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Engaging Learning through Mobile Learning at OUM

Engaging Learning through Mobile Learning at OUM

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Published by Zoraini Wati Abas
Paper presented at the PCF6 in Koci, India, 2010
Paper presented at the PCF6 in Koci, India, 2010

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Published by: Zoraini Wati Abas on Sep 11, 2011
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Engaging ODL learners through Mobile Learning at Open University Malaysia
Formal education: Technologies for scaling up ODL programmes
 Dr. Zoraini Wati Abas, Open University Malaysiazoraini@oum.edu.myDr. Tina Lim, Open University Malaysiatina_lim@oum.edu.myMs. Norazlina Mohamad, Open University Malaysianorazlina_mohamad@oum.edu.my
Gone are the days where open and distance learning (ODL) programmes rely solely on reading materialsand limited number of face-to-face interactions to reach out to learners. Higher education providersparticularly ODL institutions can now extend learning space by delivering information to andcommunicating with students at increased speed and flexibility using mobile technologies. With newinformation and communication technologies (ICT) being more and more widely available, it follows thatODL institutions ought to embrace change by tapping on the advantages afforded by these ICTs in orderto scale up their programmes, not only in terms of reaching out to increased number of learners but alsowith regards to enhancing the learning process. While there are various sophisticated mobiletechnologies currently available in the market, ODL providers have to bear in mind that in order toincrease access and equity in distance education, the choice of technology used ought to be one that canbenefit most, if not all learners. This paper discusses how Mobile Learning via SMS (the lowest commondenominator of all mobile technologies) was used at Open University Malaysia to support the blendedlearning approach, thereby helping learners engage in the learning process.
The project‟s “push and pull”
pedagogical concept along with details on the implementation of the project from the pilot for one coursein the May 2009 semester to its expansion to three courses in the September 2009 semester and sixcourses for the January 2010 semester will be described. Learner satisfaction with the enhanced modeof blended learning and the extent to which the objectives of the initiative were achieved will also bediscussed.
Mobile learning (m-learning) is said to be the next wave of learning (Bonk, 2009). The ITU WorldTelecommunication (2009) reported an estimate of 4.6 billion mobile cellular telephone subscriptionsaround the world compared to 6.8 fixed telephone line subscriptions. There are currently 9.5 billionmobile broadband subscriptions and this will quickly grow. Expected to bring about ubiquitous learning oru-learning, mobile devices such as phones have become more affordable, yet more powerful and packedwith features that rival the supercomputers of years ago. Hence, it is not surprising that an increasingnumber of institutions of higher learning (IHL) are starting to design learning that incorporates mobiledevices. Students with smart phones and other popular personal devices such iPods and iPads ornetbooks and notebook computers are already benefiting from a plethora of online learning materialssuch as podcasts, open educational resources (OER) and use of social media. Open distance learning(ODL) institutions are also expected to embark on making available materials for m-learning. Of late,development of mobile wireless technologies has shifted the academic environment from traditionalsettings to m-learning settings (Kim, Mims & Holmes, 2006).
Mobile learning can be defined as learning opportunities that are offered through mobile devices such asmobile phones, MP3 and MP4 players such as iPods as well as personal tablet devices such as iPads.Mobile learning has been experimented, tested and implemented in a variety of situations. Generally, asMcConatha, Praul & Lunch stated, m-learning will be a champion in education because learners will find it
convenient to obtain information and resources. According to Savill-Smith and Kent (2003), handhelds ormobile devices are part of a new generation of technology that emphasises both mobility andconnectivity. Kimura (2006) reported that mobile phones help prepare Japanese college students forthe Test of English for International Communication and the video-on-mobile-phones are also effective forvocabulary learning and listening comprehension. Besides learning languages, Bradley, Haynes, andBoyle (2005) experimented with the teaching of Java programming using PDAs. Brown and Parsons(2006) stated that mobile technology can offer many different levels of engagement.
Podcasts have beenused to
in disseminate supplementary materials for an information technology based subject to distancelearners (Lee & Chan, 2008). More important on why m-learning has been an attractive option is, as Ally(2009) highlighted, that through the use of wireless networks, mobile learning allows anyone to accessinformation and learning materials from anywhere and at anytime. Examples of mobile wireless phoneuses in learning environments include:
Berlin University: Campus Mobile Project
used mobile wireless phones to send and receiveSMS through WAP
University of Twente in The Netherlands: “M
Poort” project which made current web
-basedcurriculum available to WAP-enabled mobile phone
Kingston University in United Kingdom: SMS experiment was used to determine its effectivenessfor student learning (results showed that students liked SMS more than any other text messageapplication)
