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Mobile Learning in Adult Education Research Proposal

Thomas J. Okon Southern Illinois University Workforce Education and Development

November 22, 2011




Background of the Study ...................................................................................................... 1 Purpose of the Study 4 Statement of the Problem.. 4 Research Questions... 4 Significance of Study.... 4 Limitations of Study..... 5 Definition of Terms...... 5 2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE Overview....... 6 Designing Effective M- Learning..... 6 M- Learning Pedagogy..... 8 M- Learning Devices....... 10 Summary...... 11 3. METHODOLOGY Research Design...........12 Subjects of Study. ....... 12 Data Collection Procedure... 12 REFERENCES................................................................................................................. 1


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The tough economic times are sending more adults back to school. A survey by Kaplan University (2008) reported that a faltering economy tends to drive people back into the classroom to sharpen their skills, and that among U.S. adults, 91 percent felt that finishing a degree, seeking a higher degree or attending continuing education makes someone more attractive to potential employers. Kaplan University also reported that 44 percent decided to attend an online versus traditional university, because online education allows them to continue working fulltime and managing family obligations while they pursue a degree. The recent trend of students choosing online instruction using e-learning, also shows up in a research report by Ambient Insight (2011) that says there will be more than 25 million postsecondary students taking at least one online course, and that the number of college students taking traditional faceto-face classes will plummet from 14.4 million in 2010 to 4.1 million in 2015 (Adkins, 2011). In a relatively short amount of time, online teaching using e-learning concepts has gained a very permanent and highly visible place in the worldwide higher education community. A practice that at one time held only a minor role has become an indispensable element of many institutions curricula, success, and overall reputation (Brandon, 2008). Despite such an increase in the popularity of these programs, there have been concerns about the quality of e-learning based online education (Kim, Liu, & Bonk, 2005). Students in online courses often report higher levels of dissatisfaction than students enrolled in equivalent face-to-face courses (Sapp & Simon, 2005). High dropout rates have also been of concern to many organizations and higher education institutions. A higher percentage of students participating in an online course tend to drop out

MOBILE LEARNING IN ADULT EDUCATION compared to students in a face-to-face classroom (Park & Choi, 2009). New models and methods will have to emerge in order to overcome these problems in maintaining high quality online instruction for adults, and for all age groups. Athabasca University has taken steps to improve e-learning by using mobile phones to deliver interactive

course materials. The AU Mobile English as a Second Language (ESL) Project provided English grammar lessons and interactive exercises to anyone with a mobile device and access to the Internet (Hutchison, Tin, & Cao, 2008). Cambridge Training and Development Ltd, an active participant in more than 20 m-learning trials across Europe has found success with a blended approach using mobile devices, media, and other group activities (Stead, 2005). A mobile device overcomes the limitations of access to course information and other applications by allowing learners to disseminate information and complete other course work even when they are away from their hard-wired Internet connections (Motiwalla, 2007). Mobile learning or m-learning can be any form of learning that happens when mediated through a mobile device (Herrington, Herrington, Mantei, Olney, & Ferry, 2009). It is also defined as the use of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless and mobile phone networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning (Douch, Savill-Smith, Parker, & Attewell, 2010). The key features of using mobile technology for learning are its personalization capability and extended reach. This has attracted more and more learners, especially adult learners, for whom the work-life balance is critical (Motiwalla, 2007). Mobile technology provides learners with choice over and ownership of their learning. Combined with good planning, mobile technologies can encourage creativity and innovation by both learners and teachers (Douch et al., 2010). Griffin (2010) argued that the idea of having learning separated by

