Mobile Learning is the idea that a student can learn from any place at any time using portable learning devices with wi-fi connectivity or cellular connectivity via contract or prepaid phone plans. The following are 10 reasons for educators to consider mobile learning. They are summarizing points made by Chris Thomas, Chief Strategist for Intel, at a presentation made at Brigham Young University.
1. Stop Turning Out Technology Disadvantaged Alumni
By using older technologies (like portal-based systems) students are being taught with archaic technologies. Yet they are using cutting-edge technology for all other parts of their lives (instant messaging, sharing music, online gaming, etc). This is the experience of students using Blackboard discussion boards after using blogs and text messaging.
2. The Network Ate My Homework
When depending on server portal solutions, like logging into a university portal, there are always network problems (network went down half way through my quiz, etc). By sending information directly to a student’s mobile device (or a teacher’s), there is no system to crash or network traffic overload to stop the information from being transferred.
3. Services Not Available
This is also known as server overload, we see it at the beginning of every semester or late at night before a large assignment is due. The only solution to this problem in the old system is to add more and more servers to the data center. However, when you add more servers, more people will use them and the problem will never be solved. By transferring information directly from mobile device to mobile device there is no problem with overload, even during peak times. All you have to have is someone making sure the network is working (and that responsibility can be give to a professional service provider like Comcast).
4. Cost to Re-format Content for Online Use
When materials are stored on web portals, all of the content must be converted into webpage files (HTML). Based on a project done for the US government, there is a 60% addition to cost by having to convert everything to HTML.* The good of a “gateway” LMS is that it is a common place to get media. The bad is that converting the original format of the content to the gateway’s preferred format (ie. a word document, a video, etc.) requires a lot of time and effort. The better way is to get the files “downstream” directly instead of uploading, just to download them again (creating a “gateway” bottleneck).
5. Poorly Informed Campus Community
A major problem with using traditional websites or portal environments is that they require students to check in to see if something has been updated. This can take a lot of time and it is very easy to miss details. This should not be the responsibility of the user anyway. Instead, by using a mobile paradigm a notification would be sent directly to the user (like an aggregator for a blog).
6. Speed Learning Impossible
Network latency guarantees 50% reduction in students consumption rate. This can be seen in an example of a teacher who had been given broadband but still had to download everything on the computer due to the lag time on the network.
7. Learning System Educed Labor
Systems that force students and teachers to upload and re-enter content into the learning systems are a great waste of student and instructor time. A prefect example of this is the time it takes to enter dates into the Blackboard course calendar.
8. Partial Brain Learning
Creativity is limited when teachers and students must comply to learning system methodology to conduct learning activities. An example of this would be forcing teachers to use the tools in LiveText even though they do not allow for the flexibility they need for a successful learning experience.
9. Disadvantaging the Disadvantaged
The portal solution, and the forced repeated downloading it requires, makes it very difficult for students with slower connections to receive the information. “The people who need education the most are those who are least capable of having a broadband link.”
10. Cost and Impact of Wasting Bandwidth
Bandwidth is wasted when the same information is downloaded more than once by the same user. An example of this would be a student checking the course syllabus every couple of days. The document hasn’t changed, yet the student must download it to view it because it is stored on Blackboard and not sent to the student’s local machine.
* Data for #4 comes from a study Thomas which looked at an online grant application process for the US government. Typically when the grants were due the servers would max out (see problem #3), but there was also significant labor in maintaining thousands of usernames and passwords and creating all of the HTML pages for each form (average of 20 html pages for each form). There were also a multiple databases trying to interface with the grants database. With the new system of sending content directly to the user, there is no need to worry about user accounts, no need to create HTML pages to support all of the forms, and no reason to interface with a bunch of databases (any other group that needs access to the data can just take an XML output from the new system and do whatever they want with it).