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FACTORS OF CONSIDERATION WHEN IT COMES TO MOBILE LEARNING: A RESEARCH STUDY FOR ORGANIZATIONAL SETTINGS

ICT, Online Education

Abstract: This review study focuses on the investigation of add-on impact of mobile applications in learning strategies. I surveyed recent researches including context awareness, pedagogical strategy-enhanced learning scenarios, as well as collaborative and socially networked mobile learning. Through this review study, essential characteristics of mobile learning were identified and discussed along with the 4C model. With the essential characteristics, I emphasize on the add-on impact of mobile learning and elaborated mobile learning model in corporate learning strategies.

Introduction

The advance of mobile technologies have turned handheld devices a part of people’s daily life, such as in communication and entertainment. Meanwhile, educators also strive to facilitate learning in organizational settings by applying mobile technology and appropriate learning strategies.

In this review study, I take more practical points of view to describe how mobile technologies facilitate m-learning activity in corporate settings.

The advanced mobile technology provides workers with two important features in recent m-learning research, situated context and ubiquitous mobility. Situated context and ubiquitous mobility are important features when developing the educational mobile activities. The add-on impact of mobile application in learning strategies will also put emphasis on the two features.

This study is organized as follows. After providing a brief definition in literature review, I collect recent researches focusing on technology and pedagogy supported m-learning examples in facilitating m-learning process. In thefollowing part of the study, the essential attributes of m-learning will be summarized to emphasize the add-on impact of mobile technology based on its 4C’s (communication, content, capture and connection) in learning strategies. I conclude this study by reflecting impact and learning models associated with m-learning in organizational settings.

Definition
Mobile learning (m-learning) is a transformative opportunity both for learning, and the learning organization. M-learning means both augmenting formal learning, and moving to performance support, informal, and social learning as well.
Acording to “The eLearning Guild’s 2007 M-learning 360° Research Report”, mobile has been defined as:
“Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, inter¬acting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.”

For mobile devices in general, there are not only documents (text and graph¬ics) but also audio, e-mail, the Web, and instant messaging. Video is almost ubiquitous now. Adding phone capabilities, we have voice and text messag¬ing (SMS), and, increasingly, multimedia messaging (MMS).In fact, the convergence of capability, regardless of form factor, is what is fueling the mobile revolution. This convergence also provides a rich source of channels for supporting learning. The following m-learning chan¬nels provide new opportunities to think about how they might support learning:

  • SMS/MMS

 

  • Voice

 

  • Document

 

  • Audio

 

  • Video

 

  • Interactivity

The latest new devices have rich capabilities: input via touch screens with built-in or onscreen keyboards and noise-cancelling microphones; output via vi¬brant screens and quality audio; sensors such as GPS, cameras, compasses, and ori¬entation sensors; and connectivity via multiple networking methods including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, data via phone service, and cables (Quinn, 2011). In addition to the expected “compact digital portable device,” the important bits to no¬tice are the fact that it is largely not about courses but instead about being more pro¬ductive, and it’s about something that’s always with you. It’s about performance, first and foremost. The result is a context-aware computational device that augments our capabilities, both for formal learning, and for informal and performance-support needs.
When hearing the term “mLearning,” most individuals converge on the idea of courses on a phone, whether reduced to the screen size or stripped down. As Quinn (2011) asserts, this can lead to dismissal of the potential, the underlying idea of m-learning in organizational settings is course augmentation. The essence of mobile is, augmenting our mental capabilities wherever and whenever we are. Our brains are very good at pattern-matching and pretty good at executive function, but very bad at rote memorization and complex computations. Computers, conversely, are the reverse, and from a problem-solving perspective we are far more capable when we combine the two. Mobile devices do that and more.

The more common use of m-learning is in performance support, in effect augment¬ing our brains. The goal is to take the digital support we can have at our desktops, and make a usable version available wherever and whenever we are. It’s about bringing the capabilities our minds don’t handle well to the problems we face: rote memory, com¬plex computation, exact context capture, and distant communication.

By abstracting across mobile capabilities, we achieve what is referred to as the four C’s of mobile (Quinn, 2011; see Figure 1):

  • Content – the delivery of media including documents, audio, and video

 

  • Compute – the ability to perform calculations and have programmatic responses

 

  • Capture – capturing data from the local environment such as photos, videos, audio, or information from sensors such as location or direction

 

  • Communicate – the ability to reach others with text, voice, or even video

These three factors – content, compute, and communicate – are not unique to mobile but now aug¬ment our performance wherever we are, while capture, particularly combined with the other three, can do unique things. One can capture and communicate to others, or cap¬ture the location and use that to customize the content one receives to be context-spe¬cific. The point is to break out of our traditional design mentality and find a way to think more comprehensively about the opportunities that mobile provides.

