Mobile learning Essay Example

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    Masters
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Chapter 2: Literature Review

In Chapter One, the purpose of the research was analysed, including its background and aims. The purpose of this chapter is to review the literature on m-learning and related theories by discussing past studies and their implications.

2.1 Introduction

). With rapid technological advances, students have access to faster communication, easier exchange of knowledge, and greater collaboration with each other, as well as with the university. A brief definition of m-learning will now be considered.Krause, 2005). They are willing to develop the best educational systems by implementing new technologies to enhance learner experiences and to utilise the rapid expansion, capability, and availability of IT to drive a change in the way students engage with their learning (Akour, 2010The role of Information Technology (IT) has created a new set of challenges and opportunities for the education sector. Education institutions make use of IT to enhance the learning environment, and are adopting the latest IT across the globe to improve the standard of education in providing better learning environments. Universities are adapting their strategies in relation to the delivery of education to focus on students and their needs (

In this respect, m-learning is defined equally by the experience, location, and style of the user, as well as by the mobile devices themselves. As m-learning is an emerging pedagogical tools, various definitions have been adopted for its use in education. Some definitions of m-learning focus on the characteristics of the device, whereas others focus on the mobility of the technology and the technological capabilities of the device (Traxler, 2009). This thesis will suggest that m-learning is the integration of all of these factors, both the device, the mobility, and the ability to learn in various contexts. A number of definitions have been highlighted below; Sharples (2005) defined m-learning by the context in which it will be, or is being used, the experiences of the user, and the background in which it is being used.

Definition

Sharples (2005) defined m-learning by the context in which it will be, or is being used, the experiences of the user, and the background in which it is being used. . In this respect, m-learning is defined equally by the experience, location, and style of the user, as well as by the mobile devices themselves.

) m-learning technologies personalise the learning process and subsequently enable learners to learn within and beyond formal methods and limits. Glahn, Bomer and Specht (2010

O’Malley et al. (2003) defined m-learning as a type of learning that takes place whenever and wherever learner wants, or learning that takes place with support of mobile technologies. He further advocates that the learn2Go project offer mobile learning a more detailed definition ; a term integrated to highlight the learning of some kind taking place on any hand held devices, tablet PC and smart phone.

Brown (2005) describes m-learning as a form of e-learning that particularly utilizes mobile technologies to deliver learning materials and support.

Palalas (2012, p. 3) suggests that m-learning is primarily about «knowledge construction, skills development and performance support in which actors engage across various locations, times, situations and contexts through the mediation of mobile devices”

According to Quinn (2000), m-learning is conducted through mobile, computerised devices such as Palm Pilots, mobile phones, and Windows CE machines. The date of this study reflects the development of the technology, as the definition characterises m-learning more by the device than the experience of the user. According to O’Malley (2003), m-learning is any learning that is not conducted in a predetermined or fixed location, or where the learner can take advantage of mobile technological opportunities. By this definition, the author implies that m-learning is a type of learning that offers the learner remote freedom. Traxler (2009) defined m-learning as any learning that is conducted through handheld or palmtop devices. In addition, Ally (2009) defined m-learning as a learning process where mobile devices are used to study and access learning materials and to communicate with fellow students, teachers, and the institution.

A good example of an integration of these many definitions is posited by Sharples (2006), which described m-learning as a form of learning that enables knowledge-building to take place in different contexts. It also provides an individual with the ability to gather data that are unique to his or her own environment, real and situated times, and different locations. It enables learners to build their own understanding of the course matter and customise it to suit their own paths of investigation. It changes the pattern of learning to support interactivity and the use of m-learning applications, which can be used with other learning tools for optimal results. Finally, it transcends time and space to make learning part of a greater whole.

M-learning evolved out of e-learning. Ellis (2004) argued that e-learning is conducted through web-based tools that are accessible to everyone. It is supposed that e-learning includes all electronic tools, whether they are Internet- or intranet-related. Ellis (2004) also stated that e-learning includes a level of interactivity to describe the experiences of the learner. However, he did not include mobile devices in his description, perhaps because the porttable phones used at the time had little functionalities as opposed to the contemporary smart phones. Essentially, these devices could simply send mms and text messages, to name a few.

. Sharples (2005) stated that m-learning is defined by the context in which it is situated, coupled with the user experience of why, where, and how it is used. was not aware of the potential proliferation of the use of smartphones in classrooms

    1. Adoption of Mobile Learning

In Saudi Arabia, e-learning has been given particular attention by the Minister of Higher Education. For example, King Abdul-Aziz University offers a variety of courses delivered in an online format. Education is one of the most important areas of an economy and has been the subject of a great deal of concern on the part of the Saudi government. The government allocated a budget of US$154.7 billion dollars for education in 2011 (Allam, 2011). The government of Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in the concept of e-government and their last IT report showed that IT expenditures in Saudi Arabia amounted to US$7.2 billion dollars in 2010 (CITC, 2010). Certainly, education in Saudi Arabian universities has moved slowly from traditional learning to distance learning (d-learning) and electronic learning (e-learning). However, mobile learning (m-learning), as a new technology, is still in its initial stages in Saudi Arabia (Nassuora, 2012). While this terminology reflects similar educational concepts, m-learning is the most recently adopted term in the learning industry generally used to indicate more advanced technologies and methods used for online pedagogy. The earlier terminology reflected the tendencies for universities to segregate the online learning community on the presumption all learners are ‘distant’, however m-learning indicates the expanding use of many online forms of education to enable electronic learning without the presumption of distance. Therefore, there is an obvious need to explore the adoption of m-learning from the perspective of educators and students in higher education for successful implementation in Saudi Arabia in the future.

). It is worth noting that many studies use the terminology of e-learning and distance learning, rather than m-learning, to conduct similar research, and the case may be that there is significant overlap to consider. The term ‘m-learning’ in studies tends to indicate specific mobile use for learning, and the more recent technological adoption of specialised mobile platforms – as this is an emerging area, the number of conclusive studies to draw upon are less numerous (Huang et al 2010).Uzunboyluet al. 2009; Kim 2009; Nyiri 2003) described mobile learning (m-learning) as a type of learning that allows students to find learning materials anywhere and anytime using mobile technologies and the Internet. M-learning technologies with handheld devices have eliminated geographical borders, and support co-operative learning environments by adopting new technologies with specialised mobile-friendly sites to enable ease of access for learners (Lui 2007). Although there has thus far been no comprehensive research on m-learning, the current studies have argued for its many advantages (Lan and Sie (2010) argued that it was possible to extend the learning environment via the use of mobile devices. Liu (2007

).Vavoula & Sharples, 2008; Evans, 2008). The use of mobile technologies makes it easier for online students to carry their learning materials across various locations. They also facilitate ‘just-in-time’ learning in which students can make better use of unexpected free time as they frequently have their devices with them (Zurita & Nussbaum, 2004). Through wireless technology and handheld devices, students are able to access information to share with their peers (Huang et al. 2010). Furthermore, advances in handheld devices have facilitated the use of multimedia in mobile applications, which allows mobile learners to have access to a wide variety of richly diversified learning resources (Roach 2002Because mobile devices provide the possibility of ubiquitous learning, they have been used by students at all levels, from the primary to the tertiary level (

). This may seem contrary to the popular constructivist approach to learning, whereby knowledge is constructed through experience and reflections, new information, and actively asking questions through collaboration and self-assessment. Madeira, et al., 2009. Online students have access to various option for learning, where ‘mobile’ technology can connote any portable device, and may be transferred to home environments with desktop computers (Evans, 2008). Educators who use mobile technology to deliver the content of a subject should act as guides for the learners (Online students are expected to be responsible for motivating their own learning without the influence of other students in a specific campus environment, to actively participate in learning activities assisted by use on internet enabled devices, notably desktop computers and mobile technologies. mobile technologiesWhen we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience; we are active creators of our own knowledge, and the teacher plays an important role – implying that only campus learning will support this approach.

