Jon Gregson. SOAS


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Reconnecting with mobile learners

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  • In August 2007, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) launched its new Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), and the former Wye Distance Learning Programme (DLP) that had been part of Imperial College London since 2000, was transferred to SOAS and became integrated into CeDEP. CeDEP offers postgraduate distance learning courses through the University of London and has over two thousand students located in more than one hundred different countries. The programme includes MSc course in thematic areas including ‘Applied Environmental Economics’, ‘Environment and Biodiversity’, ‘Sustainability and Development’ and ‘Public Policy and Management’. Many of the students are based in Africa and developing countries. During the last decade, the approaches used within the distance learning courses for tutoring and courseware production, have been enhanced to encompass a blend of printed, electronic and where possible face-to-face methods. This has enabled the programme to innovate with distance learning pedagogy and encourage constructivist approaches situated in the learner context that support collaborative and interactive learning activities. E-Learning tools and approaches, that make use of e-mail, Online Learning Environments and courseware CD-Roms have been developed, and the access barriers faced by students has always been an important consideration. As e-learning approaches have been introduced, there has been a concern that students based in developing countries where internet and email access is more constrained are the least likely to fully benefit. This more towards use of e-learning, has brought considerable enhancements, but equally it has created a level of disconnect with some of our learners. This concern became one of the main personal drivers for the author embarking upon a two year project, funded by the Centre of Distance Education of University of London, exploring how m-learning can enhance distance learning approaches. Alongside colleagues from University of Pretoria, four students in Tanzania and Malawi have been involved with the project since 2005 giving insights from the Southern African context. In 2007 a further twenty students became involved in piloting use of learning materials that are being developed for use on Nokia N70 mobile phones which possess capabilities for communication, image and video capture and sound recording. This project has recently been awarded a further grant for an extension into a third year, where the potential for scaling up activities will be explored. This presentation will describe the two main phases of the pilot project. The first part of the presentation will focus on the work done in 2006, explaining the project methodology; relevant insights gained from the Southern Africa context and reviewing the main insights gained from a baseline survey of students in the region; and highlighting the pedagogic and technical considerations. The second part of the presentation will focus on the second phase which commenced in the latter part of 2006 and has been continuing in 2007. During this phase, the project has involved working with course authors and tutors, and investigated the scope for redesign of written content as multimedia for use on the mobile device; tutoring in innovative ways; and developing new types of learning activities that make use of the functionality of mobile technologies. The scope for designing new forms of activities for distance learners, which potentially can involve co-creation and sharing of learning resources, and draw on greater levels of interaction and collaboration, is just being touched on, but is seen as having considerable potential as mobile technologies become more widespread. The aim of the presentation is to share insights that will facilitate the design of a scaleable learning environment for mobile learners in developing and developed countries. It highlights how mobile technologies offer the potential for a postgraduate distance learning programme to make stronger and more equitable connections with its learning community, whilst also innovating and, making greater use of multimedia and the scope for collaboration. The lessons learned should inform us as we anticipate more affordable mobile technologies and related data services in the near future.
  • Jon Gregson. SOAS

