Scholarly article on topic 'Adoption and Application of Mobile Learning in the Education Industry'

Adoption and Application of Mobile Learning in the Education Industry Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Samsiah Bidin, Azidah Abu Ziden

Abstract The paper has three aims: First, it provides a historical overview of mobile learning concept and evolution. Secondly, it discusses the mobile learning adoption and application in the education industry. The evidences reviewed confirm the significant use of mobile learning in the education industry. Mobile learning is gaining its popularity as it is accepted to be an effective technique of delivering lesson and acquiring knowledge as its main strengths are anytime and anyplace. It can be utilized in many ways in the education industry. Through this review of the literature, the researchers looked into the influential factors that contribute for mobile learning utilization. These factors have prompted many researchers to further research on mobile learning due to its potential in making teaching and learning more attractive and promising. Issues and challenges in adopting mobile learning were also highlighted. Finally, this paper reveals areas in mobile learning that require further studies.

Academic research paper on topic "Adoption and Application of Mobile Learning in the Education Industry"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 90 (2013) 720 - 729

6th International Conference on University Learning and Teaching (InCULT 2012)

Adoption and application of mobile learning in the education


Samsiah Bidina*, Azidah Abu Zidenb

aLanguage Studies Department, Universiti Teknologi MARA Kedah, 08400 Merbok, Kedah, Malaysia bSchool of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia


The paper has three aims: First, it provides a historical overview of mobile learning concept and evolution. Secondly, it discusses the mobile learning adoption and application in the education industry. The evidences reviewed confirm the significant use of mobile learning in the education industry. Mobile learning is gaining its popularity as it is accepted to be an effective technique of delivering lesson and acquiring knowledge as its main strengths are anytime and anyplace. It can be utilized in many ways in the education industry. Through this review of the literature, the researchers looked into the influential factors that contribute for mobile learning utilization. These factors have prompted many researchers to further research on mobile learning due to its potential in making teaching and learning more attractive and promising. Issues and challenges in adopting mobile learning were also highlighted. Finally, this paper reveals areas in mobile learning that require further studies.

© 2013TheAuthors.Publishedby ElsevierLtd.

Selectionand/or peer-review under responsibilityoftheFaculty ofEducation,UniversityTechnologyMARA,Malaysia. Keywords: Mobile learning; evolution; influential factors; issues and challenges

1. Introduction

Increased development in technology coupled with a range of needs and expectations from a range of stakeholders have made it imperative for educational organizations to constantly upgrade their strategies and policies in teaching and learning as a way to remain effective and competitive. The penetration of information technology (IT) has made learners to become increasingly computer literate. The increased use of these mobile devices like handphones, iPad, smartphones, tablets and PDAs is an international phenomenon (Goggin, 2006). Students bring these technology anywhere, at anytime for their daily affairs. Educators should look upon this

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +6-019-418-8633; fax: +604-456-2234. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the Faculty of Education, University Technology MARA, Malaysia. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.07.145

phenomenon as an opportunity though indeed it is a challenge as well. The concept of 'anytime' and 'anyplace' of mobile learning should be utilized in enhancing the pedagogical activities in delivering lessons. This review of the literature discussed the mobile learning concept and evolution. It also revealed the adoption and application of this approach in the education industry. The researchers also analysed and synthesized the issues and challenges as well as the motivating factors related to mobile learning. Through this review of the literature, the researchers highlighted areas for future research in mobile learning.

2. The evolution of mobile learning

'Digital natives' (Prensky, 2001), 'new millennium learners' (Pedró, 2006), 'the net generation' (Tapscott, 1999), 'the gamer generation' (Carstens and Beck, 2005) and 'generation M' (Rideout, Roberts and Foehr, 2005), all are referring to the same group of young generation today that involves in the use of ICT. One very obvious characteristic of the existence of this generation is they have been socializing in a media-based world (Prensky, 2001; Pedró, 2006; Tapscott, 1999; Carstens and Beck, 2005; Rideout et al., 2005; Montgomery, 1996; Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005) . This generation shares some common characteristics: think and process information very much different from their predecessors', do multitasks, prefer multimedia to written texts, collaborate and network, want to have fun at work and at school, hence, opt for games than "serious" work and for them speed and innovation are a part of life (Prensky, 2001; Pedró, 2006; Tapscott, 1999). Obviously, these young people have grown up surrounded by technology, become socially attached to the digital media that causes an increase in socially isolating activities. They use jargons that older generations are not familiar with (Pedró, 2006) and are more comfortable with a customised, collaborative and interactive learning (Sánchez, Salinas, Contreras and Meyer, 2011). All these attributes of the new generation have affected the education industry. The significant growth of wireless and mobile computing technologies has caused the conversion of the delivery of knowledge through the digital learning from distance learning (dLearning) to electronic learning (e-Learning) and ultimately to the mobile learning (m-Learning) model of today. Thus, there is also a need to make a leap in the education industry by suiting the teaching and learning to this generation's experience and abilities.

