of several factors situated within the learning experience.

itself (Traxler, 2007). Students have been considered to be participating in mobile learning through a variety of activities by researchers who have studied the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning, by educators experimenting with the use of mobile technology in educational environments, and by early adopters of what the adopters themselves have defined as mobile learning.

Examples of mobile learning found in the relevant literature have included: (a) using cell phones to teach English in Japan (Thornton & Houser, 2005) and Italian in Australia (Levy & Kennedy, 2005) by requiring students to, throughout a typical day, exchange text messages in English outside of class; (b) employing PDAs to access PowerPoint and other course resources, participate in discussion boards, email other students and the instructor, and share work (Ramsden, 2005); (c) relying upon SMS to pose questions to students and receive responses via cell phones in facilitating daily assessment of achieving learning objectives (Balasundaram & Ramadoss, 2007); (d) utilizing PDAs to run class organization software (Sharpies, Corlett, Bull, Chan, & Rudman, 2005); (e) using cell phones to teach literature though multimedia messaging,

Web searching, mobile posting to blogs, and content-related gaming (Shih & Mills, 2007); (f) distributing to students audio files that can be played on the learners' portable media players to address false preconceptions and anxiety related to an information technology class (Lee & Chan, 2005); and (g) facilitating the polling of students, assessing comprehension, and fostering increased interactivity during a large business communications class with the help of students' mobile phones (Fisher & Baird, 2006).

In spite of Traxler's suggestion and the contention of Winters' (2007) that mobile learning has not yet been defined, many researchers and writers interested in mobile learning have put forth proposed definitions of mobile learning.

Different emphases have been chosen by the scholars who have penned the various definitions of mobile learning. Some of the authors who have suggested definitions have emphasized the mobile technologies that make nomadic learning possible (Aderinoye, Ojokheta, & Olojede, 2007; Kim et al., 2006; Riva & Villani, 2005). Other writers, while listing the relevant mobile devices as components of the definition, have chosen to focus on the experience of the learner in regards to the location and the type of learning activity encountered in mobile learning (Balasundaram & Ramadoss, 2007; Clark & Flaherty, 2002; O'Mailey, Vavoula, Glew, Taylor, Sharpies, & Lefrere, 2003; Traxler, 2007).

* Defining mobile learning based upon facilitating technologies. Aderinoye et al. (2007) defined mobile learning as any learning carried out with the employment of a mobile or wireless device. Similarly, Kim et al. (2006) and Riva and Villani (2005) promulgated technology-focused definitions of mobile learning, but also enumerated specific devices. The list developed by Kim et al. and Riva and Villani included cell phones, web-enabled cell phones, PDAs, wirelessly network-connected PDAs, wirelessly network-connected laptop computers, and wirelessly network-connected tablet personal computers (tablet PCs). Expanding on that list, Alexander (2004) also included in his definition MP3 players or iPODs, handheld gaming devices, Bluetooth-enabled devices, wireless access points, digital cameras, USB drivers, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags.

No matter what specific electronics have been proposed, it is noteworthy that the authors cited in this section have framed the definition of mobile learning primarily in the context of the mobile technologies that have the potential to facilitate mobile educational activities.

Contributors to the literature on mobile learning may not be giving adequate consideration to one of the classic foundations of good instructional design of educational technology as quoted by Snelbecker (1999), "Curriculum and instruction should drive technology; technology should not drive curriculum and instruction" (p. 671). Richardson (2006) concurred, proposing that innovators should not be thinking about what to do with new technologies, but instead should be thinking about how to respond to the identified needs and gaps in curriculum and instruction by using technology.