MOBILE LEARNING IN ADULT EDUCATION an extended period of time from when a person actually attempts to use the learning has to be

challenged. He believes that few learners today want the information weeks and even months in advance. They actually would like to have specific topics and refresher learning available ondemand minutes or even seconds before they will need to use it. Unfortunately higher education does not seem to be embracing m-learning as a way of improving their students online experience. Peters (2007) reported that there appears to be limited adoption even though many education providers recognize the benefits of m-learning. She attributed this lack of adoption to the age and ability of teachers, the cost of providing mlearning devices and infrastructure, and the slow rate of change in many large educational institutions. More recently though, Park (2011) affirmed that many researchers and practitioners have effectively incorporated mobile technology into their teaching and learning environments. Traxler (2009) noted that there have been a host of pilots and initiatives across countries, but despite the many forms of and increasing services offered by mobile learning, it is still immature in terms of its technological limitations and pedagogical considerations. Park (2011) also argued that instructional designers and teachers need more guidance about how to utilize emerging mobile technologies and integrate them into their teaching more effectively. (Khaddage, Lanham, & Zhou, 2009) emphasize the importance of taking a systems view of all the elements that need to be in place in a mobile learning environment, such as: the communication infrastructure, the mobile devices, learners and teachers. Each of these elements is essential to ensure the effective adoption of mobile technologies in higher education.

MOBILE LEARNING IN ADULT EDUCATION Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study will be to determine what pedagogies, software applications, and mobile devices are needed in order for online education instructors to reliably create and deliver successful m-learning instruction to Adult Education students. Statement of the Problem There is great potential for the use of m-learning in online education however, the

essential components for successful implementation by instructors have not been clearly defined. Instructors need guidance and information on what kinds of mobile devices work best, what pedagogies have been successful, and the capabilities of current software applications. Research Questions 1. What capabilities must software applications have in order to allow the widest array of possible design methodologies? 2. What pedagogical strategies and principles facilitate the use of m-learning devices in online education? 3. What features must a mobile device possess in order to allow the widest array of possible content delivery methods? Significance of Study This study will add knowledge to the existing research on m-learning by examining the best practices needed when designing and implementing learning content for mobile devices. The findings can then be used by online education instructors, as well as other interested parties, to provide effective, interactive and reliable mobile learning.


Two methodological limitations of this study could be sample size and lack of available data. These will be affected by the response rate from survey participants, and the willingness of participants to sit for interviews. Access could be a limitation to the researcher, depending also on the willingness of participants to sit for interviews or return surveys. Time could be another limitation to the researcher, when considering the length of the school term and its effect on the time available to conduct interviews as well as collect information from surveys. Definition of Terms E-learning is training delivered on a computer, (including DVD, CD-ROM, Internet, Intranet and virtual classrooms) that is designed to support individual learning or organizational performance goals. This includes e-courses developed primarily to provide information as well as those designed to build specific job-related skills (Clark & Mayer, 2007). M-learning is the use of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless and mobile phone networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning (Douch et al., 2010). Mobile technologies/ Mobile devices are: mobile phones, Smartphones, PDAs, MP3/ MP4 players (e.g. iPods), handheld games devices (Sony PSP, Nintendo DS), digital cameras, Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs), mini notebooks or netbooks, handheld GPS or voting devices and specialist handheld technologies (Douch et al., 2010).


With the global volume of mobile cellular subscriptions projected to grow to 5.3 billion (Kainz, 2011) and an estimated 1.2 billion people carrying Web-enabled mobile phones (Gartner, 2011), the use of technology for learning is quickly becoming ubiquitous. That is, people no longer see it as separate from regular learning, and it is viewed as part of the tools that trainers, instructional designers, instructors, and others who design or deliver instruction use to impact skills and performance (Shank, 2007). Throughout this review there will be a discussion of the tools and techniques used by developers of m-learning. Furthermore there will be an exploration of effective design, pedagogy and mobile devices, the essential components of a mobile learning strategy. Designing Effective M- Learning What does it take to make good m-learning? Since it is such a different learning environment, designers are encountering some of the same learning lessons that occurred with elearning. Motiwalla (2007) argued that you cannot just take PowerPoint to the Web and call it elearning. Good instructional design is needed, along with flow, and a need to build learning objects. All of the pedagogical considerations that make e-learning on a big screen PC or laptop effective still exist with the consideration of a mobile application. Traditional design guidelines and methods used for computer and web-based applications may not be applicable to a mobile learning (Khaddage et al., 2009). Authoring learning for mobile devices is different in a number of significant ways because of these important factors: (a) operating systems and hardware specifications for mobile devices vary one device to the next, (b) connection speed to data


