Implementing m-learning solutions in Egypt for lifelong and higher education programs

Anne Charlotte Chaput French University in Cairo, Egypt annecharlotte.chaput@mac.com +2 018 27 76 778 Dina El Kassas Minya University, Egypt delkassas@gmail.com +2 018 20 69 256

Abstract—In this paper, we suggest to optimize mobility
technologies (more specifically mobile telephony as a widely spread service in Egypt), internet facilities and satellite television to enhance higher education program and lifelong learning by delivering multimedia interoperable learning objects via a learning platform and as part of educational programs favoring remote rural areas. We will address the question of the introduction of M-learning in Egypt.

Keywords—d-learning, community of practices, e-learning, m-learning, visioconference, learning objects. I. INTRODUCTION

reasons for implementing distant learning systems is that it enables constrained and underserved learners to access valuable educational content more easily. These potential learners include lifelong ones. In the present article, we suggest using high technologies that are well developed and popular in Egypt. We will focus on mobile learning as an extension of e-learning. We will show how it can be a powerful drive in education and training in Egypt.
II. TYPOLOGY OF NEW LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES

P

romoting the quality of learning materials in higher education institutions and in lifelong education in Egypt without huge expenses can be achieved through an efficient use of the well developed and widespread technological facilities (satellite TV, wireless high-speed Internet and mobile telephony). First, existing satellite-based learning can be enhanced and applied more extensively to university curricula (i.e. broadcasting multimedia learning objects). Second, webbased learning should be developed more systematically at the university level by involving e-learning tools (by introducing direct and differed streaming and providing universities with visioconference equipment). Third, mobility can be a powerful drive in education and training in Egypt with the strong and increasing penetration of mobile phones. A strong push from the government and ICT programs should help foster inter-university cooperation through innovative projects (e.g. current Tempus and partnership between Egyptian and universities abroad), in an attempt to promote community of practices in Egypt and in the region in the main areas of ICT learning. Partnership between IT, mobile phone companies and universities should be developed so as to promote mobile and Internet learning, as all would benefit from it. ICT can provide high-quality and attractive content to learners: young students will be stimulated by high levels of interactivity and participation while adults or executive workers may favor a system that provide them with contextbased high technical content, and so on. One of the main

While traditional educational systems involving classroom teaching have several advantages such as direct contact between lecturers and learners, immediate feedback and physical interactions between learners, they also carry important disadvantages. In fact, in conventional or traditional classroom courses, learners are subject to time and space constraints: learners have to commute between home and university according to a non flexible schedule. There are 17 universities in Egypt, therefore education is offered in geographically localized areas. Learners who miss classes automatically lose training materials and there is no possibility to repeat a lesson (the lesson is time constrained). Also, the diversity of learner profiles (heterogeneity) is not taken into consideration. The rapid growth of ICT has made possible the appearance of new educational forms. Satellite-based and computer-based training using CD and local area networks were introduced almost ten years ago. Then in the last five years, focus has been put on the use of web-based training and learning management systems. Now, current perspective is directed towards mobile learning. We will see how these forms can optimize and widely promote an efficient education. A. Satellite-based learning Even though satellite-based learning was not the driving force behind the initial investment decision of Egyptian satellite, Nilesat, the satellite has provided interactive content for distant-learning by offering several channels dedicated to universities and educational areas. Satellite broadcasting can serve learning by offering reliable and cost-effective distance

educational tools. Audio and video learning sequences are delivered through a satellite channel and viewed by learners at the scheduled broadcast time or recorded for viewing at a later time. The satellite-based implementation may also provide an interactive audio and video classroom, though less flexible in time. Satellite is not just a way to deliver traditional classroom courses. It should be taken into consideration that instructional design and educational contents differ between presential courses and satellite-delivered ones. Educational institutions involved in satellite-based learning have to adapt their programs to this educational environment. Multimedia facilities should be exploited to optimize knowledge and learning objects transmission by creating audio-visual and animated educational contents. Educational institutions must invest extensively their efforts to promote satellite-based learning. We should also pay attention to learning styles, learning strategies and learning profiles of Egyptian students. We need to define a strategy and identify the budget, infrastructure, staffing, and policies required for the implementation of such programs accordingly. Interoperability is also an important issue in order to improve wireless terrestrial networks in course transmission. Even though the installed infrastructure is not favoring satellite-based internet learning systems, such installation will help spread educational programs across the nation, the region and internationally. Introducing datacasting and interactive satellite TV for educational purposes, like the South African NGO Mindset has done, will contribute to educate a larger number of low skilled people in remote areas. Although Egypt has made some progress in raising the skill level of the population, the number of people with low skills (even among the educated people) remains too high, especially in remote areas. This jeopardizes competitiveness, future growth and Egyptian ambition to become an international software exporter. But using satellite television to deliver audio-visual learning materials to a larger audience will strongly enhance people's skill levels, as satellite television is already widely spread among the population. Satellite-based learning has been successfully adopted by educational institutions throughout the world (University of Alsaska http://www.alaska.edu/swadetc/ak_sat, University of Hawaii http://www.peacesat.hawaii.edu, Old Dominion University http://web.odu.edu/webroot/orgs/AO/DL/teletechnet.nsf, Satellite Educational Resources Consortium (SERC) http://www.serc.org/whatis/index.htm, etc.). We think that learning projects associated with satellite-based and web-based instruction is a promising perspective in Egypt. It will present an innovative equalizing solution enabling geographically dispersed and remote learners to access higher quality multimedia learning materials more easily and efficiently. B. Web-based learning Content management tools are at the basis of e-learning Whatever the exporting format (text/html, audio file, video

