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The State of Mobile Learning - Part 1


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Published in AITD Training & Development magazine April 2013

Published in: Education, Technology

The State of Mobile Learning - Part 1

  1. 1. TECHNOLOGY & RESOURCES| 028 | APR 13 | TRAINING & DEVELOPMENTMobile learning is predicted to become the great disruptor to our learning environmentsthat eLearning was always promised to be.While Australians are some of the most active users of mobile devicesper capita, there is a disconnect between how smartphones andtablets are integrated into our personal lives and our experiences ineducational institutions and corporate workplaces. In this two partarticle, mobile learning (mLearning) will be defined, results fromrecent surveys discussed and barriers to mLearning examined.Before exploring the disconnect between personal/educational/workplace mobile environments, it’s appropriate to review thecurrent state of mobile devices and their impact on our lives.To provide some perspective, consider the following statistics fromGoogle’s Our Mobile Planet: Australia research conducted in May2012, and based on personal mobile usage:• 52 percent of the Australian population own a smartphone• 58 percent use their smartphone to access the internet• 65 percent access the internet daily—to check emails, socialnetworking sites and search.• 74 percent of people state they wouldn’t leave home withouttheir smartphone!• On average, people have 27 apps installed on their smartphones(I have124 and that’s not counting what’s on my iPad!)Reviewing these figures in the context of the global workspace, it’snot surprising that two in five students or younger employees wouldaccept a lower paying job if they had a choice of device, access tosocial media and mobility.The rise of the smartphoneIt is now indisputable that the smartphone has emerged as aubiquitous communication device. It has morphed into whatGoogle is labelling a ‘multi-activity portal’—in fact, I’m wonderingwhy we still call them phones at all?Notwithstanding the status of the smartphone—where once theBlackberry was the status symbol of many in the workforce—theproliferation of iPads in the business community is experiencingrapid growth. A number of large organisations are purchasingthousands of iPads for their management teams, sales teams anddispersed workforce. Predictions by Forrester in a recently publishedreport predicts 375 million tablets will be sold globally in 2016,with over one third being the primary device for business users, and71 percent of global workplaces intending to develop customisedbusiness specific apps.To add further complexity to the use of smartphones and tabletsin workplace and education scenarios, we now have the practice ofBring Your Own Device (BYOD). Twenty eight percent of the globalworkforce are already using their own personal devices at work.BYOD is the current default position for many people whoseworkplace or educational institution does not provide the type ofdevice they want to use. How many people do you know who carrya smartphone and a ‘work’ mobile? Sometimes it’s the personaliPhone compensating the workplace Blackberry.Taking into account the extent of mobile (smart device) usage,could we expect that mobile learning will be the great disruptor?At this stage in Australia apparently not.At the end of 2012, the Ripple Effect Group conducted a briefsurvey to extend existing research into the use of mobile apps inbusiness and how mLearning was being used in Australia. Theresponses have shaped further areas of inquiry, in particular casestudies with innovative implementations which indicate trends infuture developments. Future developments include custom appdevelopment, location-based scenario learning and personalisedcontent related to the situation, or context, or fully integratedapproaches that form part of the overall learning strategy.The research, however, had limited success in uncovering anywidespread adoption of mLearning approaches.mLearning definedPrior to reviewing some of the survey findings, there is a need toposition the use of the term ‘mLearning’.Defining mLearning remains a contentious issue as most definitionsappear to relate more to the actual device than the nature of howlearning is being enabled. In the early 2000s, mLearning referredliterally to mobile learning, where mobility was about not beingtethered to a desk top computer; consequently the definition includedlaptops. This is reminiscent of early definitions of eLearning, wherethe focus was more on the technology and method of delivery. Thedistinction between eLearning and mLearning creates a critical point ofdifference and it’s NOT about the technology.More recent definitions of mLearning have evolved to acknowledgeand emphasise the nexus between mobile devices (widely acceptedto include smartphones and tablets though not laptops), andthe occurrence of learning that is situated, social, and facilitatedThe state of mobilelearning – Part 1Anne Bartlett-Bragg
