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Mobile Web vs Apps in education

Mobile Web vs Apps in education

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Published by ahlearning
Mobile web vs (closed) apps in education - why a web based mobile learning strategy is superior to (closed) mobile apps
Mobile web vs (closed) apps in education - why a web based mobile learning strategy is superior to (closed) mobile apps

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Published by: ahlearning on Mar 06, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Mobile web vs (non web-based) apps:
Why appification is mostly the worse mobile learning strategy by
There are a lot of good things to be said about mobile apps: they are very simple to use, they don’t
require hundreds of megabytes like desktop applications and they offer some features, such aslocation-basedservicesinformation, that have been absent from desktop applications. However, when it comes to mobile learning, employingappsareis, ingeneral,lymostly 
apoor worsestrategy  than using the a mobile friendly web version of the content. There are a number of great apps outthere for primary school children., the Thechoice gets rather thin when it comes to high school education, however. Apple has realized this and has started publishing textbooks in a proprietaryformat, which effectively amounts to the appification of learning content. While this means goodnews to many people who have been looking forward to interactive, multimedia eBooks, there are anumber of serious drawbacks compared to mobile web solutions:
they are not platform independent
teachers (and learners) have very little or no control over the content and didactic use
they often do not integrate (easily) with existing networks like MoodleThe following example is meant to demonstrate these problems. Probably the best mobile learningstrategy for teachers who have been using eLearning in the past is the mobile integration with anexisting LMS like Moodle. It provides the teacher with the possibility to choose her own materials and;view test results online,and allows the students to discuss the content online or to collaborate on projects. Moodle currently has only an iOS app working only with Moodle versions from 2.1 andabove. Estimating rather generously that Moodle 2.1 is currently used by 10% of Moodle users and15% of users of mobile devices in high schools, it becomes clear that only a few high school studentscurrently are able to use mobile Moodle and that this in no way could be a viable mobile learningstrategy in the classroom for the vast majority of teachers.At least not at present until apps forother major mobile OSs will be released. As it can be expected that there will be more differentmobile OSs in the future (Windows 8, mobile versions of Linux) it is unclear when the point of widespread use will be reached. If the developers had chosen to create a mobile friendly version of Moodle instead, educators could already be working with it, now that smartphones use has reachedalmost 100% among students aged 15+. Extrapolating from current trends widespread tablet usecould follow in less than three years.
Platform independence
 For a variety of reasons, 
most “mobile” classrooms probably will use a BYOD (bring your own device)
strategy. The most important of these reasons is financial. Most people already own devices(including mobile ones) that are faster and more up-to-date than the ones they find at the workplace or at school. IT departments everywhere are starting to become obsolete,with cloudcomputing and mobile computing on the rise. In fact, students at my school often prefer to accessthe internet via their mobile phone
s and 3G rather than with their laptops connected to the school’s
network. In the long run it will become too costly to provide the technological infrastructure in-
Font: 14 pt
Comment [EG1]:
should this be „worst“?
Comment [EG2]:
I wouldn’t call apps„strategies“. I might change this part to „apps ar
general, relatively useless tools.“
English (U.S.)
English (U.S.)
house. Considering the current developments in IT proprietary,eLearning solutions are an absoluteno-go,as costs are bound to soarand content will be restricted to one device. .  If the majority of devices cannot be supported in a classroom,any mobile strategy is bound to fail.Apps are not platform independent and when employing them a teacher always has to make surethat they are available for iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, and whatever other mobile OS willbecome popular.OtherwiseElsethey are simply uselessin any BOYD setting. Adobe Flash has been the most popular eLearning platform precisely because it was platformindependent and could be used with any OS just with a browser plugin. Content could be easilyimported via xml,and data (e.g. results) could be as easily exported via SCORM to an LMS orembedded in any website using the embed code. That is why it was not only used for interactivemultimedia learning apps, but also for some of the greatest web 2.0 services which have been usedin constructivist learning: prezi, glogster, voki, vyew, voicethread, sliderocket, bubbl.us(mindmapping), just to name a few. Now that Flash is not supported on some mobile platforms, HTML(5) is the best option for creating platform-independent content.