files, etc.) or the device (TV, mobile phone, pocket PC, PC) used in the learning process, these new learning systems involve a web-based platform which enables to describe, organize and manage the learning content before it can be delivered in different formats and fashions. A web-based platform will also be used to administer the learning participants and their learning experience (course enrollment, grades, progression, objectives, feedback, etc.). There are many web-based learning platforms available on the market. These LMS, CMS and LCMS fall into three categories: proprietary, open source and free/public. e-Learning norms and standards Web-based content management platforms need to match certain criteria and to follow distant learning norms and standards. To keep it short and simple, we can say that norms and standards in the field of e-learning aim to reach four main objectives: - Reusability: there is a direct economic impact to share and reuse learning resources. - Adaptability: create learning objects that can be used in different contexts, applications, products, through different access modes, etc. - Interoperability: learning resources designed in a technological environment can be used in other environments. - Durability: create resources that won't need too much reengineering when technological changes and upgrades occur in the system. Metadata are the backbone of learning objects Aggregation standards (like "IMS Content Packaging") use metadata to describe resources. Instructional designers and metadata editors guarantee that metadata are added to the learning objects. The LCMS (or CMS) allows the institution that uses it to share the content with other members. One of many LCMS' objectives is to develop cooperative inter- and crossdisciplinary work among colleagues and ICT communities of practices. Creating minimal learning objects and sharing them in a unique referential system will prevent teachers and instructional designers to prepare the same material twice or to spend too much time updating course material. Also, using a system that respects the four objectives mentioned above will allow institutions with various learner profiles, learning schemes and constraints (professional, geographical economical, etc.) to choose the best e-learning strategy. One of the strategies for an institution could be to offer blended learning programs, i.e. a learning scheme where learning times are split between presential and distant learning. Another solution could be to use web-based tools and satellitebased and/or mobile learning in a presential learning system, possibly as a first step towards a distant learning solution. In this case, ICT enhances the quality of the learning experience thanks to interactive and intuitive tools. The IP protocol In all these solutions, the different tools, devices and content

types use the Internet Protocol (IP) as a communication protocol. Flows of data are transmitted, transcoded and interpreted between the different systems, applications and devices. It enables users to exchange data and communicate on synchronous as well as asynchronous modes. Two technologies providing a high level of interactivity are what we call "Voice over IP" and "Video over IP". Voice over IP can be used from PC to PC or from PC to phone and include applications such as Skype or MSN, and video over IP includes video and visioconferencing systems. A videoconferencing tool enables PC to PC, mobile to PC or mobile to mobile communication. These solutions should be implemented in distant learning systems, as they can greatly enhance communication and interaction and even compensate the distance between peer learners and teachers. Visioconferencing systems can be very powerful systems involving two remote groups of participants or more. There is a wide range of solutions, but a comprehensive one implies the intervention of skilled people and can be costly (equipment and infrastructure). However, it is possible to start with videoconferencing tools, which are easier to implement and less expensive. Video over IP solutions suit learning and meeting sessions (for instance a brainstorming activity) that require a high level of interactivity using voice, video, file/application sharing, and collaborative work. Universities offering complete distant learning programs, as opposed to blended-learning programs, need to acquire a videoconferencing system in order to enable constrained students to complete their degrees distantly and to increase the number of students who register in their programs. In distantlearning programs, registered students sometimes live thousands of kilometers away from the university. A videoconferencing system makes it possible for students to defend a thesis from abroad and enables teachers to give a lecture to distant learners connected to their PCs. It may also be considered as a solution to further develop inter-university cooperation, thus reducing travel costs and teaching costs, as teachers in a university can teach two groups of students simultaneously. Another great advantage is the possibility to record, broadcast and digitally archive conferences, allowing students to access the material at a later stage. Direct and differed streaming techniques can be used to broadcast the content; the streaming content can be exported to a mobile device, a TV set or a PC. (and establish the call with the other conference sites, and other users can connect from their PCs to follow the course. ) So far, only a few institutions (in Egypt) have implemented visioconferencing systems. And those who have probably do not use the full range of capacities. Investing in a visioconferencing solution can seem to be too expensive for a University, but it will be worthwhile and even necessary to further develop valuable distant-learning programs. Visioconferencing, voice and video streaming require high-speed as well as a very good Internet and network infrastructure. It has to be said that Egypt still needs to further