Literature Review
Much of this is not unique to mobile: computers have been developed as the perfect comple¬ment to our brains, but the opportunity now is to untether that support from the desk¬top, and let it roam free. Mobile brings the power of digital augmentation, and more, to us wherever and whenever we are. However, there are ways in which mobile is unique.
In addition to the integration of suitable software and novel mobile technologies, how to combine appropriate pedagogical strategy for enhanced learning application was another critical important issue in m-learning environment. Some of the studies proposed the navigation mechanism and intelligent tutoring system supporting suitable tutorial strategies for learners increasing learning opportunities (Ghiani et al., 2009; O’Grady, O’Hare, & Sas, 2005; Pianesi et al., 2009; Virvou & Alepis, 2005).

Moreover, the high interaction strategy was proposed to use for promoting social interaction and enhancing user experience in several studies (Hourcade & Berkel, 2008; Paterno` & Santoro, 2003; Wessels et al., 2007). Collaborative and cooperative learning are generally the first method chosen in m-learning environment. Collaborative and cooperative learning is based on the constructivist theory which prompts learners to learn by doing and construct knowledge for themselves (Schunk, 1996), and that pedagogical strategies have been widely applied in m-learning activities (Dearman, Hawkey, & Inkpen, 2005; El-Bishouty, Ogata & Yano, 2007; Huang, Huang, & Hsieh, 2008; Huang, Jeng, & Huang, 2009; Lundin & Magnusson, 2003; Patten, Sa´nchez, & Tangney, 2006; Yang, 2006). Chen, Kao, & Sheu (2003) utilized the method of scaffolding which can enhance comprehension, improve independent learning and application, and promote knowledge transfer. The main research applications of situated learning and ubiquitous learning will be discussed in this section.

Generally, learning that happens on any pervasive computing devices can be referred to m-learning. The rapid development of wireless network technologies and various mobile products have enabled people to conveniently access the information resources anytime and anywhere without constraints of time or place. The advanced available technologies, such as high bandwidth wireless communication networking infrastructure, wireless technologies, and advanced handheld devices, have extended online learning modes from e-learning to m-learning, in which learning objects have started to extend traditional learning manner towards widely used in daily life for various purposes (Sharples, 2000). However, mobile devices for learning are limited by screen size, computational power, battery capacity, input interface and network bandwidth (Chen, Chang, & Wang, 2008). Thus, how to adapt information for delivery to mobile devices has become a critical issue in m-learning environment.

To address this concern, many researchers have investigated the issue in different ways and have proposed several solutions (Gaedke et al., 1998; Goh, Kinshuk, & Lin, 2003; Huang & Sundaresan, 2000; Lemlouma & Layaïda, 2003). Yang, Chen, & Shao (2004) developed a universal access mechanism which can provide a transparent and seamless browsing experience of adaptive content based on XML/RDF, CC/PP, and UAProf techniques. Besides, content server can create adaptive multimedia content used on Dublin core/MPEG-7 and SMIL for multimedia content description and composition. Lemlouma and Layaïda (2004) proposed the system using the XQuery language and delivering the SOAP services to achieve automatic adaptation of the content based on its semantic and the capabilities of the target device. Zhang (2007) proposed several perspectives to discuss the web content adaptation for mobile devices. Huang, et al. (2008) utilized Fuzzy Weighted Average (FWA) algorithm to design a context-awareness synchronous learning system. The proposed manner provides various content styles to make learning contents appropriate to be displayed on diverse learning devices.

Recently, the concept of context-aware ubiquitous learning has been further proposed to allow learners learning with variety of mobile devices and facilitate a seamless ubiquitous learning environment (Chang, Sheu, & Chan, 2003; Sakamura & Koshizuka, 2005; Rogers et al., 2005), which conducts real-world learning activities with adaptive supports from the learning system (Hwang, Tsai & Yang, 2008; Peng et al., 2009; Yang, 2006). In order to achieve context-aware and seamlessly learning environments, some ubiquitous computing technologies and devices were usually utilized to detect or sense users’ context information, such as RFID, GPS, specific sensors, contact-less smart cards, wearable computers, and wireless communications. (El-Bishouty, Ogata & Yano, 2007; Hwang, Tsai & Yang, 2008). The acquired context information was not merely used to identify learners’ situations but also utilized to support personalized learning guidance.