Important in complementing m-learning where constructivism is a theory of knowledge that is linked in psychology , philosophy and cybernetics. It advocates two principles whose incorporation has a number of consequences for study on learning and cognitive development in the practice of teaching, interpersonal management and psychotherapy. The two principles are;

  1. Knowledge is passively received through active incorporation of cognitive subjects

  2. The cognition function is adaptive and works in organizations of experimental world, as opposed to the ontological reality (Husen and Postlethwaite, 1989).

Students can be active through producing alternative solutions to the problems they are confronted with. Students’ perceptions are significant, different perceptions are valued, and students themselves monitor the majority of the mobile activities. The educators act as facilitators, offering guidance to the students and encouraging their co-operation (Reeve, 2006). Hence while the theory presumes classroom participation is required, new technology may in fact encourage students to actively engage in the personal learning process. Nevertheless, stated that constructivist learning classes are formed by student self-responsibility in learning activities. However, constructivist learning, nevertheless can be adopted in mobile technology, if teachers select the appropriate methods to encourage exploration of new knowledge and questioning of the self, as the mobile learning sector is often reliance on personal student motivation to learn and self-directed inquiry (Von Glasserfeld, 1989). Whereas some students are not inclined to group discussion, most if not all such students have good grades. Karagiorgi and Symeou (2005)social constructivism encourages the learner to get to the his/her version of the truth with significant influence from his/her background.

). In response to this issue, a theoretical pedagogical framework is needed to guide the successful use of technology in education, and ideally would be adapted in the future for particular types of student learners and teaching methods. Georgina & Hosford, 2009), regular use of mobile devices does not mean that users (students or educators) are necessarily ready to use mobile devices in their learning and teaching. Technology alone does not ensure pedagogical enhancement, and mobile learning may be one method facilitating another opportunity to learn, yet it is certainly not proven to be more effective for educational purposes for all students. Educators must be incrementally trained to use and introduce any relevant technology, rather than simply being given access to new tools for learning (Corbeil and Corbeil (2007Despite the clear benefits of online learning, it is worth noting that educators should select the best tools for learning activities and use them actively both inside and outside of class activities. According to

). Arguably, an improved technology approach has increased m-learning platforms, where various ways have been realised. Having an increasingly larger platform creates the propensity for enhanced m-learning. Limniou & Whitehead, 2010; Lu, 2008; Chen et al. 2008; Chen & Hsu, 2008With the rapid process of development, educational technologies are being used in all subject areas, but primarily in the sciences, mathematics, and foreign languages (

and can lead to improvements in learning (Adomi 2010). The challenge in the emerging use of microprocessor-based tools is to devise methods to implement them on an m-learning platform, to enable simulating of real-world technological processes and allow the ‘playground for invention’ to be mobile accessible (Williams, Jones & Bunting 2014). Currently, this technology is largely used in specialised subjects, particularly the sciences. For example, there is widespread support for the idea that microprocessor-based technology is an effective tool for pedagogy

) pointed out that instructors who are not already familiar with the digital language of students, being the way in which students refer to electronic methods of communication such as ‘cloud learning’, must learn it in order to be able to enhance their students’ learning as well as their access to learning. Corresponding with these developments, the need for qualified educators in the m-learning field has also increased. The successful integration of m-learning technologies in education demands that educators’ perceptions of such technologies should be explored, yet also that appropriate support must be provided to enable easy adoption of emerging technological practices. Therefore, the perceptions of educators are significant to examine in this thesis, in addition to the ways in which educators are supported in m-learning adopted. Corbeil and Corbeil (2007). Archambault & Crippen, 2009; Koehler & Mishra, 2008Researchers have argued that educators are more likely to be successful in adopting technology in education if they are taught how to use it in their specific subjects (

    1. Mobile Devices and Education

Several research studies and surveys have been carried out to determine the extent to which m-learning has affected learning and teaching (Ally, 2009; Attewell, Savill-Smith & Douch, 2009; Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005; Wang, Shen, Novak & Pan, 2009). The results are encouraging; these authors have pointed out the advantages of using mobile devices in the learning process, such as encouraging self-reflection and increased motivation to develop (Ally, 2009). Learning becomes more flexible because there are no limitations to time or space (Ally, 2009). It not only makes learning interesting and enjoyable, but also flexible and attractive due to the ability to use various forms of portable technology (Novak & Pan, 2009). Further, several case studies have shown that m-learning has increased the interest levels of traditional learners (Bolliger et al., 2010). For example, according to one study, m-learning had a significant effect on shy and introverted students, who gained self-confidence and did not feel as though their self-esteem was threatened, as can happen in the traditional classroom (Chen & Kessler, 2013). Several other studies have demonstrated that m-learning also improves access to resources, such as online sources, for students and lecturers (Chan & Quek, 2014; Chen & Kessler, 2013; Fatima & Abdullah, 2013; Frehywot, et al., 2013). Lecturers and students have better sources than previously available due to the use of online books and guides, and even mobile readers (Attewell, 2009). The speed with which these technologies have proliferated has surprised researchers, and it is yet to be seen how far m-learning may prove useful as new devices and applications continually enter the market.

Further, mobile technology is equipped to enable sharing, organising, managing and creating digital information at all levels of web-based learning. As such, a key characteristic of m-learning is that it is based on ‘the processes of coming to know through conversations and explorations across multiple contexts among people and personal interactive technologies’ (Vavoula & Sharples, 2009, p. 1).

A review of the literature also identifies a number of challenges to the effective employment of m-learning activities. Given that m-learning is a relatively new phenomenon, some students may take a superficial approach to this pathway based on their experiences in traditional educational settings (Tomai et al., 2011). It may be a challenging process to change the habits and expectations of students and educators to differ from those of the traditional learning environment. Another challenge is that “e-learning is subject to technological obsolescence and it is highly dynamic from a management perspective” (Tomai, et al., 2011, p. 62). As such, some learners and even education institutions may be hesitant to embrace m-learning as a new learning format. As society evolves and becomes increasingly reliant on technology, it is important to ensure that this learning format is adopted with pedagogical strategies. There is a novelty status still associated with the m-learning approach, it may be perceived as a weaker educational pathway compared to more conventional modes of distance education. However, as discussed in analysing the benefits of mobile learning and reviewing current literature, various studies indicate that it can enhance learning beyond the traditional classroom role – or at least can be complementary to its use (Vavoula & Sharples, 2009).

Finally, advances in mobile devices have played a significant role in lifestyle choices (El-Hussein, 2010). The reflects the state of contemporary society in terms of m-learning, a practice that engages online students in ubiquitous activities for knowledge acquisition. As a new and advancing educational trend, many practitioners, educators, and researchers are eager to examine both the theory and practice of m-learning. The literature dealing with m-learning discusses a range of topics relevant to the study of m-learning applications, as well as exploring their implications.

    1. Students and m-learning

The evolution of wireless technology has resulted in an increase in the amount of time and energy spent using handheld mobile devices. As a result, modern mobile device users have experienced demonstrable changes in their lifestyles (El-Hussein & Cronje, 2010). Many people are attracted to wireless technology because they can use it at any time and in any location. Laptops, tablets, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile telephones come equipped with wireless capabilities to support user access to online information anywhere and at any time (Chen & Huang, 2010). Moreover, users of technological devices have unique characteristics and utilise their devices in different ways. As most people use their mobile devices for social communication, there are only select groups who consider mobile technology to be a pedagogical tool (El-Hussein & Cronje, 2010). Nonetheless, determining the methods for using wireless technology for academic purposes is an increasingly important goal for education institutions.