3. The concept and application of mobile learning

Mobile learning emerges due to person-to-person communication done via mobile devices (Nyíri, 2002). Mobile technology is a fundamental infrastructure to support mobile learning. These 'tiny', 'portable' and 'autonomous' devices have made some researchers defined mobile learning based on the physical dimensions of the devices (O'Malley, Vavoula, Glew, Taylor, Sharples, and Lefrere, 2003; Georgiev, Georgieva, and Smrikarov, 2004). A different concept to define mobile learning focuses on the mobility of the learners (Kukulska-Hulme, 2005). This was further elaborated and defined as the type of learning that could be formal (within the classroom), or informal (outside the classroom), and the learner has the choice to choose when and what to learn (Kukulska-Hulme and Shield, 2007). In summary, the above concepts and ideas in defining mobile learning suggest that learners' mobility, learning virtually anywhere and anytime, via mobile devices, are the main characteristics of mobile learning. Research on the teaching and learning through mobile learning has become a rapidly evolving area (Preece, 2000; Frohberg, 2002; Vavoula, Pachler and Kukulska-Hulme, 2009). The domain of mobile learning includes the new teaching and learning techniques and the wide variety of mobile applications. To date, many researchers and practitioners have explored the delivery, methodology and feasibility of mobile device usage in education context, technical support, the building of information technology (IT) infrastructure and other resources. Since the breakthrough of mobile learning, there have been various studies conducted. To name a few, there were studies conducted outside of the school or learning institution compound such as at museums (Reynolds, Walker and Speight, 2010; Chiou, Tseng, Hwang and Heller, 2010) , a temple (Hwang and Chang, 2011), a wetland (Hung, Lin and Hwang, 2010), and the sea (Pfeiffera, Gemballa, Jarodzka, Scheiter and Gerjets, 2009), within the learning institution compound like observing plants (Chu, Hwang and Tsai, 2010) and examining the impact of delivering competency based assessment via personal digital assistants

(PDA) (Coulby, Hennessey, Davies and Fuller, 2011) plus a lot more others that have been performed. So far the studies on mobile learning have shown mainly positive results. Nevertheless, there are some who doubts the durability and sustainability of mobile learning especially as the excitement of experimenting with the devices is seen as a temporary side effect. A number of researchers are of the opinion that mobile technologies should be seen as the extension rather than replacing the existing teaching and learning tools (Kukulska -Hulme, 2002; Waycott, Scanlon and Jones, 2002). Besides, not all learning content or activities are suitable with the mobile devices (Keegan, 2003).

4. Factors influencing mobile learning in education

There are considerable numbers of factors that motivate learners and educators to use mobile applications. To successfully adopt mobile learning, attention must be given to these influential factors. The researchers analysed and synthesized the factors by looking at the literature in which the mobile devices were utilized as the teaching and learning tools. Thus, the influential factors were classified into three main categories with several subcategories. The three main categories are the features of the devices, user's expectations and pedagogical advantage.

4.1. Features of the devices

Features of the devices were further subcategorized into three aspects, namely: usability, technical and functional (Economides and Nikolaou, n.d.).

4.1.1. Usability

From the usability aspect, mobile learning tools are small, light, and portable (Ahonen, Pehkonen, Syvanen and Turunen, 2004; Cavus and Ibrahim, 2009). These features make the learners feel at ease as learning is no longer constraints to the classroom with bulky backpacks containing piles of books and other learning materials. Such freedom makes the process of transmitting knowledge becomes flexible and can be carried out anytime and anywhere.