Ubiquitous mobility has been considered and implemented in several researches in recent years (Sharples Beale, 2003; Joiner et al., 2006; Fallahkhair, 2007). With ubiquitous mobility, learners can facilitate learning activity in the outside world and connect to other peers by connecting to network. Mobile technologies offer rich content of m-learning and deliver information effectively for learners during their learning activities. The feature of mobility also makes m-learning become more and more distributed (Chang et al., 2003; Corlett, et al., 2005; Clough, 2008).

Situated learning is one of m-learning applications (Hall & Bannon, 2006; Morken, et al., 2007; Lai, et al., 2007); it is the learning that takes place in the context corresponding to the learning materials. Situated learning provides learners with authentic learning examples which suit the learner’s learning context. With mobile situated learning system, learner can acquire the context-aware learning materials to enhance their learning experience.

Handheld devices have been deployed as learning tools in both formal and informal learning contexts. Clough et al. (2008) investigate how experienced users of mobile devices use their mobile devices to support intentional informal learning. The results show that mobile devices are used extensively in an informal learning context by mobile learners. Also, they use mobile devices in ways that correspond to the collaborative, contextual and constructivist m-learning activities.

Collaborative and cooperative m-learning activities facilitate mobile technique as the learning tools (Lundin & Magnusson, 2003; Ng, et al., 2005; Järvelä, et al., 2007; Huang, et al., 2008 & 2009). Yang (2006) constructed three systems in the context aware ubiquitous learning environment, which include peer-to-peer content access and adaptation system, personalized annotation management system, and multimedia real-time group discussion system. In that environment, researcher utilized the effective and efficient advantage of ubiquitous learning to design the strategy of peer-to-peer collaborative learning to the learners. The author addresses the newly concept of collaborative activity can fully support the needs of peer-to-peer collaborative learning.

Essential Attributes of M-learning

This section will discuss the essential attributes of m-learning then conclude the research review.

Learning through mobile devices is the trend of digital learning field.The add-on impact of m-learning are based on four dimensions as shown in Figure 2. The four dimensions are situated learning environment, virtual group awareness/strategies, enhanced pedagogical learning process and mobile learner/coacher.

Regardless of the medium used, the elements that lead to effective learning are: introducing the learning, presenting ap-propriate concepts, demonstrating the ap¬plication of those concepts within contexts, allowing the learner to practice that applica¬tion in other contexts, and finally closing off the learning experience (Quinn, 2011).
Too often all of the elements – in¬tro, concept, example, etc. – are combined into a single learning “event,” yet research tells that this approach isn’t effective. For instance, Quinn (20122) asserts that massed practice isn’t as effective as spaced practice. The forgetting curve on the event model is pretty severe. Our cognitive architecture becomes satu¬rated with a short amount of activation of any particular concept at one time, and fur¬ther activation is not effective until there’s been a break, typically sleep. Therefore, activating the knowledge a little bit over time is more effective than a large amount of activation at one time, owing to our cognitive architecture. However, mobile devices give us another channel to augment formal learning with more examples and practice, and we can extend the learning experience over time more conveniently.

Mobile learner and coacher

The advance of pervasive technologies brings opportunities for educators to design interactive learning activities. Such environment encourages learners to utilize the learning tools and explore the knowledge (Price, & Rogers, 2004; Monahan, et al., 2008). Learners can learn the knowledge and access the information anytime and anywhere without too much additional efforts. In m-learning process, learners’ learning portfolio will be recorded and the relevant information around learners will be tracked in mobile applications. Accordingly, the authentic learning materials or the appropriate contextual learning content will be provided according to the learner’s learning context. The mobile application needs feedback from learner to provide personalized learning suggestions. The m-learning system is adaptive to the mobile learners, which can offer right learning content in right places to rightlearners. The m-learning scenario to mobile learners should be natural without carrying additional devices

The mobile coacher could be a mobile application agent or a real lecturer who guide learners to problem solving in m-learning activities. M-learning applications are expected to offer learners the sharing of their learning portfolio, learning context, and learning feedback to their mobile coacher. After receiving the relevant learning information of learners, mobile coacher can provide adaptable personalized learning contents and suggestions.