Despite only a select group of the total population on mobile devices using them for education, there is fast development within the sector. For instance, the emergence of web-based learning has evolved rapidly, which is not surprising given the increasing general popularity of mobile technology. The growth of Web 2.0 promotes ‘the development of diverse communities’ and the socialisation of the World Wide Web (Huang, Yang, Huang & Hsaio, 2010, p. 78). Moreover, people find mobile technologies stimulating due to the novel features embedded into the design of the devices. The practical use of mobile devices in teaching and learning environments is clear in that university students now have the capability to receive content and services via wireless technology (El-Hussein & Cronje, 2010).

The fundamentals of m-learning are reliant on the usability of mobile devices. For example, many practitioners complain that mobile technologies are not user-friendly due to small screens, short battery lives, intermittent connectivity, and certain human-related factors (Vavoula & Sharples, 2009). In addition, the fact that learners can use mobile technology in different locations, and can change from one device to another, means that many educators find it difficult to evaluate m-learning.

Nevertheless, students enjoy the ease with which they can access the internet using handheld devices such as mobile telephones, PDAs (or Palmtops) and tablets (Kafyulilo, 2014). The proliferation of improved technologies has enhanced the teaching environment, where m-learning is thought to supplement the traditional teaching pedagogy.

Thus, m-learning occurs when students’ experiences enhance the ubiquitous process of learning. As discussed above regarding support for teaching practices, m-learning is complementary to classroom learning and supplements traditional tools of pedagogy. While it can function independently for learning at a distance, it can also be used in conjunction with in-person learning. For example, students can use text-messaging to communicate with their educators and classmates. Mobile telephones provide a system of support that can augment e-learning, m-learning, and web-based or blended learning.Most m-learning technologies provide a layer of support to the wider teaching environment, rather than being the sole method of delivery (Snell & Snell-Siddle, 2013).

Several theories have been applied to the study of m-learning. For example, the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), which supports ‘perceived usefulness’ and ‘perceived ease of use’, can be used to investigate the acceptance of information systems (Cheng, Hwang, Wu, Shadiev & Xie, 2010). TAM is often used to measure the attitudes of students who participate in m-learning activities. The criteria for m-learning includes the continual movement of learners; learning that occurs outside of the classroom; and learning that takes place due to the pervasive use of personal and shared technologies (Sharples, Taylor & Vavoula, 2007). Theoretical applications of m-learning can be appealing to educators who find themselves involved with curriculum design and planning for the future.

    1. Educators, the learning environment and m-learning

It is well documented in the literature that mobile technology is becoming increasingly embedded into teaching and learning activities in educational institutions at all levels (e.g., Blankenship, 2011; Hwang & Chang, 2011). Indeed, scholars and teaching practitioners generally agree that mobile digital technology is an important driver of contemporary pedagogical practices and student participation both inside and outside of the classroom (Sharpe & Oliver, 2013). The following section discusses the current research and academic understandings of how mobile technologies assist student learning. It begins by defining our understanding of mobile technologies and presenting statistical data to demonstrate the prevalence of their usage by higher education students and university instructors. The review then shifts focus to discuss the recent research on how mobile technologies support students to communicate and collaborate with classmates and instructors. Also discussed are research findings related to the impact of mobile technologies on student engagement and how instructors can benefit from using mobile technologies for student assessment.

      1. Mobile technology ownership by students and use for academic purposes

In their study of 1,200 higher education students in the United States, Chen and Denoyelles (2013) found that the prevalence of mobile technology ownership and use for academic purposes was very high. As Figure 6 below shows, up to 58% (629 of 1082) of the students who owned a mobile phone used it for academic purposes. Academic usage is far higher for students who owned a tablet (82% or 314 of 383), as well as for e-Task readers (64% or 172 of 267).

Mobile learning

Figure 6 Comparing mobile device ownership and use for academic purposes among higher education students, 2013

Similarly, in 2014 the online site eSchoolMedia & eCampus News reported that the vast majority of higher education students used tablets and other mobile digital technology for their reading sessions. Figure 7 provides a percentage breakdown of the students’ usage preferences for the mobile devices listed, showing a strong preference (75%) towards tablet use for reading sessions. Other issues reported on the website include the use of smartphones and tablets to watch academic-related videos tripling from 2011 to 2012, and 87% of students in 2012 indicating that they wanted to revisit work from lectures using a mobile device.

Mobile learning  1

Figure 7 Mobile device usage preferences among higher education students in the US

      1. Mobile technologies and student engagement

A key aspect discussed in the literature on mobile technologies and tertiary education practices is the impact of the technology on student engagement. Student engagement (in the tertiary learning context) was originally defined by Astin (1984, p. 297) in his study of developmental theory for this cohort as the level of “physical and psychological energy the student devotes to the academic experience.” As such, student engagement is conceptualised to occur along a continuum whereby individual students’ engagement levels may vary in relation to different activities and the pedagogical practices used to implement them (Astin, 1984). More recently, Trowler and Trowler (2010) described student engagement as the outlay of time, energy, and other resources to optimise the learning experience and to enhance learning outcomes. In turn, the authors also drew attention to such student behaviours as attentiveness, interest, involvement, and active participation in learning (Trowler & Trowler, 2010).

Student engagement is an explicit objective in teaching methodology. In turn, the research is increasingly examining how teaching methodology that utilises digital mobile technology impacts upon student engagement. Much of this research focuses on the students’ use of social media platforms and emerges from the premise that the technologies that students commonly use can be utilised to enhance their levels of engagement and to improve learning outcomes (Junco, 2012). For example, Junco, Heiberger and Loken (2011) investigated the effect of Twitter on student engagement and grades. The use of Twitter was formally integrated into subject communication platforms and supported via lecturer participation. The findings presented by Junco et al. (2011) show that the use of Twitter by students resulted in more active student and faculty member participation compared to more traditional teaching methodologies.

      1. Mobile technologies for student assessment

Mobile technologies are increasingly linked to the formative assessment process of higher education. Formative assessment is the process of providing feedback and support to students during learning activities (Coulby, Hennessey, Davies & Fuller, 2011). This process enables instructors and students to adjust the on-going teaching and learning to improve student learning outcomes. In turn, contemporary researchers continue to develop web-based assessments and testing systems for use in higher education settings (Coulby et al., 2011).

To test the effectiveness of mobile technologies for formative assessment, Hwang and Chang (2011) conducted a study on the use of a formative mobile assessment approach to improve the learning outcomes of students in southern Taiwan. For their study, the authors developed a mobile learning environment to perform local cultural learning activities. The mobile learning system used the FAML (Formative Assessment-based Mobile Learning) mechanism. This included a range of functions for the teacher to use in the management of user profiles, subject materials, and learning portfolios.

The formative assessment process using this particular mobile technology was designed to provide feedback and support to both teachers and students during instruction so that they can adjust the teaching and learning process to improve learning outcomes (Hwang & Chang, 2011). Specifically, the authors adopted three strategies regarded as being effective for format-assessment: repeated answering, non-answer provision, and immediate feedback by way of references or supplementary materials. According to Wang (2010), these strategies promote achievement by enabling students to repeatedly engage in practice, reflection (based on feedback), and revision. The primary finding from the Hwang and Chang (2011) study was that the FAML mechanism not only enhanced the students’ interest in, and attitude towards, the learning activities, it also improved the students’ levels of achievement.

      1. Benefits of social technologies for educational purposes

A review of the literature reveals that the majority of students believe the use of mobile device technologies in tertiary education institutions is a necessity. Blankenship (2011) argues that most university students have an expectation that their lecturer will embed new media technology into teaching and learning activities. Interestingly, the author points to two main reasons for this expectation by students: first, their belief that tertiary institutions are the principle players in preparing them for their career; and second, it gives them greater control over, and responsibility for, their learning (Blankenship, 2011).