  2. 2. TECHNOLOGY & RESOURCESTRAINING & DEVELOPMENT | APR 13 | 029 |through interactions with people, where learning is mediated by thedevice of choice. JISC (formerly the UK based Joint InformationSystems Committee) refer to Mike Sharples (2007) definition thatallows for a contextualisation of learning that has not been possiblewith desk-bound computing. This position is currently beingsupported and investigated by other recognised mLearning expertssuch as Clark Quinn.The key influence in the evolving definitions has been thesignificant improvements in the capabilities of mobile devices.These improvements include screen size and resolution, processingpower, network speed, location-based systems and battery lifetime.As devices continue to evolve, it will require our definitions to beflexible and agile while incorporating new opportunities. Consider,for instance, the upcoming release of Google glasses: how will ourdefinitions include these or will that become ‘gLearning’?mLearning initiatives—pockets of innovationAn overview of mLearning initiatives from both the survey andadditional research indicate early pockets of innovation, ratherthan a fully integrated strategic approach to mLearning inclusion.In many instances, mLearning appears to be considered a subset ofeLearning, where existing eLearning courses, content, and LMS arebeing made available for access on mobile devices.Some high level indicators from the survey:Does your organisation or institution currently have any mobilelearning initiatives?• 49 percent of survey respondents said Yes• 19 percent were considering it• 32 percent had no mLearning initiativesThe range of initiatives uncovered through our research and the surveysuggests early stages of adoption, with some pockets of innovation appearingmore recently. This is a positive indicator of the diversity and potentialthrough the incorporation of mLearning.How mLearning was viewed (from survey responses)• Supply of devices—across wide range of contexts—en masse. Thisis NOT mLearning. This is a technology infrastructure strategy.mLearning refers to how the devices will be used, for learning!• Enabling existing eLearning content/courses for mobile devices• Providing access to LMS via mobile devices• Providing access to existing enterprise platformsmLearning & the learning sectorsThe school sector has recently introduced iPads at both senior andprimary levels with varied applications of use. Positive outcomeshave been reported and continued research into new and innovativepractices is occurring. In particular, children with learning difficulties orspecial needs are responding positively to specifically designed learninginitiatives for communication, reading and writing skills. Improvedacademic results and higher levels of student engagement demonstratetheir success beyond the anecdotal observations of teachers.The TAFE sector reports a higher proportion of mLearninginitiatives than other sectors. Many initiatives are supported by theEmerging Technology Trials, part of the Australian Flexible LearningFramework. The initiatives include mobile video assessment,augmented reality projects, and the more widely reporteddevelopments using HTML5 for specific access to mobile websites.The higher education sector drew attention to the integration ofmobile devices earlier this year when the University of WesternSydney supplied iPads to all new undergraduate students andacademic staff. Although this is not considered an mLearninginitiative, the strategic intention and enablement through supply ofdevices could be indicative of further approaches.The Genos Emotional IntelligenceAssessment is the most widelyused emotional intelligenceassessment in Australia, preferredby more ASX 200 companiesthan any other.www.genosinternational.comFor further details contactMary Megalaa on 02 8004 0413 or info@genosinternational.comEmerging Leader Training - Delivered VirtuallyICF Coaches can earn19.25 CCEU’s from theEmotional Intelligence Program
  3. 3. TECHNOLOGY & RESOURCES| 030 | APR 13 | TRAINING & DEVELOPMENTAdditional widely reported university approaches include access to theinstitutional LMS via mobile devices, access to Library materials ande-readings, and a number of apps for informational purposes. A largeproportion of Australian universities have a presence on iTunesU witha diverse range of offerings, although no survey respondents referred tothese as mLearning initiatives. Intentional mLearning approaches beingused in specific subjects or across courses were not uncovered, however,that does not imply they do not exist.Finally, the corporate organisational learning sector shared limitedinitiatives, either through the survey or publicly available case studies.Examples of initiatives included access to LMS, using quizzes as follow-up