4.1.2. Functional

Functionally, the devices can provide instant and spontaneous information (Cavus and Ibrahim, 2009; Eteokleous and Ktoridou, 2009; Cohen, 2010). There are times when learners really need to get certain information fast. For example, quick answers to specific questions as definitions, formula and equation. The devices will help the learners to quickly search such information. Continuity is another functional aspect. Mobile learning is a learning model that allows the learners to gain learning materials anywhere and anytime. To be able to continue with the learning without the constraints of time and location is an important element that affects how learners may be motivated to use their mobile applications (Lan and Sie, 2010). Learners' access to information and learning material does not necessarily stop because of their location. Indeed learners can access and interact at various places and in a variety of situations.

4.2. User's expectations 4.2.1. Ownership

Naismith and Corlett (2006) surveyed many successful mobile learning projects in the proceedings of the mLearn conferences from 2002-2005, and identified five critical success features. One of five crucial factors mentioned in the study is ownership. From the point of view, learners will become more motivational, more

active in communication and learn much better when they either own the learning tool or treat it as if they own it (Luckin, Brewster, Pearce, Siddons-Corby and du Boulay, 2004; Attewell and Webster, 2005).

4.2.2. Privacy

In comparing mobile devices with other computing devices (such as laptop and PC), of course, the former offers the learners a sense of privacy. Mobile applications provide the private virtual world to the learners that make them feel safe and motivated. Having a sense of privacy will provide many reasons for learners to interact with the device. The learners can access information and download independently from other learners (BenMoussa, 2003; Zhang, 2003; Virvou and Alepis, 2005).

4.2.3. Self-Regulated learning (Control of the learning)

Researchers stress the importance of allowing learners to exercise more control over their own learning. The learners are more likely to attend to learning experiences if they are encouraged to take a more active role in their learning (Watts, 1997; Selfe, 1999). Mobile learning opens up the opportunity for the learners to be at the centre of the learning process, play an active role starting from determining their goal until the evaluation stage (Makoe, 2010). Once they are actively engaged with the task, they are more likely to develop learning strategies that will aid their learning development, hence, contribute to their motivation. Unlike other digital media, a mobile device can be carried around all the time and gives its users great amount of control over how and when to access their mobile devices.

4.2.4. Flexible learning

High mobility of learners today makes flexible learning imperative. Mobile learning opens up more opportunities for learning to take place regardless of place and time. The learners have the freedom to exist in different location than the teachers, to study at their on pace and time provided that they have the hardware and network infrastructure (Cavus and Al-Momani, 2011).

4.2.5. Life-long learning

Due to the current economic, social change, and transition to knowledge-based society, life-long learning has become a critical national agenda in most countries. Mobile learning is seen as one tool that can materialize lifelong learning. HandLeR (n.d.) and a similar project undertaken at the Tampere University of Technology (Finland) (Ketamo, 2002) have explored life-long learning through mobile devices.

4.2.6. Fun

Games are considered as an important factor affecting the usage of mobile applications. Prensky (2007) argues that digital games are not just for fun, or for basic review of school subjects, they can also be used solely for learning. The learners learn all the skills that are embedded in each level in the game, become engaged and motivated and do not realize that they are in fact learning. This is where Prensky argues that as learners play the game, they feel a rush and engagement they do not normally feel while 'learning' in school. Thus, these digital games have become the substitute to a world of learning where everything learners learn is old-fashioned, and simply boring.

4.3. Pedagogical advantage

The researchers highlighted some empirical studies that have proven mobile devices can support the pedagogical approaches or strategies below.

4.3.1. Collaborative learning

Social inclusion is the key to collaborative learning. The learners work together towards one common goal. Because of their accessibility, mobile devices support inclusion and allow for more opportunities for participation, and as a result, learning becomes more successful. Many researchers advocate the use of mobile technology that maximize learners' inclusion in the learning process (Virvou and Alepis, 2005; Selfe, 1999; Hawisher and Selfe, 1999; Warschauer, 2003; Phipps, Sutherland and Seale, 2002; Uzunboylu, Cavus and Ercag, 2009).