In addition, the increasing prevalence of ‘learning on demand’ behaviours among students and lecturers drives the growing use of mobile technologies in education (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012, p. 3). According to Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012), university students (and students at all levels of education) are increasingly able to utilise mobile-networked technologies to research information, satisfy their curiosity, and share information with others. Furthermore, Gerlich et al. (2010) describe modern students as digital natives of the ‘always on’ world of digital technologies and interactive media platforms. The authors therefore concluded that today’s students have different learning styles and delivery expectations compared to earlier generations. Moreover, as techno-centric learners, they place greater importance on their ability to engage in personalised on-demand learning pathways that utilise interactive social media tools (Gerlich et al., 2010).

In their study of the values associated with mobile technology in tertiary education, Sheng, Siau and Nah (2010) interviewed 33 participants, including 18 students and 15 instructors, at a large mid-western university in the United States. To identify the ‘values’, the researchers utilised the Value-Focused Thinking Approach (VFT), which is regarded as being effective for revealing user values and understanding user behaviours (Sheng et al., 2010). The VFT approach focused on two key factors: participants’ understandings of the ‘benefits and problems’ of mobile technology use based on their knowledge and experience; and participants’ ‘wish list’ for mobile technology devices and uses in education.

Sheng et al. (2010) found that eight fundamental values were identified by students and instructors in relation to mobile technology use in tertiary education, which can be divided into three broad categories: to maximise the convenience of education, efficiency in learning, effectiveness in learning, usability of mobile education services, security of student/instructor information, and individual privacy, to minimise education costs, and to ensure academic honesty. These findings led Sheng et al. (2010) to conclude that the means-ends correlation as perceived by students and instructors is crucial to our understanding of the role of mobile technology in tertiary education settings. According to the authors, this correlation invariably underpins the perceptions of value that are assigned to the use of the technology, and will therefore impact upon the students’ and instructors’ motivations for use (Sheng et al., 2010).

      1. Benefits m-learning in education

M-learning occurs in a range of settings. From primary and secondary schools to college and university campuses, there are a number of different learning environments in which mobile technological applications can be used. Unlike traditional classroom instruction, m-learning requires a portable learning environment in which the learner is an active participant in class activities:

For instance, instead of sitting in front of a desktop computer and watching a video simulation, students with mobile devices can go out to the field directly and physically explore the world, and share their experiences with others (Looi et al. 2009, p. 3).

Consequently, educators have the opportunity to enhance traditional lessons by presenting information directly, and creating first-hand experiences for m-learners.

The ubiquitous nature of the m-learning environment is paramount to its success in higher education settings. Although some people suggest that classroom instruction should occur in a fixed place at a fixed time, others are dedicated to the development of mobile technologies for learner motivation and growth. The learning space is no longer confined to one physical location; increasingly, students are learning seamlessly both inside, and outside of, the classroom (Looi et al., 2009). Accordingly, educators who implement m-learning exercises incorporate a variety of instructional strategies, which lead to greater levels of student achievement (Looi et al., 2009). Educators consider the dimensions of interaction, learner capability, and connectivity to design effective m-learning strategies (Chen & Hwang, 2010). As a result, m-learning environments encourage knowledge management – the flow of information for educational purposes.

At the tertiary level, college and university students are increasingly interested in the use of m-learning for knowledge acquisition and management. Moreover, these learning environments foster computer-supported collaborative learning (Cheng et al., 2010). This type of setting is conducive to peer-to-peer interactions that enhance reflective learning and higher-order thinking skills (Cheng et al., 2010). When students feel free to cooperate with their peers, the work of the educator is made easier. Not only does m-learning help students to interact, but it also enables educators to facilitate the process of designing an effective curriculum. Some colleges and universities are accomplishing this by creating campus learning systems that provide “GPS with real-context, GPS tracking, multimedia posting, information synchronisation and consistency, and system backup and rebuilding” (Cheng et al., 2010, p. 97). By using these features, higher education students are able to learn English while applying real-life contexts to their studies. In contrast, educators can create useful programs that motivate and challenge m-learners.

It is evident that mobile technology is capable of building a variety of computer-supported networks to support the goals of higher learning. As noted by El-Hussein and Cronje (2010, p. 19), “instructional theory in this mobile age should be learner-centric rather than technology- or teacher-centric.” As such, educators in higher education institutions should always consider learners’ needs with respect to the learning environment. It is important here to mention that, although there are many studies regarding the integration of mobile technologies in different disciplines and education context including mathematical education, science education, physical education, English education and other area, but in this chapter studies about the integration of mobile technology for language learning have been presented as an example of m-learning.

There are many potential benefits of m-learning. The m-learner’s ability to decide what to learn and when via mobile activities ultimately drives popular engagement in m-learning. M-learners create three roles during study: technology user, consumer, and learner (Liu et al., 2010). An additional benefit is that m-learning combines the worlds of electronic-learning and distance-learning to form a branch of distance education (Georgiev et al., 2004).

The availability of mobile services to support the learning process is an important benefit for students. There are many advantages in mobile devices being adapted to the education process. For example, notebook computers and tablet PCs have a full range of capabilities. Likewise, PDAs and mobile telephones allow for mobile communications that expedite data transfer (Georgiev et al., 2004). Podcasting is also proving to be an advantageous m-learning activity. As Evans (2008, p. 492) asserted, podcasting “reduces the overheads experienced by the learner in having to search for, locate, and retrieve material.”

Another major strength is that m-learning presents educators with the opportunity to improve auxiliary skills. In doing so, m-learning creates a collaborative environment in which specialists can work on methodologies and applications (Tomai et al., 2011). Thus, educators are able to spend more time on professional-development activities as m-learning advances in scope.

2.5.6 Challenges of m-learning and concerns within higher education

One of the challenges of m-learning is that it is still in its infancy, and some mobile-device users remain resistant to embracing the m-learning concept (Tomai et al., 2011). Many users are concerned about the cost of the required technology and some educators are yet to be convinced of the benefits of utilising m-learning in their traditional classroom settings. Similarly, many students exhibit minimal involvement in m-learning activities because they lack self-motivation and self-direction (Tomai et al., 2011). The lack of training and support for m-learning in some institutions can also be discouraging to users.

Despite the above literature clearly advocating the use of m-learninng, it is important to briefly discuss the concerns held by some higher education instructors in relation to the use of mobile technologies for learning. The main concern discussed in the literature relates to the problematic nature of the blurring of the lines between the social and the academic in the classroom (Blankenship, 2011). As the author explains, some instructors are wary of their students’ abilities to resist using the technologies for social interactions during academic pursuits. In addition, Blankenship (2011) raises the issue of inequity of access to mobile technologies for some students. As the author claims, a lack of access to some mobile technologies may potentially disadvantage some students by limiting their capacity to engage in some of the technology-based activities (Blankenship, 2011).

This part of the literature review has aimed to provide a general exploration of the key points and issues raised in the literature on the use of mobile technologies in higher education learning activities. It has confirmed that such technologies are increasingly used for academic purposes and can contribute to enhanced student collaboration and engagement. In addition, it points to the impact of mobile technologies on pedagogical practices such as student assessment and feedback. Thus, mobile technologies have been shown to play an important role in introducing fundamental changes to how students and instructors think about teaching and learning activities.