The mobile coacher is expected to monitor learners’ needs and provide them with appropriate aid in the learning activity

Enhanced pedagogical learning process

The enhanced pedagogical learning process is utilized to facilitate the learning in m-learning activities. For example, blog articles were applied to construct a learning map called blog-based dynamic learning map (Wang et al., 2008). It is designed to provide informative and structured blog articles to assist learners’ learning. Therefore, a collaborative learning process can be facilitated by utilizing a mobile blogging system (Huang et al., 2009). In this mobile collaborative learning process, the bloggingsystem is employed as a data collector and an information sharing platform for mobile learners. A revised pedagogical learning process associated with mobile technology has formed the pedagogical foundations of m-learning. Chen, et al. (2003; 2008) have designed mobile application system for modeling, coaching and scaffolding the authentic activities and faded the support during the m-learning process. They facilitate collaboration and support some of the social practices associated with learning. Therefore, the traditional pedagogical theory can take advantage of mobile technology and bring more efficient learning process to mobile learners. The combination of
collaborative, contextual, constructionist and constructivist principles should be derived from augmented pedagogical learning process.

Situated learning environment

Mobile technologies gradually facilitate and enhance learners’ interaction by means of accessing, discussing and sharing associated information through social networks. A situated learning environment aims to contextualize learning activities by enabling the learners to interact appropriately with their environment (Patten, et al., 2006). The advanced function of mobile devices make it possible for detecting learner’s learning environment by embedded mobile sensors. Yang, (2006) proposed a context aware ubiquitous learning environment to provide contextual information and support peer-to-peer collaborative learning. The mobility, communication features and computational capacity of handhelds provide learners with authentic learning activities by simulating a situated learning environment. In cognitive apprenticeship, knowledge is situated within authentic activities and taught through interaction with instructors (Brown et al., 1989). Therefore, a vivid learning interaction with the environment makes the add-on impact of m-learning in situated learning environment.

Virtual group awareness/strategies

Various studies (Danesh, et al., 2001; Inkpen, 1991; Mandryk, et al., 2001) describe the benefit for bringing mobility, and portability to face-to-face CSCL environments when learners are wirelessly interconnected by handheld devices. Zurita, Nussbaum, & Salinas, (2005) proposed dynamic grouping methodology which is like recomposition group members during the collaborative activity. The results let future research understand which group composition should be favored in a given set of circumstances. Therefore, the member of virtual group should be deployed in particular given learning context to facilitate learners engaging in the learning topics.

With the development of mobile applications, virtual group awareness can be emphasized and augmented. This improvement in m-learning draws more opportunities inutilizing pedagogical learning strategies.

With the integration of the four attributes, a m-learning activity would be sturdy in perspective of learning model. A m-learning environment should have learner and coacher combined with enhanced pedagogical learning strategies. To address the mobility in m-learning, the technologic advantages should be valued. The situated learning environment utilizes the strength of mobility and brings context awareness learning materials for mobile learner and coacher. In this environment, mobile learner can have the awareness of group membership which could increase the learning motive or improve the learning efficiency.
It is important to place mobile in the larger organizational context. Initially, mobile is a delivery channel for enterprise capability. As identified in the beginning of this paper, mobile is becoming the first focus for enterprise development. Particularly for perfor¬mance, the boundaries between work and performance are blurring, and the roles of portals and social media cover far more than formal learning.
Increasingly, there is a shift in perspective from looking only at formal m-learning to include performance support, informal, and social learning as a necessary step in the evolution of organizational learning. The learning function in the organization needs to start tak¬ing responsibility for performance in the broader sense, or what I term big “L” learning (to distinguish from just formal learning), including problem-solving, creativity, innova¬tion, collaboration, design, research, and more. The role of the learning function in an organization moves from content creation to learning and performance facilitation. The overall space of learning responsibility is a continuum from formal learning through performance support to informal learning, creating an overall performance ecosystem, and mobile is a channel on this. Thus, as Quinn (2009; see Figure 3) asserts, mobile is a component of Broader Distribution.

The following considerations should be made when it comes to integrating m-learning in organizational settings:
Development Considerations: Devices do not exist in a vacuum, but instead, some necessary standards must be taken into account when using them.The easy solutions are in content delivery: most smart devices can play video and audio in certain standard formats, and read HTML and PDFs. Moving beyond, document formats that more elegantly separate out formatting from delivery, such as XML, provide even more flexibility. Similarly, any device that has sensors like cameras and microphones typically can share that data. The standards for communication are ubiquitous: voice, text messages, and e-mail all have standards. Similarly, most of the social media networks have clear winners in each category, so Facebook, Skype, and Twitter are fairly standardized. Proprietary versions of those typically have mobile interfaces developed as well. So content, capture, and communication are easy. The differences between these operating systems make it difficult to develop and deliver a common solution. While platforms for content can be, and are being, built on top of these systems, distributing interactivity across platforms is harder.