develop and provide such infrastructure, in order for universities to develop learning objects and high quality multimedia content based on voice and video over IP. Also, an efficient wireless Internet access facilitates the the implementation of ICT learning, and mobile-learning above all. Wireless accessibility has already been extended to more areas of the country, so we can now develop valuable mobilelearning scenarii. C. Mobile-learning Mobile-learning is the ability to learn anywhere at anytime without permanent physical connection to cable networks. Mlearning is the natural extension of electronic-learning improvement and has the potential to make learning widely available and accessible. M-learning can efficiently contribute in enhancing educational quality of programs provided in Egyptian higher education institutions. It will have a great impact on expanding and increasing educational application based on socio-constructivist tools by optimizing wide communication and interaction among students, with teachers and among teachers. M-learning allows getting benefit of spare time. Mobile phones can be used in many learning activities, such as grading learning, reading training content or performing a serious game. It is also a simple way to spread learning materials to geographically dispersed students. In fact, M-learning is an affordable solution to increase access to learning materials, using cheaper equipment like portable media players or mobile phones that can operate without continuous access to electricity. It creates access to knowledge where books are not available or too expensive, and create possibilities to keep in touch with teachers, tutors and students while at a distance. Mlearning is a lifeline to people. Scenarii for m-learning - M-learning promotes interactivity between university students: o In an interactive amphitheater for example, students vote and send answers by SMS or Bluetooth so the teacher can poll students' understanding of a lecture. o Participative skills and collaborative problem solving skills are developed through peer learner communication and creative content projects. o Learners can interact with teachers and peer students during a fieldtrip. They can have their personal directory (on a LCMS), log on a shared directory to share/submit videos and photos or just to take notes. - M-learning promotes collaboration and interactivity between workers and their colleagues while on a mission or out of office (just in time learning). - M-learning is an innovative solution for adult learning by promoting context awareness of: o context-based language courses o tutoring and tailored learning applied to any suitable field: learning in cultural places (museum, galleries, monuments, exhibitions), fieldtrip out of

classrooms (e.g. geology or archeology classes doing live experiments; engineering class visiting a factory), etc. M-learning enhances learning based on mobility, collaboration and cooperation. It provides a greater amount of freedom and autonomy to the learner -"I learn where I want and when I want"- who can access educational resources at any time. Mlearning is a promising new learning way. Yet, mobile-learning faces several challenges: - We must ensure that connectivity works over time and with great performance and security for all. - We must adapt developed learning materials and educational activities to the constraints of mobile phone's battery life (currently a maximum of 3 hours) and the phone's life (1-2 years and it declines quickly) - We have to manage and re-think interaction with small terminals. Thus, development of e-content must take into account a new human-machine interface. The displayed content must be adapted to smaller screens and keyboards. Additional challenges concern pedagogical and sociological issues: how can teachers best evaluate learning outside the classroom, how to manage learning styles and learning profiles across contexts, and how to help students become autonomous in distant learning programs. Studies should also focus on selflearning and socio-constructivist approaches in virtual mobile environments. III. IMPLEMENTING M-LEARNING IN EGYPT A. Potentiality of the mobile learning Egypt's telecommunication infrastructure is well developed (is suitable for mobile communication?). There is a high potential for mobile learning in Egypt, yet it still has not been exploited. Firstly, this is a widely spread device that becomes more and more affordable. According to a report published by the Ministry of Communications and Technology in May 2008, the number of cellular mobile phone subscribers in Egypt amount to more than 38 millions. By following statistical information concerning the number and the growth of mobile communications (not only mobile phones but other terminals i.e. PDA, smart phones, notebook computers, Tablet PC): - 98% of university students have mobile phones. - The worldwide mobile expansion is accelerated by around 400 millions sold phones yearly. - Up to 2010 over 1 billion users will use wireless Internet. - Up to 2010 there will be more than 1,8 billion users of mobile communications. Mobile phone becomes a common object that will undoubtedly be used to teach by allowing reading, whether texts or audiovideo files. Learners will also interact synchronously with this terminal, send and receive SMS and MMS. The M-Learning will become a reality with the proliferation of wireless networks on campuses and urban areas. Adding the large expansion of low-cost audio and video readers (MP3, MP4), we can indubitably state that the