* Defining mobile learning based upon location and type of activity. Pragmatic emphasis on location guided O'Mailey et al. (2003) to indicate mobile learning entailed any learning not constrained to a predetermined, stationary site and any learning supported by mobile technology. Quinn (2000) took the position mobile learning represents the overlap of mobile computing through wirelessly connected devices with electronic learning accomplished through ICT. Kim and Ong (2005) concurred and used the word convergence to describe the intersection of electronic learning and mobile technologies. Therefore, per Kim and Ong, mobile learning is the product of the convergence. While mobile learning would not be possible without mobile technologies, Traxler (2007) argued that to define mobile learning by the appliances used is doing a disservice to the term by making mobile learning initiatives too technology-dependent and very susceptible to obsolescence. Several authors in addition to Traxler have acknowledged the same concern in discussions of what mobile learning represents (Balasundaram & Ramadoss, 2007; Clark & Flaherty, 2002). The definitions put forth by these other writers tend to emphasize the mobile activities learners can or do accomplish as a part of mobile learning.

Mobile learning is whatever and occurs wherever the learner wants it to be in the context of what is being learned, explained Traxler (2007). Being more specific, Clark and Flaherty (2002) contended the most important aspect of the definition of mobile learning relates to the learners having the capability to foster understanding and build knowledge through communication and collaborative activities enabled by wireless technology. While also touting the importance of defining mobile learning in the terms of the communications it facilitates, Balasundaram and Ramadoss (2007) also stressed the ability to support learning activities through expanding the times and places of access to networked information as a staple of mobile learning.

* Mobile learning defined in the context of research. Based upon evaluation and analysis of the literature consulted and in an effort to synthesize the relevant points in proper perspective, the following definition of mobile learning can be used for the purposes of researching the role mobile learning can play in Malaysian higher education: Mobile learning is learning supported by wireless access to information resources such as those available on the Internet and wireless communication with learning collaborators that can take place in a location that is most conducive to achieving learning outcomes. This author contended this definition puts the use of technology in its proper place in the mobile educational process and does not tie mobile learning initiatives to any specific technology or technologies. (Croop, 2008)

Dimensions and Characteristics of Mobile Learning

Trinder, Magill, and Roy (2005) pointed out mobile devices can be very efficient and can be employed as effective learning tools to fill the gaps of time between the demands of life in the world of today. Supporting this contention, Motiwalla (2007) disclosed that some United States higher education students reported they had effectively used wireless handheld devices to accomplish learning activities such as participating in electronic class discussions and accessing instructor feedback with higher efficiency. The increases in efficiency and effectiveness were gained through the ability to utilize time periods that prior to employing mobile learning had been unproductive, such as while waiting for the bus.

Kim et al. (2005) argued the convenience and flexibility to put to productive use time that would otherwise be wasted is one of the most important elements of mobile learning. However, the practical often impacts the substantive. Shih and Mills (2007) found in a study of California State University students these convenience and flexibility attributes of mobile learning had the effect of highly motivating the learners to contribute more to their learning.

Mobile learning can be ubiquitous, localized, and personalized. In addition to the practical convenience of mobile learning, Clark and Flaherty (2002) listed three other dimensions: (a) ubiquity; (b) localization; and (c) personalization. With regard to the second of Clark and Flaherty's four dimensions, Alexander (2004) contended the ubiquity aspect of mobile learning is so crucial to the essence of the paradigm that he proposed it would be more appropriate to call the topic ubiquitous learning. While Alexander's proposed label never received further attention in the literature and the name used almost exclusively has remained mobile learning, certainly some writers have predicted mobile learning will eventually be everywhere at all times. The fact that the cell phone is a device by which mobile learning can be accomplished makes this prediction very credible

Keegan (2002) observed society has never seen a technology spread so quickly and pervasively as the world has witnessed with the cell phone; a phenomenon he attributes to the ubiquitous potential of the cell phone.

Realistically, while Clark and Flaherty (2002) proposed mobile learning is ubiquitous, the term may more appropriately be limited to learning pursued through the use of cell phones and not other mobile learning devices that do not yet possess, and possibly never will, the potential to become truly ubiquitous.

Hsu, Ke, and Yang (2006) have developed a comprehensive learning framework for museums that includes a localization component that informs and augments what learners are experiencing through different cell phone messages based upon where the learners are located in museums. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art uses the cell phones of visitors to accomplish the same feat (The New Media Consortium, 2007).