Tool Considerations: The standards mentioned above make it easy to take existing content and make it available for mobile delivery at little or no cost. There are free conversion tools available if the media-development tools in use don’t already have output options for media delivery.
On the other hand, while content delivery is pretty much a solved problem, the development of interactive capabilities, regardless of channel, is not so simple. This doesn’t mean one can’t do a good design and implement with lower levels of interaction, but it does mean one needs to be more thoughtful about what one wants to accomplish before considering delivery options. Soon, mobile delivery will be an automatic outcome of the enterprise and learning tool sets. However, that does not mean one should just continue to develop e-learning in the same old way. First, one should not continue to focus only on formal learning, as argued above. One should also be striving for minimalism on principle, but more so for the sake of mobile delivery. Minimalism has turned out to be valuable for Web design and in learning experience design as well (Carroll, 1990). Consequently, the best advice as of now is to focus on analysis and design, and then choose the tool that will let accomplish what needs to be done, and not to worry about tools until one is ready to move. When deciding about the execution of a mobile initiative one should evaluate both those mobile toolsets already available and those that are likely to continue to be available.
Implementation Considerations: Other areas for consideration are the implementation issues such as security, support, and provision. One possibility is loss of the device. Solutions to this include only getting data on demand, such as through mobile Web or text messages, so there’s no persistent information on the device. Alternatively, most smartphone platforms now have mechanisms for passwords, location-discovery, and remote wiping of the stored information. A second possibility is for interception of incoming data. Mechanisms exist for secure transmission as well, though only for smartphones. In addition to policies about devices, it might seem that there is a need for policies about how one can use the devices, and what you can access or communicate with them. Whatever policies, however, that already exist for desktop access of data and public communications apply to these devices. The one area that might make sense to create new policies for is providing location information if such information could be detrimental to corporate success. However, increasingly, the view is that empowering individuals with the important goals and resources to succeed is more powerful than attempts to control behavior.
Organizational Change Considerations: A mobile initiative should be considered as an organizational change, and what will be measured to determine the long-term impact of the intervention, and the short-term evaluation should also be taken into account. The choice of metrics used to determine the value received also is important. After launch, there is a decision to make with three possible results: 1) Is it good so we can let it continue as is; 2) does the approach need tweaking; 3) or is this not working sufficiently well to continue with it? (See Figure 20.) The measurements to use are, ideally, business impact: is the mobile initiative reducing costs or errors, increasing sales rates, or increasing customer loyalty? Less direct results may also be appropriate, such as employee demand (are they downloading Podcasts) or satisfaction (subjective evaluation of their assessment of the initiative). With ubiquitous access, we no longer need the “event” model of learning. We have the potential to step away from punctuated learning, and move to continuous learning. Indeed, we are likely to see more individual learning occur, and the question is what to do about it. If we couple some “learning to learn” with a longer-term perspective of our relationship with our learners, we may want and need to shift to a “slow learning” perspective.

Conclusions and Discussions

This review study focused on pedagogical learning strategies applied in m-learning environments for organizational settings. Through the survey of recent researches on m-learning, I investigated the add-on impact of mobile applications in learning strategies and concluded the following observations.

The m-learning model for organizational settings emphasizes mobile users, learning strategies, situated environments, and virtual group awareness. The advance of mobile technology assists the development of “situated classroom” which is an augmented knowledge context environment pertaining to learners’ daily life. The situated classroom is able to convey information between learners and coachers while the learning strategies are deployed. With the enhanced pedagogical learning strategies, learners obtain skill and knowledge in situated classroom. Many currently available m-learning applications highlight the mobility, ubiquitous computing, and portability features to facilitate learning process by utilizing those features. Nevertheless, a more important issue is to rationalize the customized m-learning applications in the proposed pedagogical learning strategies. Mobile technology does not aim to complicate learning process but facilitate mobile learners’ learning process. To create new innovative learning opportunities, one needs to take into account the usability and the rationality. I believe that the appropriate application of mobile devices is to be developed in the combination of appropriate use of mobile technology and enhanced educational underpinning.

Future studies with the support of mobile technology could be directed towards the integration of learning strategies and emerging mobile sensor technology. More and more mobile devices in the future will be equipped with sensors and accelerometers which mean the track of mobile learners will be more precise.

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