    1. M-learning studies: Educational applications of m-learning

. Dreyer (2014) sets out to understand the clarity of effectiveness of incorporating online vocabulary study tools. The implication of the study showed that individuals/students that took advantage of the tools outside of the class could outperform other students. Contrariwise, the study was in line with the call to introduce technology in their basic writing classroom not simply as an application but also as a “form of disclosure”. Evidently, Dreyer’s results showcased stiudy summarised that;As previously established, mobile-based educational applications have evolved to include a number of wireless devices, such as tablets and smartphones. The integration of mobile technologies influences how learning takes place in different subjects and contexts, including language learning and other disciplines (KuKulska-Hulme, 2009). Some of the lessons created for these applications include “vocabulary practice, quiz delivery, live tutoring, and email lesson content delivery” (Godwin-Jones, 2011, p. 2). Many educators also devote time to the development of language-learning courses facilitated by mobile devices. One example of an educational application for language learning is eStroke. This program is designed to support students with Chinese-vocabulary development (Godwin-Jones, 2011). Featuring quiz functions, animations, and a personal library, eStroke is at the cutting-edge of applications designed to enhance language learning. Similarly, flashcard programs are useful for mobile-device users. One example is Anki, which uses repetitive vocabulary-study cards. Given that Anki synchronises with desktop and web versions, it has widespread functionality for students (Godwin-Jones, 2011). Likewise, Quizlet is a popular flashcard system that allows users to add new words and choose definitions presented by other users

  1. Utilization of the software improved the student’s scores

  2. Students that professed proficiency with the system of vocabulary and learning appeared not to require the treatment.

  3. The students who uysed Quizelet performned nuch better than those who used the product once.

(Cheng et al., 2010). Collaborative learning implies that students can undertake their studies through interaction , sharing and negotiations. In Cheng’s research, mobile Computer Supported Collaborative Leaning could significantly such aspects. It showed that MCSCL could offer more favourable results with respect to the immediacy, portability and characteristics that are pivotal for collaboration. Their study involved the experiment on math and linguistic learning in an elementary school; which included and excluded mobile devices. English students engage in collaborative activities using mobile computers to stimulate discussion and to promote teamwork. Moreover, in interactive English learning, researchers have found that asynchronous communication can result in higher motivation levels among students as they acquire knowledge through active participation in computer-supported activities

. In their research , it was found that in service and pre-service teacher realised the value of integrated iPads into Math education as a tool to augment student learning. For instance, supporting learning through the incorporation of the Maths game Application targeted specific concepts. The study also noted that the need for an effective preparation on the implementation of the iPad in initiating an transformative learning environment (Martin and Nunes-Bufford, 2012). Similar attention in the use of mobile technologies is evident in other educational contexts, including maths education. For example, Apple’s iPad offers students a range of educational applications to support study and knowledge acquisition in mathematics. Bannon, Martin and Nunes-Bufford (2012) examined the usefulness of integrating iPads into math class by using maths games applications. They found that iPads are an effective tool and can be used to support students’ learning

Further, Tangney et al. (2010) stated that using mobile technologies can contribute to expanding mathematical thinking and improve problem-solving practices. Consequently, the versatility and portability of educational applications can render teacher-led instruction less effective than student-centred learning using computer-based programs (Looi et al., 2009). It is evident that through using these programs, students are more involved in learning about task planning and directing the learning activity, while educators adopt the role of facilitators.

Accordingly, when focusing on the learning environment experienced by mobile-device learners, it is easy to discern these environments as seamless, and bridging “private and public learning spaces where learning happens as both individual and collective efforts and across different contexts” (Looi et al., 2009, p. 3). This incorporates students working collaboratively, teachers both participating as facilitators and learners, and individuals able to further their education beyond the restrictions of the classroom.

created a concept known as computer-supported cooperative work (CSCWl), which enables students to use virtual-collaboration technologies to study as a team, without having to be physically present. This platform has great potential for future technological advances in educational applications for mobile devices. From the study it was found that human computer interaction to be effective in facilitating more awareness to human interaction in comparison to personal computers in collocated collaborative environment. Hung et al (2010) advocates that CSSW creates an innovative research results, which offer interdisciplinary forum subject to debate of ideas regarding theories, technical, practical and social issues. It follows that the socialisation of the Internet as a medium for rapid, in-depth communication has contributed greatly to the success of Web 2.0. Students who engage in m-learning build interpersonal relationships which further support their learning through blogging, using Facebook and other social-networking sites (Huang et al., 2010). As a result, researchers have been developing methods for students to use social-networking sites as seamless learning environments. For example, Hung et al. (2010)

Moreover, CSCW promises to facilitate asynchronous communication efforts for motivating distance-education students.

    1. M-learning studies and projects

This next part of the review will highlight relevant academic works on four primary aspects of e-learning. Firstly , the paper shall Section 2.6.1. will outline how mobile device features lend themselves to education. Secondly, it Section 2.6.2. will demonstrate how m-learning can improve educational outcomes for both students and teachers. Section 2.6.3.Thirdly, the paper will mention m-learning in informal networks and other social platforms, and analyse its benefit from a sociocultural perspective in enhancing learning. Lastly the research, section 2.6.4. will engage with the question of social media in the higher education sector, and how its use in m-learning can enhance student engagement.

2.7.1 Mobile device features in an educational context

M-learning continues to increase its role in education service delivery. Traxler (2010) examined the sustainability of m-learning in education and questioned whether it fits within the current educational model. The author also examined the differences between mobile and desktop learning. He discussed learning on a desktop computer as an experience that takes place in a ‘bubble’ where the user learns alone and is disconnected from the outside world. Mobile devices, on the other hand, “have created ‘simultaneity of place’: a physical space and a virtual space of conversational interactions through the creation and juxtaposition of a mobile social space” which impacts upon the perception of time and space (Traxler, 2010, p. 59). In turn, the contrasting contexts of traditional learning and m-learning impact upon the use and sustainability of m-learning in education.

Traxler (2010) discussed how the pervasiveness of mobile devices has penetrated nearly all activities related to our economy. For example, most jobs now involve some form of mobile communication. Traxler seeks to convince the reader that mobile devices have infiltrated our work to the point that if universities fail to implement mobile technologies adequately or sustainably and continue to engage in traditional methods of learning, they run the risk of losing social legitimacy and inadequately preparing students for employment (Traxler, 2010).

Traxler (2010) noted that a number of difficulties arise when considering how to integrate mobile learning into education. These difficulties include the view that learners tend to interact with mobile devices in a fragmented and sporadic manner, which carries the risk that they will only access small pieces of un-synthesized information (Traxler, 2010). He also noted that a key difference with m-learning is that users, not just educators, create and share content, which challenges the notion that education can only be “distributed through privileged channels by socially-sanctioned individuals” (Traxler, 2010, p. 62). Traxler concluded that the current use of mobile technology in today’s classrooms is not sufficiently sustainable to keep pace with changes in the global economy, and therefore changes must be made to ensure the adequate and sustainable integration of m-learning (Traxler, 2010, p. 63).

In a study by Lu (2012), the various benefits of mobile learning in higher education institutions were explored. Specifically, the author referenced a study in which university engineering students used mobile devices to engage in their education. Lu (2012) described the advantages of mobile learning, including the capacity for learners to engage in learning from any location at their convenience. This freedom has particular advantages for adult students. For example, m-learning can help students who study part-time, live far away from institutions, and for students who want to learn anywhere at any time (Lu, 2012).

Lu (2012) also suggested that the majority of university students are ‘digital natives’ (people born after 1980). This term represents those people who were born in the technological age and are so comfortable with technology that they are able to use it intuitively while doing other tasks (Lu, 2012). Today’s mobile devices are so small and fast that they can comfortably be carried to almost any location. While the device’s small screen size may make some types of interactive learning more difficult, these concerns are outweighed by the benefits of providing students with a way to learn that is more engaging and fun (Lu, 2012).

Lu (2012) also discussed the concept of ubiquitous learning, or u-learning, which occurs when students are immersed in learning about the topic at hand through various methods in their environment, without noticing that they are constantly engaged in learning. Mobile phones are particularly well-suited for u-learning because students carry them constantly and tend to use them in each spare moment, creating opportunities for them to engage with the subject matter (Lu, 2012, p. 25).