4.3.2. Blended learning

Blended learning which combines classroom instructions with mobile learning can enhance and maximize the face-to-face and online methods Uzunboylu, Cavus and Ercag, 2009; Bonk and Graham, 2006; Ocak, 2010). The learners can carry out their assignments and projects using mobile devices after a class session with their instructor.

4.3.3. Interactive learning

Mobile technologies also support interactive learning environment (Cavus and Uzunboylu, 2009; Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula, 2005). The mobile devices function as the interactive agents that allow varying levels of interactivity and engagement with the technology, thus enable the process of coming to know happens which indicates that the learning is taking place.

4.3.4. Experiential learning (Learning in context)

The mobility of the devices allow for learning which is not constrained to the educational environments. The tools develop the connection between school and other everyday activities (Sharples, 2003). This gives the notion that education can go beyond the classroom context and 'things' that are relevant to the learning itself can be brought into the classroom and the different aspects of the visit can be enhanced for purposes of learning (Chen, Kao, Sheu and Chiang, 2002; Lonsdale, Baber, Sharples, Byrne, Arvanitis, Brundell and Beale, 2004).

4.3.5. Problem-based learning

KNOWMOBILE project in Norway (Smordal and Gregory, 2005) is one example that mobile learning supports Problem-Based Learning. PDAs and smart-phones were used for experiment in medical education of students from the School of Medicine at University of Oslo. In problem-based learning, the learners actively discover and work with content that they determine to be necessary to solve the problem given by the teacher.

5. Issues and challenges in mobile learning application

Numerous issues and challenges may undoubtedly appear in adopting mobile learning practice. From the literature undertaken for this paper, the researchers analysed and synthesized the issues and challenges based on

the same classification as the influential factors. Most issues and challenges are very much related to the features of mobile devices and a few regarding user's expectations, However, in pedagogical issues, especially the academic and context specific which is referring to how sound the applications are in terms of their pedagogical and learning content issues (Muir, Shield and Kukulska-Hulme, 2003), the researchers are yet to look for more literature. The gap here is not because there is no issue exist regarding the teaching and learning through mobile learning but rather because there is a lack of in-depth studies on these aspects. The summary of the issues and challenges in mobile learning are as follows:

5.1. Features of mobile devices

5.1.1. Usability

The first issue of usability is the small screen size. The current mobile devices are designed with the focus to allow users to enter and access structured data like contacts, lists, dates, financial information, and memos, to send and receive messages, to view documents and pictures, or to access the web (Kukulska-Hulme, 2005). A study on using a PDA for learning purposes revealed difficulties in reading due to the poor screen display (Trinder, Magill and Roy, 2005). The small, touch-sensitive screens of smartphones can pose problems in navigating the screen with fingers and learners may accidently select a function such as deleting a document. Secondly, the cognitive and ergonomic issue (Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler, 2005) which is related to the conceptions of differences between using PCs and mobile devices, print material and electronic small size depictions of large texts. Ergonomic issues include the fear of deleting diary entries from the device. Both cognitive and ergonomic issues could pose challenges for users as they use mobile devices and they may require a learning period to get used to the devices. Thirdly is the lack of consistent design scheme. There is no universal platform exist between mobile devices because each manufacturer develops their own unique user interface (Kukulska-Hulme, 2005). The compatibility problems should be resolved because we cannot expect the learners to manoeuvre among the devices to find the most suitable one for the school projects. Besides, there will be problems in synchronizing the students' projects via mobile devices and later in assessing them. Mobile learning has to be restrained to spaces where compatibility problems will not surface.

5.1.2. Technical

There are several technical issues. First is the connectivity issue that refers to the issues of connectivity in certain places, and issues of intuitive integration between the hardware and the software of the device (i.e., the mouse wheel, soft keys, etc) (Nielsen, 2003). A study indicated that the respondents had problem with PDAs because of slow transmission (Smardal, Gregory and Langseth, 2002). They also emphasized that the e-book material that was made available was not useful, nor was the use of messaging services for collaborative learning. Besides, they also experienced problems working across different applications. Secondly, the life of the batteries in which downloading educational applications and games uses up batteries much quicker especially when using free apps (Morg, 2012). Studies discovered that the battery's energy continues to be drained even after the downloading of information has completed. The issue of battery life is still something of a challenge when incorporating the devices into the curriculum as the learners may not be alert enough about this matter, continue playing game to the upmost, forget to shut down and thus, when the time comes for learning to take place the batteries diminish. Issue of accessibility is another one that educators must be well aware of. Different devices may have similar or different accessibility features. Today, it is a blessing for the special needs learners as there are innovative work in accessibility for example, braille mirroring (E- and, n.d.). Teachers have to ensure every student will benefit from the devices at hand or else equal alternatives for those unable to maneuver the technologies should be provided. Apart from that, there is an issue of security, safety, theft and loss. Cyber crimes are becoming a threat as technologies flourish. Personal and company data are usually stored in the mobile gadgets for ease of use when the need arises. Being small and portable makes the gadget relatively easy

