Using smartphones, tablets, net books, and laptops can offer extremely flexible access to online learning for students on the move.
Although ownership of mobile devices is very widespread, it’s difficult to know how much students will use their devices to access learning, or whether this really works for them in practice.
As mobile device models and software are updated so often, it can be very difficult to estimate what functions students may have access to.
In reality, it's likely that students will use a range of devices depending on where they are or what work they’re doing. At the very least, mobile devices offer a way for students to manage their learning with calendars or planning apps. Some institutions use these to send emails and text notices.
Students may download learning content onto mobile devices to engage with while travelling, in work breaks, during leisure time or anywhere they choose. Students can also access web-based content on mobile devices if they have access to a mobile signal and/or wifi. However, a number of areas of the UK still have no, or only intermittent, access to a mobile signal.
Older students and disabled users may find it particularly challenging to use touch screens, small buttons or to navigate on such small screens.
New approaches to learning
Mobile devices present opportunities for new approaches to learning, but not all staff may be aware of this potential. Staff may also feel they don’t have the knowledge or time to create learning content specifically for mobile devices, but good web design will at least make sure that any web-based content they do produce will display properly on mobile devices.
In addition, some tools like Xerte toolkits use a simple template driven system to allow staff or students with limited IT skills to create responsive, media rich web pages optimised for mobile phones.
Third party applications
Third-party applications are also available for functions such as mind mapping, simple text entry and assistive technologies. The Higher Education Academy subject centre for education's mobile learning publication1 offers promising examples of institutions using and creating apps for mobile devices to help students aggregate learning content, personalise their learning experience, and support students on placements or in fieldwork situations.
Mobile devices easily support networking and sharing of learning content through social networking sites, so can offer huge benefits to online courses that encourage student generated content, sharing, collaboration and networking.
Our mobile learning guide offers information on institution-wide strategic approaches to adopting mobile learning, pedagogic aspects, and guidance on implementation.
|Barriers||What you can do|
|Institutions don’t understand how students use mobile devices for learning.||Carry out student surveys|
|Run projects or pilot schemes to find out how students respond to using mobile devices for learning|
|Identify ongoing research and projects by other institutions.|
|Lack of awareness of the potential and benefits of mobile learning.||Increase staff awareness through training events|
|Look for ideas and inspiration outside the institution.|
- 1 Making mobile learning work: case studies of practice - http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/8250.pdf