Control over content and didactics
 Most learning apps come with their own content and leave the teacher and learner little or nocontrol over what to learn. This effectively means that teachers/learners often have to try outdozens of apps to see if they are useful for them or not. Apartof fromthat being a waste of time,learners often lose interest in these apps after a short time, because they provide no new stimuli or
information. What’s more, most people don’t want to use dozens of different specialized apps but
rather a few generic ones which allow them to be more flexible. A simple example is online news.Instead of installing a dozenof different appsfroma dozenof different newspapers,it is much more convenient to use a newsreader (RSS), which allows aggregating all sources in one place.Another example is flashcards. There are hundreds, if not thousands of flashcardsapps out there.They are easy and convenient for a limited amount of standard learning content (e.g. learning thealphabet or numbers). However, when it comes to broader topics (e.g. animals) a teacher mightwant to choose the items to study,as there are hundreds of possible items. When it comes to veryspecific topics (e.g. parts of an engine) there might be no flashcards at all. The ideal would be thesupport of an open format,which allows the import of selected and possibly even self-createdcontent. It is easy to create flashcards,and students would actuallybefit benefitfrom creating their own flashcards (collaboratively),as this would help them learn better (constructivist learning).
: Unless a teacher can successfully connect all mobile devices (currently mostlysmartphones) in the classroom to a network like Moodle to distribute and upload content to, it isvery cumbersome to work with these devices. Neither test or learning games results, nor contentcreated exclusively for one device,can be shared easily.Apps are most useful in connection with the web. In fact, many of the really successful apps are littlemore than web clients. Among those are
Facebook, Twitter and other social media services
Dropbox, Box(file management and sharing)
Evernote, Sprinpad(note taking)
Google apps (Search, Maps, Docs, Gmail, Calendar)
Flipboard, Pulse, Feedly and other RSS readers
Clients for different information services such as Yelp, AccuWeather, Wikipedia (weather,movie reviews, travel information, etc.)The contents of all of the above are just as well accessible via a browser and are completely device-independent and usually feature a variety of web 2.0 functions such as sharing and publishing.Accessing these services via app rather than a browser often results in a better user experience asthe app versions are
More user friendly
Slightly faster
More customizableMany of these online services have a mobile version, which is often only slightly less user friendlythan the mobile app. What makes these apps so great is not only their device independence andavailability-anywhere, but also the ability to share and collaborate easily. It is easy to share files viaDropbox, notes via Evernote, news and movie recommendations via social networks, as well ascreating collaborative documents or maps via Google Docs and Maps, respectively. By the way, all of these apps are free compared to many on-device-only apps (most prominently games andproductivity tools): web content is harder to sell than software.Perhaps thebest most obviousexample of where a pure app approach fails is vocabulary trainers.Trainers that come with a built-in vocabulary only are pretty useless (except, perhaps, for a verybasic level of foreign language learning). Of course teachers and learners really require topic relatedvocabulary, ideally created collaboratively by the learners themselves with the help of the teacher(selection and correction). This can be achieved with web 2.0 apps (Quizlet, Studystack, etc.) muchbetter than mobile apps. There are, however, a number of mobile apps that support import fromthese services and serve as their web clients. The mobile app, thus, becomes part of an overall(constructivist) eLearning strategy,which could include:
production (most of it at present offline on PCsor laptops)
collaboration (on theweb)
consumption (mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets)
feedback (results, discussions, etc.: LMS, social media)Device-only apps are mostly intended for the consumption on the device (with the exception of productions tools, of course). The same is true for appified textbooks. In the age of collaborative andconstructivist learning,that does not represent a 21
century didactic and learning strategy.
The appification of textbooks and the resulting problems
By offering interactive multimedia textbooks in a proprietary format,Apple is effectively trying toappify learning content for higher education. Whilethis kind of textbook is very much welcome tomost manyeLearning inclined teachers and learners, it forces learners and schools to buy Applehardware. With iAuthor, a free and easy-to-use authoring software for Apple
s proprietary format,

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