2.7.2 M-learning to improve educational outcomes

Educating the Net Generation, edited by Oblinger and Oblinger (2005), is a collection of articles that explores the role of m-learning for today’s youngest university students. As such, the articles cater to students who have grown up with access to the Internet, prefer mobile learning, and thrive in the virtual environment (i.e., digital natives). Moreover, the text offers the reader a variety of perspectives on how to help higher education institutions to improve their use of technology in learning as they “move from course management systems to more interactive technologies” (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005, p. 2.3).

In one article, Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) explored the unique learning needs and styles of the ‘Net Generation’. They explained that net generation students learn differently, jumping from one item to the next, taking in information in small bits and piecing it together. The authors also cited a number of other characteristics of net generation learners that distinguish them from previous generation learners, such as an increased ability to gain information from visual images, spatial skills, learning through discovery, the ability to shift attention rapidly, and an expectation of quick response times (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). Finally, the assertion is made that net generation students also prefer activities that involve social interaction and that they gravitate towards collaborative learning, even with strangers (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). Thus, the point is emphasised that m-learning is well suited to meet many of these needs.

While it may seem obvious that institutions of higher learning should cater to net generation learners as it is their main enrolment demographic, Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) noted that while there are clear generational trends in IT ‘savviness’, heavy users of technology of any age tend to be adept at using new devices. Universities are challenged in adapting to the needs of both generations, which may be paradoxical in some respects. That is, studies show that younger learners are more likely to prefer face-to-face communication in educational settings, while non-traditional students are more interested in online learning. The authors noted that a balance between the two is likely to please most students (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005).

Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) challenged university educators and administrators to examine the differences between their own learning experiences and preferences, and those of their students who may or may not be part of the net generation. Educators should focus on the methods that best engage students in learning, provide experiences that lead to information retention, and avoid the trap of focusing on technology rather than learning (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005).

Kearney, Schucka, Burden and Aubusson (2012) provided a description of the time and space differences that distinguish mobile learning from traditional classroom learning. In doing so, the authors declared that there are no fixed locations or schedules which must be adhered to in mobile learning, although some methods involve synchronous communication or scheduled classroom time. The researchers also examined various methods based on three basic socio-cultural needs: authenticity, collaboration, and personalisation. Within each of these methods, time and space may be applied in a variety of ways in the social-cultural construct (Kearney et al., 2012).

Personalisation allows learners to determine when and where they want to learn, and how much time they choose to spend on selected content. Learners are able to set their own learning goals, and to interact with peers in games tailored to their interests (Kearney et al., 2012). The level of authenticity in a learning experience is determined by the relationship between the activity and real-world situations, and its ability to simulate a similar situation in a real world context (Kearney et al., 2012). Collaboration refers to the social process of learning from others and ‘negotiating meaning’ from these interactions. Mobile devices enable students to collaborate in previously unavailable ways, and often lead to more rapid feedback on their learning (Kearney et al., 2012).

There are also a number of research projects which have demonstrated the great potential of m-learning to improve students’ knowledge acquisition and learning abilities. One such project is called Project 3Rs which was developed in 2006 by a group of researchers from Singapore. Project 3Rs assists primary-school students to use mobile devices for learning to read, write, and do arithmetic (Looi et al., 2009). Using an experiential pedagogical approach, Project 3Rs incorporates wireless technology, digital cameras, text-input functions, and an internet browser to guide students as they learn through experience. Students in Project 3Rs must progress through a cycle of activities in which they are encouraged to plan, apply, challenge, experience, and reflect (Looi et al., 2009). Thus, the Project 3Rs software helps to improve students’ thought processes as they are challenged to develop their problem-solving skills. Project 3Rs researchers admit that the software has limitations of scalability and sustainability in primary-education systems (Looi et al., 2009). Despite this, Project 3Rs has demonstrated the potential to help young children to develop an appreciation for using mobile technology for academic purposes.

M-learning studies use different forms of student evaluation. One such study used formative assessment-based mobile learning (FAML) to “implement those characteristics in an m-learning environment, in which individual students are situated in a real-world learning environment with personal supports or guidance from the learning system” (Hwang & Chang, 2011, p. 1024). Formative assessments in m-learning can be used in various ways to gauge students’ educational progress. For example, some researchers use FAML to create peer assessments and to aid students in self-reflection (Hwang & Chang, 2011).

Research projects often involve the learning that occurs among adult students in various locations. One study, the MOBIlearn Project, aimed to encourage adult learners to keep personal diaries of their learning experiences (Sharples et al., 2007). Sharples et al. (2007) highlighted that over half of the adult learners reported learning episodes occurring outside of the traditional classroom. Thus, the MOBIlearn Project assisted researchers in forming a better understanding of how mobile learners engage with their surroundings to acquire knowledge.

(Cuevas et al.,2012). To support this assertion, several studies are cited below which demonstrate m-learning techniques that result in positive outcomes for students. Indeed, universities would benefit from examining ways in which a shift from traditional learning may assist students to learn and to be more engaged in the learning processMobile learning has the potential to improve learning outcomes for students. In fact, the findings from a range of studies suggest that students learn more when using mobile technology both inside and outside of the classroom.

2.7.3 The benefits of m-learning from a sociocultural perspective

M-learning also has great potential to cater to students’ desire for social interaction and visual processing. While the level of interaction in a classroom setting may be limited, students interact more when there is a virtual framework. Such frameworks include social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as chat rooms, instant messaging, and subject discussion boards. A virtual communication framework also allows students to receive immediate feedback and other responses from the teacher and other students (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). In turn, students tend to spend more time engaged in the informal learning that takes place in a virtual environment, leading to better learning outcomes (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). In addition, there is evidence to suggest that students retain more information on the basis of what they see rather than what they read. Mobile technologies with internet access provide more opportunities for students to view images, graphs, etc., that may enhance their retention of learning material. Students are also more likely to engage with assignments when the instructions include a visual component, instead of text exclusively, which is easier to implement in online interfaces and social media (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005).

Kearney, Schucka, Burden and Aubusson (2012), mentioned above, also discussed the socio-cultural perspective of effectively applying m-learning to pedagogical methods. The central idea developed in their discussion is the importance of ensuring not just that the features of the device are used in the classroom, but that they are used in a way that enhances the learning experience. Kearney et al. (2012) explored this topic through the lens of authenticity, personalisation, and collaboration via two projects: Mobagogy, which was a collaboration of eight educators in Australia who worked together to examine the effectiveness of m-learning in their classrooms; and A Bird in the HandKearney ‘s studies sought realise the pedagogical framework for m-learning from a socio-cultural perspective. Their theoretical perspective suggest that learning is influenced and modified by the tools incorporated for learning. Contrariwise, the learning tools are enhanced by the ways that are used for learning. Central t their argument was the fact that social endeavour, facilitated and created a social interaction and conversations among people (Kearney et al., 2012)., which evaluated how smartphones impacted upon the relationship between new educators and their mentors in the United Kingdom (Kearney et al., 2012).

M-learning methods vary in their ability to meet each of the three socio-cultural needs. Game-based learning ranked particularly high in both collaboration and personalisation, allowing students to interact with the device and with other students in ways of their own choosing, while a podcast format ranked low on both domains (Kearney et al., 2012). The authors noted that it is possible to combine different activity types to meet the needs of students for collaboration and personalisation.

Attewell, Saville-Smith and Douch (2009) examined the impact and effectiveness of the first year of MoLeNET (mobile learning network). MoLeNET was established in the UK to service more than 20,000 students and 4,000 staff at universities and schools across the country. The learners were diverse in age, geographic location, and socioeconomic status and they, and the staff, participated in 32 new projects (Attewell et al., 2009). The project was conducted to support institutions of learning in integrating m-learning into teaching, to distribute funding for m-learning initiatives, to encourage the sustainability of m-learning, and to find evidence of the positive impact of m-learning on education (Attewell et al., 2009).

