??  Web viewBecause there are many contexts for mobile-learning and a wide variety of mobile-devices, this review will focus on mobile-learning in higher education, honing in on ...

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)






An Analysis of Mobile-Learning in Higher Education Through the iPad

Laura C. Bonfiglio

Radford University

Traditional methods of learning have a new neighbor eager to transition into the realm of education at rapid speed. Mobile-learning is moving into the field of education, bringing with it its large family of mobile-devices each with their own unique characteristics and prepped to change the learning environment. Franklin defines mobile-learning as learning that happens anywhere, anytime, and involves mobile-devices such as cell phones, smart phones, netbooks, laptops, tablets, iPods, iPads, e-readers, palms, Treo, and other devices (Franklin, 2011, p. 261).

Because there are many contexts for mobile-learning and a wide variety of mobile-devices, this review will focus on mobile-learning in higher education, honing in on a specific mobile-device, the iPad. Specifically, it will explore how the iPad and similar devices address learning, current advantages and disadvantages of their use in higher education, and how many involved publics are adapting. However, it is first important to understand mobile-learning as a concept before diving into how specific devices approach and foster such learning.

To define mobile-learning more specifically to the education field, it can be defined as access to course content by means of mobile-devices and the related learning activity (Molnr, 2013, p. 56). Connecting concepts found within the book, The Tipping Point, written by Malcolm Gladwell in 2002, mobile-learning devices are an epidemic and are currently reaching their tipping point (Franklin, 2011). These devices have competitive qualities, advancing and climbing above traditional learning tactics by providing opportunities to learning anytime and anywhere (Boyinbode, Bagula, & Ngambi, 2011). In this respect, mobile-learning can be referred to as nomadic learning, as it provides people with a learning environment that moves with them, accommodating to the individual preferences and needs of learners (Boyinbode et al., 2011, p. 14). Accommodating to individual needs and expanding the learning environment are attractive qualities that have not gone overlooked by student generations.

In fact, the student generation of this time uses mobile-devices more than any student generation to come before them, and the numbers are continually growing (Paxhia, 2011). Specific to students in higher education, a 2010 report by EDUCAUSE reported that this student groups use of mobile technology has jumped from 1.2% in 2005 to over 62% in 2010 (Rossing, Miller, Cecil, & Stamper, 2012). Franklin notes that the integration of mobile-devices into our educational system is influenced by many factors (2011). Perhaps most observable is their mobility, a characteristic that varies across devices. For example, a smartphone is more mobile than an iPad, as smaller weight and size make it more easily portable.

Mobility is a desirable characteristic for learning devices, as students can take their devices to and from the physical classroom setting (Franklin, 2011). According to the 2012 Higher Education Report conducted by the New Media Consortium (NMC), tablets such as the iPad offer advantages to higher education learning over other mobile-learning devices due to their ability to tap into all the advantages that mobile apps bring to smaller devices, but in a larger format (as cited by Hahn & Bussell, 2012, p. 43). Additional desirable qualities of mobile-devices include lower costs of e-books in comparison to print and the convenience factor that so many individuals already own smart devices (Hahn & Bussell, 2012).

What do these statistics and mobile-device offerings mean for higher education? Franklin says, as educators, we are in the midst of an epidemic, the tipping point has been reached and mobile is here! Consequently, these mobile-devices should serve to benefit the field of education. A core concept behind mobile-learning effectiveness is active learning, which involves students in talking and listening, reading, writing, and reflection (p. 264, 2011). The importance placed on the needs of the learner is a concept shared across research regarding mobile-learning as learner centered rather than the traditional teacher centered approach (Boyinbode et al., 2011). To be effective, mobile-learning must offer benefits to learners, some of which include: individualized experiences, freedom to make mistakes, continuous access, communication and collaboration (Franklin, 2011).

The mobile-device that can be attributed to the establishment of tablets in mobile-learning was the first tablet to hit markets in 2010, the iPad (Miller, 2012). Molnr defines the iPad as a popular touchscreen tablet computer, which runs the MAC operating system making it suitable for different general and special uses (2013, p. 56). The iPad has established its suitability for education, offering learning applications, e-textbooks, dropbox and electronic submission programs (Manuguerra & Petocz, 2011), note-taking programs, document-preparing programs, video programs and more (Molnr, 2013). Further uses include its ability to create, store, and display lecture presentations for both internal students and distance learners, as well as offering tools for grading and annotating (Manuguerra & Petocz, 2011). Since its initial release in 2010 by Apple, Inc. (Manuguerra & Petocz, 2011; Martinez-Estrada & Conaway, 2012), the iPad has been enhanced over three generations to offer improved user experience, resolution and speed with each model (Molnr, 2013). Although it has already developed many offerings, the adaptation of iPads in education is still in its infancy except for a few developed countries (Molnr, 2013, p. 57).