and review for product updates, and making existing eLearningmodules available for mobile. Disappointingly, the research did notuncover any specific mLearning apps being created, although there area number of organisations using apps for business operations.Barriers to adoptionThe survey results highlighted a number of major concerns fromrespondents as outlined in the table below. Significantly, theseconcerns or barriers to adoption align with similar research projectsconducted globally.Many of the cited barriers could be applied to many new technology-based initiatives. A number of these barriers could be managedthrough planned approaches, research and professional developmentsupport. It is the professional development support that remainssadly lacking across all sectors of learning and development.Barrier Description Myth orreality1. Change Speed of change Reality2. ManagementacceptanceCreating the business case—includingassociated costs of development, supplyof tools and resourcing to support.RealityIs this another gimmick? Reality3. Lack of skills Looking for quick solutions,eg., rapid authoring tools.RealityNervous to use external resources(seen as cost prohibitive).MythLack of knowledge regarding differentoperating systems and mobile options.Reality4. Cost ofdevelopmentLimited knowledge of costs fordevelopment—content vs apps.RealityConcern about support for ongoingupgrades and frequency required.Reality5. Technology Connectivity—mobile plan costs for data. RealityWifi networks. MythInfrastructure (organisational institutional).Reality6. MultipledevicesDesigning and building for differentplatforms and devices.RealityConsistency of design forvarying screen sizes.Reality7. LearnerresistanceNot all learners want to use mobiles. MythLearners don’t want to learnin their own time.MythPerceptions of eLearning resistancebeing applied to mLearning.Myth8. EducatorresistanceLack of professional developmentto learn new skills.RealityTrying to learn how to useall the new devices.MythLack of mobile ‘trainers’. MythOf greatest concern is the barrier cited as ‘learner resistance’. Weknow many learners are active mobile device users and they arefrustrated by the lack of provisions for mobile working and learning.Unlike the early eLearning implementations where many learnersdid not have the digital literacy skills, the current learner is alreadyimmersed in the mobile environment.The disconnect between personal use and corporate/institutionalintegration of mobile learning strategies is alarming. Fundamentalchanges in the way we share, communicate, search, shop and travelhave all been enabled through a device we carry everyday—oursmartphones. The ability to embed location-based, rich learningexperiences is an opportunity already being provided by consumerproducts (think of the Commonwealth Bank’s Property Guide appwith augmented reality and real time data); so why aren’t we seeingmore mLearning initiatives?The message is clear: mLearning must start to be integrated intothe overall learning strategy. It doesn’t have to be a huge initiative;even access to existing enterprise platforms is a great first step. Findout what other apps exist across the business—could any of these beincorporated or adapted?Even a small step is better than doing nothing. The technology isno longer a constraint and the learners are already there. Find theinspiration and mobilise your imagination!The June edition of Training Development will feature Part 2 of thisarticle and will include examples of best practice with tips for successfulimplementation of mLearning strategy. It will also take a look ahead withsome big predictions in the mLearning space.If you have an example or case study you would like to share with us forinclusion in the next article or our whitepaper, please get in touch.References:State of Mobile Learning in Australiawhitepaper, Ripple Effect Group, to bepublished May 2013Our Mobile Planet: Australia, Google,May 2012Connected World Technology Report,Cisco, 2011Tablets will rule the future personalcomputing landscape, Forrester,April 2012IT embraces BYOD, CitrixDesigning mobile apps for business,Ark Group, 2012Mobile Learning Infokit, JISC, 2011Real mLearning, Learnlets blog, ClarkQuinn, 2013Mobile Learning for the NHS: ResearchReport 2012 (United Kingdom)Transforming learning through mEducation,McKinsey Co, 2012Mobile Learning: The Time is Nowauthored by Clark Quinn, TheeLearning Guild, 2012Further reading:Designing mobile apps: A Roadmap forbusiness, the ArkGroup, authored byJames Dellow (Ripple Effect Group)Planning Designing mobile apps forbusiness—a set of infographics: Bartlett-Bragg is Managing Director of Ripple EffectGroup APAC, a leading social business consultancy. Shespecialises in the creation of innovative communication andlearning networks with social technologies. Anne recentlycompleted her PhD which explored the development sociallearning networks. Contact via