The ability to personalize the mobile learning experience, the fourth dimension suggested by Clark and Flaherty (2002), was also recognized as an important advantage of mobile learning by Kukulska-Hulme (2005b) and Peters (2007). Alexander (2004) postulated learning through mobile devices is much more personal than learning via desktop computers. The capability of sending a personalized message to the mobile device of an individual student includes a timing advantage over sending the communication to the desktop of the student. The timing of when the student will receive the communication through his or her mobile device can be controlled more effectively.

If the mobile appliance is a cell phone, it is a strong likelihood the recipient will get the personalized message immediately, when the instructor wants him or her to read or hear it. Clark and Flaherty pointed out with traditional channels for delivering messages the teacher has to wait until the learner logs into a course web site or attends a live class.

Peters (2007) contended this personalization is also what the learners want as a consumer expectation. The author found this expectation is common among students of the 21st century and she described it as just-for-me demands. The control by the learner and related personal nature of mobile learning was also emphasized by Seppala and Alamaki (2003) in noting a student can, no matter what mobile device is employed, access an information network at a time of his or her choosing. In a study of over 3,000 students conducted by Tomasino, Doubek, and Ormiston (2007), the researchers reported the participants confirmed a more personal atmosphere is created in a mobile learning environment. Another example of the personal approach being effected through mobile learning is an instructional design model created for mobile learning by Shih and Mills (2007). The designers included the opportunity for students to create, while on the move, a personal text, audio, or video diary of learning experiences.

Motiwalla (2007) argued mobile learning is a teaching and learning mode that is still in its earliest stages of development. It is this beginning status to which Traxler (2007) attributed the fact that in the literature no consensus on an accepted framework of dimensions and characteristics is evident.

Mobile learning and electronic learning and distance education.

Mobile learning takes many different forms and has not yet been distinctly defined (Traxler, 2007; Winters, 2007). Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler (2005), though, reported that a distinct culture associated with mobile learning is growing. Most often in the literature mobile learning is depicted as a subset or subdivision of electronic learning (Chinnery, 2007; Peters, 2007). While Peters defined electronic learning as delivery of educational content utilizing a web-based LMS, Urdan and Weggen (2000) included all electronic media, not just the World Wide Web.

Keegan (2002) expressed a view that electronic learning is a component of distance education. This depiction that mobile learning represents a subset of electronic learning, and that electronic learning comprises a type of distance education may be over simplistic, though. Many times mobile learning activities are components of blended or hybrid courses; offerings that combine traditional live class sessions and electronic learning. Hybrid courses are not considered distance education.

Keegan(2005) D-e-M Model figure

Mobile learning was found to be expedient and immediate by Kim et al. (2005), collaborative by Riva and Villani (2005) and Vavoula (2005), and student-centered by Corbeil and Valdes-Corbeil (2007). The product of these observations when added to the characteristics previously discussed is a synthesis of the elements that mobile learning has the potential to possess. The list of possible dimensions and attributes includes convenience, flexibility, expediency, immediacy, ubiquity, location-customization, personalization, learner-centeredness, collaboration support, constractivist-orientation, currency, and contextual or experiential or situational authenticity.

Research Setting and Participants

* University information (Cited from AeU webdite, 2010)

* Campus info

* Blended student definition

* Student population

* Participants population and responses rate

* Emphasis on “ongoing project”

* Demographic Data

* Survey and data collection

* Pilot testing

The survey was used for the researcher to gather quantitative data on interest and preparedness levels along with demographics data.

Data included quantitative measures of the level of interest in mobile learning, amount of experience with electronic learning, prevalence of mobile technology use, and demographic information.

Results

· Demographics

· Elearning usage

Discussion and Limitations

Limitations:

(a) the sample of students who completed the survey were self-selected;

(b) the data collected represented the attitudes and perceptions in existence only during the period of the study;

(c) students may not follow through in reality even though they indicated they were interested in mobile learning.

References

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