networks is often variable, depending on time of day, user location, etc., (c) mobile devices are highly personalized (as opposed to desktop computers), which makes it hard to establish guidelines for a design (d) there are different ways to interact with a mobile device (i.e., using fingers, or thumbs, rather than a mouse) (Berking, 2011). OnPoint Digital (2011) suggested that the biggest challenge for those working on their initial m-learning efforts is the lack of an appropriate point of reference for planning, developing and managing a mobile learning initiative. This is largely due to the fact that the building blocks for creating an instructor led training class or an engaging e-learning course are actually quite different than those that comprise an m-learning deliverable. Some problems faced by mlearning developers are: how interface design works, how to lay out their content, what multimedia content they want, ease of use, navigation, and accessibility (Khaddage et al., 2009). Many authoring tools can deliver content to mobile devices. However, tools are emerging that are specifically designed for mobile learning; for instance, providing authoring capability for audio learning content (e.g., spoken word, podcasts) along with associated interactive assessments and surveys. Other tools are optimized to provide e- learning content through the phone's web browsing capability (Brown, & Haag, 2011). Designers must embrace the strengths that a mobile device can bring to learning, for example in combining multimedia learning content with scenarios for learners to capture and contribute media files (user generated content), dynamically upload content on the move, and communicate with peers and/or tutors. The possibilities for incorporating multimedia resources into sociable learning scenarios on mobile devices is achievable and could be a very powerful feature in the future (Bradley, Haynes, Cook, Boyle, & Smith, 2009). Design is the biggest differentiator between mobile learning success and failure. It is the link between learning and


performance support, the tie between formal and informal learning. The most successful mobile designers are able to think differently (Brown & Haag, 2011). M-Learning Pedagogy Another serious issue faced by mobile learning is the lack of a solid theoretical framework that can guide effective instructional design (Park, 2011). It can be argued that the current use of mobile devices in higher education (essentially content delivery) is pedagogically conservative and regressive. Their adoption is following a typical pattern where educators revert to old pedagogies as they come to terms with the capabilities of new technologies (Herrington et al., 2009). Conventional courseware is based on behavioral and cognitive models of learning developed in the 60s and 70s and may not apply well to the psychology of todays young learners. Young users of conventional e-learning find it boring. They miss the kind of engagement that digital games provide and hence tend to rate the overall quality of e-learning low (Kadle, 2009). Cognitive behaviorist models were the first generation of learning strategies used for distance education of which m-learning is a by-product. Social-constructivist pedagogies were the second generation, and perhaps not coincidently, arose in conjunction with the development of two-way communication technologies. At that time, rather than transmitting information, technology became widely used to create opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous interactions between and among students and teachers (Anderson, & Dron, 2011). Most learning pedagogies from constructive learning and conversation theories can be adapted for an online learning environment. The key is to understand the strengths and weakness of a particular technology, while deploying good pedagogical practices to achieve specific learning goals (Motiwalla, 2007).

MOBILE LEARNING IN ADULT EDUCATION The third generation of pedagogy used in distance-education emerged recently, and shows potential for future m-learning. It is known as connectivism. Siemens (2005), a theorist responsible for advancing the concept of connectivisim argued that decisions are based on

constantly changing foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is essential (Siemens, 2005). Connectivism was developed in the information age of a networked era and assumes ubiquitous access to networked technologies. Learning is seen as the process of building networks of information, contacts, and resources that are applied to real problems. Connectivism also assumes that information is plentiful and that the learners role is not to memorize or even understand everything, but to have the capacity to find and apply knowledge when and where it is needed (Anderson & Dron, 2011). Is there a need for a new learning theory when there are already well-established theories used successfully to design instruction? Ally (2008) affirmed that connectivism is needed, since the existing learning theories were developed before distributed and networked learning was used widely by educators. Over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn. New theories of learning should be reflective of new emerging social environments. Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges this shift in a society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. It provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era (Siemens, 2005). Recent innovations in program applications and social software using Web 2.0 technologies (e.g., blogs, wikis, Twitter, YouTube) or social networking sites (such as Facebook and MySpace) have made mobile devices more dynamic and pervasive, which has increased the