to lose or steal. The data can be stolen even when you use the device (Yeaton, 2012). Cases of stalking, identity theft and cyberbullying are happening and there is no standard way of protecting the users. Users are only advised of the risks and given tips on how to minimize. How responsible, ethical and safe the learners use the device is also another issue that need to be considered. Last but not least is the issue of storage. Another weakness of mobile devices is the inability to hold a lot of data which has caused many people to turn into cloud computing. However, this public cloud services have also proven not safe. May 2012, IBM decided to roll out a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and banned the use of Dropbox due to hackers (Mearian, 2012). Following this, educators have to strategize their lessons well especially when dealing with limited storage capacities.

5.2. User's expectations 5.2.1. Cost

To incorporate smartphones, MP3 players, laptops, or other mobile devices into the hands of every learner would definitely be costly eventhough mobile devices cost lesser than personal computers. It will take much funding and grants to make mobile learning a more accessible option for many classrooms. In reality, to successfully materialize mobile technology initiatives, a lot of expenses have to be rendered on stuff far beyond just the cost of the devices. The greatest expenses come from resources needed like the cost of developing and deploying mobile learning systems which can be broken down into: content development costs, teaching costs, software development costs, hardware costs, usage costs, for example, phone charges (Traxler, 2004).

5.2.2. Blockage

Teachers need to get themselves clear with the school's policy regarding social media like Facebook, Twitter, and others before they actually come up with their teaching and learning strategies that utilize such media. This is to avoid frustration on both parties (teachers and students) if schools block such sites.

5.2.3. Obsolescene

No one can be certain as to how much more technology is going to evolve in the future. One thing that we can be certain is the improvement makes the newer devices can do more, have better and improved capabilities and priced affordably. The older version can be technically and/or functionally obsolescence (What is, 2006). Thus, the lessons that the teachers come up today on digital literacy for instance, might wrap up futile as new options might just pop-up weeks after they master a particular device. It is indeed a challenge to keep abreast with technology!

6. Conclusions

Before adopting mobile learning into the mainstream education, careful considerations have to be placed on issues that arise. Those issues and influential factors that have been highlighted in this paper are not the one and only. There are a few more that are yet to be discovered by researchers and practitioners in this area. Issues regarding the technical aspect of mobile devices, for instance, are apprehensive because a lot have been highlighted. Besides, when classifying the influential factors of mobile learning, almost none of the studies discussed the technical aspect as the plus point for imparting knowledge through mobile learning. The technical aspects of mobile devices refers to the device's performance, compatibility and support for varied protocols and platforms, connectivity and bandwidth, security and reliability, processing power, memory capacities, and ability

to view and run a variety of software file formats (Economides and Nikolaou, n.d.). Issues regarding the features of mobile devices - usability, technical and functional - are indeed very important to be resolved. However, to consider this aspect (the features of mobile devices) at the expense of educational or pedagogical issues is precarious and of course, on the contrary, it is equally true! As mentioned earlier, most issues and challenges identified from the literature have more bearing on the features of mobile devices and a few regarding user's expectations. Pedagogical issues especially on the academic impact and content issues have not much been emphasised. John Traxler as cited in Guardian Weekly (Lightfoot, 2012) stressed that "... just because you can measure changes in attributes or behaviour doesn't mean they're educationally meaningful or remotely life-changing". The overall view of the existing research work and projects in the mobile learning domains suggest that critical attentions should be paid to the outcomes of the many projects academically, how they are measured and assessed in order to ascertain the soundness of the knowledge gained and the aptness of the learning tools used.


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