Sheffield Hallam University: used SMS to support and manage learning activities (results foundthat students recognized SMS as immediate, convenient, and personal)In addition, ODL instutions such as the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and OpenUniversity Malaysia (OUM), for example, have established presence on YouTube which can bedownloaded through wireless technologies viewed via mobile phones and MP4 players.
Mobile learning through SMS 
SMS (Short Message Service) is the most widely-used application among mobile phone users. It is alsoinexpensive. The world average, according to the International Telecommunications Union (2009), is fourmobile phone subscriptions for every fixed telephone line. In Malaysia, there are seven mobile phonesubscriptions for every one fixed line subscription. On the former, among the 30.38 million people inMalaysia, 110.6 percent (30.7 million) of the population are mobile phone subscribers.The advantages and benefits of using SMS in ODL programmes cannot be underestimated as the systemcan be applied to enhance the learning process. SMS is also known as one of the cost-effective modes ofcommunication.So (2009) recently reported that there are several teaching and learning activities in university settingsthat can be facilitated via SMS. Adapting
Taylor‟s theoretical fram
ework on the computer used in the
early 80‟s, SMS
could be used effectively as a
Tool, Tutor 
. As a tool, SMS-based teaching andlearning system can provide support in the form of communication and administrative support such assending out studen
ts‟ marks or grades
or teachers sending an urgent message of class cancellations. Asper tutor and tutee functions, SMS can be used to facilitate teaching and learning activities such asbrainstorming and voting interactively when receiving questions from teachers.Srinakharinwirot University has enabled lecturers to create test and survey questions for their courses(Sukaphat, 2007) through the use of a bulk SMS system which allows students to pose or respond toquestions immediately. SMS was used in two ways. Firstly, m-learning is used to enhance learning bysending out mobile quizzes where students were able to provide answers. Students obtained theirscores, answer keys and feedback instantly. Secondly, m-learning can be used to enhance the provisionof educational information and to improve public relations. Students receive academic information likeenrollment information and grade results as well as the latest on the university such as news and events,academic calendar, and so on.
The benefits of the use of SMS in education is strongly agreed by Balasundaram and Ramadoss (2007).It was reported that even though SMS is the simplest of all technologies available in the mobileenvironment, the system can support various interactive learning activities with very basic equipmentlinking to a variety of people such as learners, instructors, administrations and parents. SMS was highlyused in m-Learning activities like asking questions, providing answers, information delivery, and providingfeedback and grades.The usability of SMS as a teaching tool was also tested and proven by The Chinese University of HongKong (CUHK) as reported by Clarke, Keing, Lam and McNaught (2008). SMS was used in two cohorts onthe subject of Social English. The concept of sending daily SMS messages was successful as the resultof the survey conducted at the end of each of the two cohorts found that 84% of students said it wasworthwhile and 83% enjoyed it. Students perceived SMS as the last medium of teaching and learning.They did not find it intrusive although they initially feared the distractions. However, they later realizedthat SMS were helpful and beneficial.Motlik (2008) stated that e-learning, particularly Internet-based learning does not appear to be the bestpath for distance education in Asia due to problems such as lack of proper course monitoring, lack ofonline resources, high cost, etc. Fortunately m-learning methods specifically those involving the use ofcell-phones was more convincing. M-learning technology is more affordable and learners are familiar withSMS as well as find it flexible. With proper instructional design, this technology is seemed to satisfy the
„anytime/ anywhere‟ component of 
distance education for thousands or even millions of learners. M-learning is seen to have a brighter future. Although technologies require heavy capital outlay, more andmore institutes of higher learning are allocating a significant portion of their budget for mobile wirelesstechnologies (Kim, Mims & Holmes, 2006).The advantages and benefits of using SMS in ODL programmes cannot be underestimated as the systemcan be applied to enhance the programmes and the learning process. There have been a rapid move ineducation institutions to use mobile devices especially SMS to enhance the process of teaching andlearning in higher education as it is known as one of the cost-effective tools of communication.
Open University Malaysia (OUM) was established in August 2001 and is
Malaysia‟s first open distance
learning institution. It has since enrolled more than 95,000 learners who have access to over 60academic programmes. When OUM first started, it leveraged on a learning management system as away to support learners who would login to access learning materials as well as participate in forums withtheir tutors and course mates. In 2008, OUM embarked on research on m-learning by forming a team ofresearchers who conducted a needs analysis and readiness for m-learning among its students. A total of6,000 questionnaires were randomly distributed to learners undertaking various academic programmesand 2,837 questionnaires were returned. It was found that 98 percent of the students had mobile phonesand said that they would be ready for m-learning within 6-12 months from the time the survey wasconducted.
OUM‟s m
-learning initiative was launched on 10 August by Tun Mahathir Mohamed, once
Prime Minister as part of its e-learning innovations.

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