MOBILE LEARNING IN ADULT EDUCATION opportunity for social collaboration (Park, 2011). The expansion and growth in popularity of these Web 2.0 services and tools, as well as the accompanying increase in prevalence of user-


generated content, have implications for learning in higher education, and are already influencing pedagogical choices and approaches (Lee & Mcloughlin, 2011). M-Learning Devices Beyond discussions of pedagogy, what about the devices themselves? There are some disadvantages and advantages of using mobile devices for learning. The small display screen still present on most devices can be a problem. They also have reduced storage capacity, and rely on a battery for power. For older learners, diminishing eyesight makes viewing small screens a challenge. In addition, the lack of a common platform among the various manufacturers and equipment available complicates the development of content (Hutchison, Tin, & Cao, 2008). However, looking at how rapidly new mobile products are improving, with advanced functions and numerous applications available these days, the technical limitations of mobile devices may be a temporary concern (Park, 2011). There are now more capable mobile devices, which afford a wider array of possible content delivery methods. Just like desktop learning methods, the variety of content types now possible for mobile are broad and diverse, especially with more capable smart-phone and tablet devices. These include videos, pod-casts, mobile versions of traditional courseware/modules, and animated slide presentations (OnPoint Digital, 2011). As new devices continue to enter the market, new features and new capabilities are appearing at an accelerated pace. Most recently Apples iPad has been heralded as a device that can take personal computing to the next level and a game changer for education (Kumar, 2010). In fact Abilene Christian University has found that the iPad has fundamentally changed a teachers ability to mobilize the students learning



environment, freeing them to have access and interaction with students not possible with typical laptop based computers (Shepherd & Reeves, 2011). Abilene Christian University also concluded that the iPad and its educational applications are critical in the development of mobile learning (Shepherd & Reeves, 2011). Further study will need to be completed before crowning the iPad as the ultimate mobile learning device, until then, Brown and Haag (2011) remind that Its not about devices its about capabilities and its not about the technology its about the experience (p. 19). Summary In conducting this literature review the author examined many articles about online learning, e-learning and m-learning. The amount of information available is vast, but inconsistent in subject matter. It also is frequently out of date seemingly because of the rapid advancement of mobile technologies and the changing practice of m-learning. The referenced ideas that made it into this paper represent an attempt to discuss the main subject areas of the identified research questions. Mobile learning is still in infancy. As the practice and technology mature, clearer more concise ideas about designing effective m-learning will emerge. More research will be conducted in future versions of this study in order to answer the proposed research questions and to expand and amplify the subject matter.



Research Design This study will use a qualitative research method with a survey design. McMillan and Schumacher (2010) stated in survey research, the investigator selects a sample of respondents from a target population and administers a questionnaire or conducts interviews to collect information on variables of interest (p. 235). A survey design will work well with this study, since it will attempt to collect information about m-learning and the best practices needed when designing and implementing learning content for mobile devices. Subjects of Study Individuals currently employed at organizations already implementing or piloting mlearning programs will be a source of primary data. Individuals working at companies who distribute applications or implement solutions for sale will also be a primary source. These individuals were selected as subjects since they are deemed to have the most extensive and current knowledge about m-learning practices. Current studies and surveys about the subject matter of the research questions will also be used for secondary data. Data Collection Procedure Surveys will be administered and interviews will be conducted to collect the data from the identified individuals. This study will also perform secondary data analysis on any relevant studies or surveys available.



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