The MoLeNET project differed from other m-learning projects in the variety of the technology used – the projects included a wide variety of technologies, from smartphones and gaming systems to electronic voting devices. Each project had unique goals, although all were centred upon improving student educational outcomes (Attewell et al., 2009). Unlike other similar studies, MoLeNET had substantial funding which allowed the schools to provide the devices to students, which the authors noted was unlikely to be sustainable over time (Attewell et al., 2009). In response to this likelihood, the authors included several suggestions for educational institutions to ensure that financial barriers do not hinder efforts to implement m-learning programs.

Attewell et al. (2009) identified a number of positive effects of m-learning on students, including engagement and motivation; competence and achievement; personalisation; enjoyment and confidence; and mobility, accessibility, convenience, and communication. Educators also benefited through improved teaching abilities; increased skills and confidence; improved motivation, communication, and collaboration; and changing awareness and perceptions of technology (Attewell et al., 2009). As this was a field study, it was difficult in some instances to definitively state that m-learning was responsible for all of the listed benefits, as other initiatives were implemented simultaneously. This paper however provides examples of the approaches used to reach each outcome, which varied widely, and also includes teacher and learner testimonials and examples to validate each outcome.

Regardless of the limitations of this study, the vast majority of students felt positively about the impact of mobile learning. In a survey of over 900 participants, 91% of the students agreed that m-learning did help or may help them learn, 93% agreed that m-learning did make or sometimes made learning more interesting, and 84% stated that they wanted to do more mobile learning in the future (Attewell et al., 2009). While other authors have put forward the ‘digital native theory’, that people who have grown up with technology are able to use it intuitively, this study found this to be, at least, partially false. Instead, students were able to use some functions of the devices easily, but needed training to effectively participate in some of the assignments and to use certain deeper-level functions (Attewell et al., 2009). That said, there is also evidence that older learners may have faced more difficulties in learning to use the devices and may need more training in order to achieve maximum benefit (Attewell et al., 2009).

Attewell et al. (2009) also addressed the false or exaggerated belief that educators encounter classroom behaviour problems when internet-connected devices are introduced. The authors found no increase in difficult-to-manage classroom behaviours due to the use of m-learning devices. In fact, many educators reported that students were, at times, so engaged in learning that they missed breaks. In other cases, they reported that the students were motivated by the opportunity to take breaks that could be spent playing with the devices (Attewell et al., 2009).

Interestingly, this study also described other benefits of m-learning that not so much stem from pedagogical approaches, but more from the students’ access to the device. Students used the ‘task’ and other mobile functions related to time management and organisation to meet deadlines related to schoolwork and to keep track of tasks and assignments. While these organisational and time management benefits were not the goal of any of the projects, educators reported positive results, especially for students with disabilities (Attewell et al., 2009). Hence, from a sociocultural perspective, the use of social media platforms can span a variety of educational methods, engaging with both younger and older generations. This suggests that m-learning is effective as a complementary learning practice, or even as a replacement to the traditional models of pedagogy.

2.7.5 M-learning and social media to enhance the higher education sector

Existing and emerging social media platforms hold promise for their usage in higher education settings. These networks are commonly used by students around the world to connect with others and to build communities (Lovejoy & Saxton, 2012). As such, a number of articles will be examined below which demonstrate the usefulness of social media applications which can be used across a variety of mobile devices, such as Twitter and Facebook, in classroom settings to improve the learning outcomes of students. This will be considered particularly in the higher education sector, where traditional learning methods are often still more frequently employed than in the evolving younger generation classroom setting. This section is divided into firstly, an assessment of particular applications used on mobile devices; secondly a discussion regarding other mobile devices available for more limited social platform use, particularly in developing countries; and thirdly briefly addresses possible barriers to implementation.

Social media platforms and applications for m-learning

Hsu and Ching (2012) conducted a study of graduate students in an instructional message design course using Twitter to integrate course-related learning into their everyday lives. The students used mobile devices to take photos showing real-life examples of instructional messages and then shared and discussed their examples via Twitter. The students also participated in short discussions on the course topic via Twitter (Hsu & Ching, 2012). The goal of the assignment was to increase students’ observance and understanding of class topics (Hsu & Ching, 2012). Overall, the students exceeded the required participation for original assignment-related tweets and replies to other students’ assignment-related tweets by 50 percent. In turn, this technique was used by the researchers as an indicator of increased levels of student engagement (Hsu & Ching, 2012). While greater engagement does not necessarily imply retention of information, the likelihood of student learning increases when motivational levels and active engagement are present (Hsu & Ching, 2012).

Hsu and Ching (2012) identified the primary advantages of using mobile phones in learning as mobility, computing power, connectivity, and real-time communication (Hsu & Ching, 2012). Mobile devices enabled the students to connect with relevant information in reality, which ensured that learning continued outside of the classroom and was connected to contexts which were meaningful to them. The study also highlighted the potential for social connection via mobile learning technologies. According to Hsu and Ching (2012), today’s web applications encourage new ways of learning through connection and collaboration with others. Moreover, they asserted that learners are able to develop their knowledge by engaging intellectually and by building social connections into a richer learning environment with people around the world. The authors also discussed the use of Twitter as a vehicle for students to ask questions during large university lectures. Students could send messages to the instructor who would provide a response without having to call on each student individually. The authors noted that this method only allows for student-instructor interaction, not peer interaction, but may nonetheless be useful for classroom engagement and efficiency (Hsu & Ching, 2012).

Kearney et al. (2012) also discussed the potential of Twitter to be an effective mobile learning tool, as it is a diverse application able to be used on a variety of mobile devices. One of the primary measures of pedagogical effectiveness in their study was authenticity. As such, the authors found that while very few approaches ranked highly on this measure in terms of relating to the real world, the use of Twitter did, even among professionals. Attendees at a professional conference used Twitter to communicate questions to a speaker, displaying them on a large screen. The authenticity they described in this scenario was attributed to the fact that interacting on Twitter met a real-world goal of the participants – to network with colleagues at a conference. The participants reported that they were already using Twitter for networking purposes prior to this learning activity (Kearney et al., 2012).

Roblyer, McDaniel, Wenn, Herman and Witty (2012) compared the perceptions of students and faculty in relation to their comfort in using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the classroom. The authors cited a study which showed that students and educators in training are not resistant to the use of social media, although established educators may be more so (Roblyer et al. 2012). The authors suggested that one method for overcoming such resistance may be to draw connections between the communication that may result from social media to the communication capacity of email. The faculty were already comfortable with email, and may benefit from seeing the similarities between social networking sites and this familiar relationship-building platform (Roblyer et al., 2012).

Roblyer et al. (2012) did not focus solely on the higher education sector, ad also provided examples of schools or districts using social media. Saugus Union School district, for example, used an interface much like Facebook to communicate news, updates, and announcements via a discussion board and podcasts. Users were able to connect with each other and exchange messages which bolstered relationship building and a sense of community between the students and the educators. The educators also shared course information and supplementary materials via the site and reported gains in student test results (Roblyer et al., 2012). In addition, the National School Board Association reported that nearly 70% of school districts were using similar platforms and that educators were integrating blogging and other functions into lessons to provide students with feedback via the site (Roblyer et al., 2012).