    1. 1. Reconnecting with mobile distance learners Jon Gregson Email: [email_address] Phone: +44 (0)20 7594 2951 FAX: +44 (0)1233 812138 Centre for Development, Environment and Policy School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London High Street, Wye, Ashford, Kent, TN25 5AH, UK
    2. 2. Bumamu, West Kenya: 1978
    3. 3. Fast Forward: 1978 to 2007 Library Classrooms Main classroom block Teacher accommodation
    4. 4. Distance Learning at SOAS <ul><li>Programme has moved from Wye to Imperial to SOAS </li></ul><ul><li>Global distance learning </li></ul><ul><li>University of London degrees courses in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Sustainability Development’, ‘Applied Economics & Business’ and ‘Environment & Biodiversity’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mid career and usually working full time (22 to 70+) </li></ul><ul><li>Over 1000 students in more than 100 countries </li></ul><ul><li>Good gender balance </li></ul><ul><li>Very diverse levels of access to ICTs </li></ul><ul><li>Content and teaching informed by pedagogy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>and access considerations </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. The relevance of context, access and the profile of the learners Learning Moments? Opportunities for study ? bad day for exams… Unpredictable contexts…how can mobile learning help our students ?
    6. 6. Project Overview <ul><li>Collaboration with University of Pretoria </li></ul><ul><li>3 Year Project (2005-2008) funded by University of London Centre for Distance Education </li></ul><ul><li>Student Profile – mid career postgraduates in over 100 countries, with 100+ in Africa </li></ul><ul><li>This is a 2 nd /3 rd Generation mobile project, and assumes the benefits of entry level phones in relation to voice and SMS messaging </li></ul><ul><li>Project is focussed on students in Southern Africa </li></ul><ul><li>Piloting content design for two modules </li></ul>
    7. 7. Africa – Lighting up the world
    8. 8. Africa Context: Internet bandwidth Ref: IDRC Acacia Project
    9. 9. Africa Context: GSM Coverage Ref: IDRC Acacia Project Source for maps that follow (unless separately referenced): <ul><li>Coverage trends noted: </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing rapidly </li></ul><ul><li>Mainly around major routes </li></ul><ul><li>And towns and cities </li></ul><ul><li>Competition exists in most countries </li></ul>
    10. 10. Underlying Goals for the Project <ul><li>Improving Access to Learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For students in developing countries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For people who are mobile – studying anytime and anywhere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For those for whom Internet access is unreliable, and e-learning has limited impact </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Achieving Related goals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Level playing field for access to tutoring and use of learning materials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Effective communication and tutoring for the whole student community </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Developing appropriate and effective pedagogy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Enhancing rather than replacing traditional and e-learning approaches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working with portable, small screen multimedia devices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not for now: preparing for 2009 and beyond </li></ul>
    11. 11. Process – Current Phases <ul><li>Baseline survey of SADC students </li></ul><ul><li>Review of literature and existing projects and practise in region </li></ul><ul><li>Testing feasibility through a pilot – what are the technical, literacy and cost barriers ? </li></ul><ul><li>Four students involved in all stages including selection of phones, identifying potential uses, evaluating content etc </li></ul><ul><li>Redesign and development of content </li></ul><ul><li>Testing this content with a larger group of students in SADC region and developing countries </li></ul>
    12. 12. SADC Context <ul><li>Rapidly changing infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Power and price of mobile technology </li></ul><ul><li>Training – ICT Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Current uses by students and in social context – text, voice, transfer of credit, communication with home, getting jobs, social advertising, radio, scheduling </li></ul><ul><li>Ideas for use – audio and video content, immediate contact with tutors, being able to study when out on field work, support for research </li></ul><ul><li>Issues: Insurance, tax, theft, battery power, cost of handset, cost of service, how to transfer large files, logistics in providing </li></ul>
    13. 13. Current use of e-learning and ICTs <ul><li>Majority rated online learning </li></ul><ul><li>environment and courseware very highly </li></ul><ul><li>ICT literacy </li></ul><ul><li>37 out of 43 Very Good or Good </li></ul><ul><li>Main location for studying currently?   </li></ul><ul><li>At home </li></ul><ul><li>In the office </li></ul><ul><li>While travelling </li></ul><ul><li>Time spent annually out of the office </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. doing field work ? </li></ul><ul><li>Never 2 </li></ul><ul><li>1-4 weeks 9 </li></ul><ul><li>1-3 months 18 </li></ul><ul><li>More than 3 months 13 </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    14. 14. Mobile technologies: more than a phone ? = “ The last thing I leave behind when I go to the field is my mobile phone…” (Quote from student in Malawi)
    15. 15. Content design: Pedagogy <ul><li>Current situation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student experience and educational background very diverse, mostly acquainted with instructor/expert lead model </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assignments and study materials are mostly designed for individual study </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pedagogy potentially suited to our mobile learners context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Constructivist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Situated Learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Informal and lifelong learning support </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Piloting Content Development: Contingent on subject matter <ul><li>ICT for Development </li></ul><ul><li>* Module has a lot of interactivity </li></ul><ul><li>Short video conversations </li></ul><ul><li>Short videos supplementing the content </li></ul><ul><li>New forms of learning activity based Involving students in the creation and sharing of learning materials </li></ul><ul><li>Rural Development </li></ul><ul><li>* Module has a strong narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Self assessment activities </li></ul><ul><li>Mp3 audio versions of units </li></ul><ul><li>Videos compressed in 3gp format </li></ul><ul><li>Polls to solicit feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Activities that make use of the phones audio recording and image/video capturing capabilities </li></ul>
    17. 17. i) Scope for creating and sharing learning resources Iranian Student on ICT4D Course ICTs role in response to earthquake UNDP ICT Project experience in Iran ii) A more personalised experience Student in Nigeria: Office and workplace Audio interviews and messages to tutor Samples of student work using mobile
    18. 18. Experience so far <ul><li>Rapidly changing context </li></ul><ul><li>Logistics of supplying can be a bit complex ! (theft, damage, difficulties obtaining etc) </li></ul><ul><li>Students quickly understand how to use the technology </li></ul><ul><li>Subject matter influences options </li></ul><ul><li>Multimedia becomes more prominent and demanded </li></ul><ul><li>Designing for m-learners influences design of e-learning content </li></ul><ul><li>Technical problems related to performance </li></ul>
    19. 19. Important Noted Trends 2006 Network Coverage Cost of handset Student skills Phone capabilities 2007 2008 2009 Plan now for the future
    20. 20. Advice for practitioners <ul><li>Relevant to those looking to enhance DL, but may not be applicable to programmes designed for on campus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The DL challenge: good materials, and how to extend access and good teaching </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Campus challenge: good teaching which needs extended access, but also need to move towards development of materials suited to people at a distance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Start planning now for the future, because by 2009 the infrastructure, costs and power of the technology may present huge opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Still costly to use GPRS and 3G, but likely to change fairly quickly </li></ul>
    21. 21. Starting with the mobile distance learner Integrate different tools and approaches, and starts with the mobile learner
    22. 22. More information: <ul><li>Next Steps (for 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Scaling up and developing plans for a sustainable solution </li></ul><ul><li>Enhancing two modules on basis of feedback, and exploring application of m-learning to research module </li></ul><ul><li>Developing a learning environment suited to mobile learners that takes account of social networking software </li></ul><ul><li>Explore scope for collaboration with Private Sector </li></ul>
    23. 23. Mobile Learning – the 7 th Wave ? Print Audio Video CD,DVD, Multimedia Internet/Email Voice and Text Issues: Access and Pedagogy Mobile Device/3G
    24. 24. What's changed? Could the lessons emerging from this project suggest new forms of school linkages ?