potentiality of m-learning in Egypt is huge. Wireless Internet and mobile technologies in Egypt make it possible to provide learning opportunities to learners who: - do not benefit from developed ICT infrastructure: such as rural learners. - are continually on the move: such as business professionals. - are time-constrained: such as workers with long/late working schedules, who do not have the opportunity to enroll in continuing studies. Yet, M-learning may be hindered by low memory cellular phone capacity and low data transfer rate. But, recent models of cellular phones (2.5 generation and up) have an Internet access via WAP, GPRS and Bluetooth communication technologies, with increasing storage capacity and promising future technological evolution converging towards the development of multi-device mobile phones. B. Advantages and opportunities Egypt wants to become a leader in the software industry and there is therefore an urgent need for skilled professionals in the IT field. M-learning can be a powerful instrument to widely disseminate learning objects in this field. It can also be a successful solution to provide technical English courses. IT professionals must also have extended skills in technical English, in order to communicate and work efficiently, to be standard-compliant, and to be able to sell the developed applications. In fact, English is the first language in professional communication. However, only a small proportion of Egyptians are proficient in English. M-learning can be a good tool to help the country to bridge the gap and become a competitor (an important actor?) on the software and e-content development markets, C. Key challenges To achieve this implementation, we need to address several issues: Technological challenges - Pervasive computing1 skills: m-learning requires skills in pervasive computing in order to lead to new ways of learning that will enhance possibilities of accessing learning content through virtual intelligent and computer-supported collaborative learning environments in a perfect mobility, making sure that learning materials are available anytime and anywhere. We would like to put the stress on the educational potential of p-learning (pervasive-learning): if mobiles can currently support LCMS environment, the next step is the combination with ambient intelligence for a Pervasive computing, also called ubiquitous computing or everyware, is a tremendous tendency towards increasingly ubiquitous, connected computing devices in the environment. It is brought about by a convergence of advanced electronic, and wireless technologies, and the Internet. The goal of Pervasive computing is to create ambient intelligence where network devices embedded in the environment provide unobtrusive connectivity and services all the time.
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pervasive learning. - Interoperability: making sure that learning materials are not bound to a particular or single device and that it can be exported to different formats. - Virtual learning environment: need to provide an LCMS that supports the Arabic language. - Infrastructure: a solid wireless/wimax Internet and telecommunication infrastructure have to be implemented. Educational challenges - Organizational: Egypt needs to adapt to a new form of education, organized according to different space and time frames and implying different types of relationships. Therefore we need to identify the roles of the actors (participants, administrators, teachers/tutors, etc.) and need to adjust the established traditional system. - Educational content design: implementing a new learning model appropriate to m-learning requires ICT specialists who understand what is at stake in ICT learning. Egypt needs e-learning specialists and actors, skilled to implement solutions that match the Egyptian culture and context. They should also stand as relays/intermediaries in the global elearning community, to ensure that Egypt participate in the debate of distant learning norms and standards, educational and teaching theories and practices, web technologies, etc. - Learners' skills: o Autonomy: the minimum level of autonomy and basic skills required for learners involved in mlearning must be measured. We also have to know how to bring those skills to the learner in the most efficient way. o Adaptive learning: we need to identify indicators, such as the most common learning styles, strategies, and the main categories of learners
IV. CONCLUSION

In this article, we present three ICT-enabled learning solutions: satellite-based learning, web-based learning and mobilelearning. Satellite-based educational content and web-based content and systems exist in Egypt and need to be further developed; learning objects however, let alone LOs delivered on a mobile device, have not been extensively developed so far. In the short term, we can easily exploit existing resources and accessible infrastructure to increase the interactivity in learning programs and allow more people to access educational content. In the long term however, Egypt must train ICT and e-learning professionals in order to develop LOs which can be exported to mobile devices (deliverable?), We think that the development of extensive m-learning solutions can facilitate the creation of new university and lifelong training programs in Egypt. REFERENCES [1] Berg, Z. L., & Schrum, L. (1998). “Linking strategic planning with program implementation for distance education,” Cause/Effect, 21 (3), 1-12.

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