In terms of higher education, the authors reported that the Georgia Tech library in the United States used social media to connect with students, and to market the library to engineering students to better meet their learning needs. The authors did raise some concerns related to privacy with the use of Facebook (Roblyer et al., 2012). However, this study was conducted in 2007 and Facebook has changed many of the features linked to such problems (i.e., groups and institutions may now have pages that do not allow the page administrator to view the personal pages of individuals who like their page).

there were concerns about the distracting nature of the devices and the limitations posed by their small size, the researchers found that students were able to benefit from them by observing and sharing information outside of the classroom and by taking a more active role in directing their own learning (Mueller et al., 2012). More often, mobile phones for example, are thought to be distracters when ringing during class hours, multitasking and or cheating; arguably , the camera that comes with different phones could raised privacy issues. Similarly, the availability of ubiquitous internet sees some students performing multi tasking on various tasks hence blamed on distracting other students from concentrating in their lectures (Scott, 2006). Mueller, Wood, Pasquale and Crickshank (2012) provided a detailed account of the current uses of mobile devices in higher education in a study of Canadian business students who were given Blackberry devices for use in their coursework. While

The students used many of the Blackberry functions and identified Facebook as one of the applications most valuable for learning. The researchers hypothesised that the devices may have aided students to build a social support network outside of the classroom (Mueller et al., 2012). Although limited information may be gained on the utility of Facebook in the classroom from this study, the level of student interest indicates that it is worthwhile to explore this topic further.

Another study by Baldridge, McAdams, Reed and Moran (2014) explored the use of mobile devices and social media applications in the education of undergraduate students studying to be social workers. Students in one section of the course were engaged in the use of mobile technologies, including a class Facebook application used to facilitate communication between the teacher and the students as well as between the students. The learning outcomes were compared to a group of students who participated through traditional teaching methods (Baldridge, et al., 2014).

The researchers found that the students who participated in the remote class had significantly higher post-test scores compared to those taught in the traditional classroom. The students in the remote class agreed that the learning methods were engaging and effective. The results suggest that the improved outcomes may have been due to the fact that the students participated in more self-directed learning and benefited from being part of a community. They also suggested that the more frequent communication that emerged during the m-learning activities, as well as the opportunity to learn from real-world contexts, may have contributed to student success (Baldridge et al., 2014).

Mobile devices and applications in other contexts

While the studies mentioned above have identified m-learning as able to enhance educational outcomes, this is largely conducted in countries with access to such technology. Education is a key factor in the development of the individual and hence is particularly important in the economies of the developing world. However, there are special challenges to overcoming problems of access to higher education in many countries around the world. Gronlund and Islam (2010) examined the effectiveness and sustainability of using existing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Bangladesh Open University to extend access to the general population. This study used mobile telephone technology, as access to mobile phones is more common in Bangladesh than access to the Internet. The use of SMS messages on mobile phones also decreases barriers to entry, as most potential students already have mobile phones, but may not be able to purchase computers (Gronlund et al., 2010). Mobile learning hence demonstrates the ability to traverse possible economic and social boundaries.

In the Gronlund et al. (2010) study, mobile devices were used for student-teacher interaction. This represented a significant change from the traditional model where educators have no contact with students and choose instead to record lessons for broadcast by television. The authors observed a high level of excitement from the students that they attributed to the students’ new ability to obtain immediate feedback on their work and to interact with the teacher. The researchers also compared student learning in a classroom led by a teacher to a learning context where the teacher was only visible via a television monitor. In this context, the teacher interacted with the students via SMS. The two teaching methods showed equal outcomes on pre- and post-test results (Gronlund et al., 2010).

Gronlund et al. (2010) detailed the barriers that arose when implementing the new methods designed to encourage teacher-student interaction through SMS and other avenues. The major barriers reported were gaining support for the new interactive methods and convincing educators and officials to implement the change. The researchers proposed and implemented systems which were easy to use and which did not take an excessive amount of time for educators to integrate into lessons. Educators also needed training in how to shift their focus from simply conveying information to students into a model where the focus was on what the student was learning. Students also had to adapt by taking on a more active role in learning and seeking information. This was not the most difficult barrier to overcome; however, most students expressed excitement about the new methods and readily adopted them (Gronlund et al., 2010).

While not readily available in developing countries, smartphones are widely used in the developed world, especially among university students. Cochrane and Bateman (2010) described the various pedagogical approaches to using smartphones found in the emergence of various m-learning methods in tertiary education in New Zealand. This was accomplished in part through a group of researchers, educators, and students examining and sharing experiences as m-learning projects developed, with most projects spanning one to four years. Due to the advantages of m-learning, including the capacity for students to learn anywhere at any time, an increase in the focus on students in the learning process, and the building of bridges across the ‘digital divide’, the authors believed that the benefits of m-learning far outweighed the potential difficulties or inconveniences (Cochrane & Bateman, 2010).

Potential barriers in implementing m-learning

Cochrane and Bateman (2010) also provided evidence that may be useful for other universities or programs moving toward m-learning that wish to ensure a smooth roll-out to facilitate effective teaching. The study focused on m-learning via highly functional smartphones. Smartphone functions used in the experiments included geo-tagging, video streaming, micro-blogging, text notifications, image sharing, video blogging, mobile codes, enhanced student podcasts, and social networking, each of which was suited to different learning goals and methods of interaction (Cochrane & Bateman, 2010). The researchers noted, as do many other authors, that the cost of a smartphone may be a significant barrier to the adoption of m-learning methods. Notwithstanding this issue, the researchers were able to fund the provision of smartphones to the students participating in their study and, as a result, their research was not impacted by financial barriers.

The researchers learned that one of the key factors in whether the students evaluated the experience positively was related to the type of smartphone they were using. In response, the researchers developed a rubric detailing and comparing the various features of each smartphone in common use at the time. This was undertaken to assist the students and educators to make a selection depending on the particular requirements of the course (Cochrane & Bateman, 2010). Most of the smartphones listed on the authors’ rubric were out-dated and no longer available. Therefore, schools would need to develop and frequently update a similar rubric to guide students’ smartphone choices.

Another potential barrier to m-learning is that its integration must be carefully planned. The researchers noted a number of primary factors in the successful integration of m-learning. First is the level to which m-learning is integrated into teaching and student assessment. The m-learning must be meaningful and well-connected to the overall content, rather than a separate function of the course. Second, the lecturer needs to model how the tools can be used to facilitate learning. Third, there must be regular feedback to the students from the lecturer and other students. Without feedback, m-learning does not encourage the social interaction needed for it to be an effective teaching tool. Fourth, the university must choose smartphones or another technology that allows students to participate in m-learning with minimal frustration and maximum success. Finally, there must be adequate support both for learning and for the use of the technology. Students and lecturers must be able to access help from an IT expert who can assist with resolving any technological problems (Cochrane & Bateman, 2010).

Al-Fahad (2008) discussed the ubiquity of mobile devices and the exciting opportunities they present for engaging students in Saudi Arabia. The barriers to accessing this technology are decreasing. For example, in 2008 in Saudi Arabia, the government took steps to ensure that mobile broadband access was affordable and accessible (Al-Fahad, 2008). Al-Fahad (2008) surveyed the students about their interest in mobile learning. The students were asked how they used their phones, and what their level of interest would be in integrating their mobile devices into their learning. The response was very positive. The author stated that the students’ responses were indicative of their enthusiasm about the possibilities for m-learning and that the time is ripe for schools to take advantages of such possibilities (Al-Fahad, 2008).

To conclude, m-learning is becoming increasingly embedded in today’s educational infrastructures. While the literature is somewhat limited, and there are few large-scale or lengthy studies to date on the impact of m-learning on student outcomes, there is increasing collections of evidence demonstrating that the adoption and development of m-learning will enhance the student experience at university. Administrators and educators should carefully plan the implementation of m-learning into their curriculum and thoughtfully research effective methods. Moreover, education professionals should expect to find that the main barriers are the cost of devices and resistance from established faculty and administrators. Integrating m-learning into today’s classrooms is critical for preparing today’s students for the world.

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