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Mobile Distance Learning with PDAs: Development and Testing of Pedagogical and System Solutions

Supporting Mobile Distance Learners

1. The context/s in the case

The Norwegian Knowledge Institute (NKI) was one of the first institutions worldwide to offer distance
education. It continues to offer online education to increasing number of students. Courses offered by
NKI are not designed to function as interactive e-learning programs and mainly contain text-based
materials that require intensive study and collaboration with fellow students. This means that most of
the time, students will be studying offline; either they will download content for reading offline or print
content for reading on paper.

NKI decided to implement mobile learning (m-learning) along with their existing online distance
education. Since NKI has already its existing learning management system (LMS), it is assumed that
students have access to a computer with internet connection, and that the equipment and technologies
to be used for m-learning will just supplement the ones used by students at home or at work. Phase by
phase, m-learning was slowly integrated into the mainstream education, taking into consideration the
adjustment the students will have to go through, from Project 1 (from e-learning to m-learning), up to
Project 3 (Incorporating mobile learning into mainstream education).

2. Impact on the mobile learning initiative used as a learning approach in the case

a. NKIs mobile learning initiative have led to better, more flexible mobile solutions(p. 71)that caters
all types of distance learners studying online. What I learned from NKI is that the courses and its content
must be suited for both mobile and non-mobile learners, i.e. learners can switch between using their
PCs and their mobile devices conveniently in accessing their courses.

b. Communication among learners and with their tutors will become more efficient because of the use
of mobile devices. Learners will not have to wait to get into their PCs in order to ask something from
their fellow learners because the having a mobile device which you can carry along anywhere allows you
to communicate easier. This is also beneficial when it comes to being constantly updated in the course,
i.e. if there are new forums or assignments or files to be downloaded.

c. Students can have the freedom to choose the mobile devices that they prefer to use in m-learning.
NKI started their m-learning initiative by choosing mobile phones, pocket PCs and PDAs as the devices to
be used by students. They had some difficulties regarding what ideal device to be used (this is due to
constraints in technology at that time, like the screen being too small and the relatively short battery
life), but it was concluded in the paper that it will all boil down to students preferences. Nowadays,
however, mobile learners are fortunate that they have so many choices as to what device they are going
to use which can display rich multimedia content. I believe early undertakings like that of NKI paved the
way for the advancement of m-learning elsewhere.