Apple, Inc. has jumped on the opportunity to promote the iPad as a useful and innovative tool for education. According to Miller, the company ran a commercial in 2011, titled Learn, which showcased the iPad as a tool that fosters learning (2012). The commercial showed an iPad user attempt to write another language, look up definitions, explore science, play both board games and musical instruments, all on the multi-functional device (Miller, 2012). The narration during the commercial claimed, There has never been a better time to learn (as cited by Miller, 2012, p. 54). The companys site delivers a consistent message with an Apple iPad Education page stating, The device that changed everything is now changing the classroom (as cited by Miller, 2012, p. 54).

In addition to content that can be obtained within the device itself, the iPads potential in the realm of education extends much further. Instructors in higher education are exploring its use as a tool to integrate within their classes (Miller, 2012). Based on the statistics regarding high mobile usage by students in higher education, educators choosing to explore and integrate mobile-learning into their teaching methods are wise to do so. According to Rossing et al., effectively matching student learning styles to instruction is a proven factor in contributing to academic achievement, and studies show positive correlations between the use of educational technology and student engagement, notably in collaborative learning and student-faculty interaction (2012, p. 3).

To support this claim, a 2010 study at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) explored iPad use in higher education in regard to student engagement and learning (Rossing et al., 2012). Faculty members integrated iPads into their classes, and student perceptions of the experience were gathered (Rossing et al., 2012). The dominating perceptions held by students were as follows: the iPad helped student participation (which enhanced perceived learning), the iPad helped students apply course content to solve problems, and the iPad helped students connect ideas in new ways (Rossing et al., 2012, p. 14).

A similar study conducted of first-year undergraduate students at the University of Illinois loaned iPads to students throughout a semester (Hahn & Bussell, 2012). The students reported the iPads as useful for in-class Internet-based functionalities, such as access to, and creation of, course topics and notes (Hahn & Bussell, 2012, p. 46). They reported the benefit of course related applications used as both references and supplementary learning tools to course materials (Hahn & Bussell, 2012). Their findings suggest that universities looking to utilize iPads for learning may benefit by loading them with course related apps (Hahn & Bussell, 2012). However, a downfall of the iPad as perceived by the students showed it is behind the desktop in terms of the benefits it offers for completing essays and other writing tasks (Hahn & Bussell, 2012).

Writing requirements is only one of the advantages alternative devises such as laptops may have over the iPad when students consider its adoption. According to a study from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) titled, Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, less than 12 percent of students own iPads, and the primary reason can be attributed to the relationship between cost and perceived benefits (Paxhia, 2011). According to Paxhia, students are apprehensive to rely on the iPad as the sole device for their educational needs, and the cost to use it as a supplemental learning tool in addition to a laptop or other device outweighs the benefits it may offer (2011). Although mobile-devices may be in competition with less mobile alternatives, studies project that mobile tablets will surpass desktop usage by 2015 (Rossing et al., 2012).

As noted, perceived high costs of tablets are a real concern for many students; however, some are more affected by this factor than others. According to Rossing et al., the digital divide, the gap between lower-income and higher-income groups, effects access to and experience with mobile-devices such as the iPad (2012). This may pose as a problem and may induce feelings of isolation among students unfamiliar with the technology (Rossing et al., 2012). Although this generation of students reports high technology and mobile-device usage, their expertise in terms of mobile-devices for educational use may be significantly lower than their knowledge and comfort using the devices for personal uses such as chatting with friends, accessing social media or streaming music (Rossing et al., 2012). Consequently, the technological divide that may exist among students is something that must be addressed in the classroom (Rossing et al., 2012).

In addition to student concerns, educators also question the iPads presence in education. Although educators are considering mobile-learning and how to use it in their classrooms, some perceive it to be a daunting task. Educators may want to give mobile-devices such as the iPad a trial run; however, some fear experimenting with its use may threaten their traditional roles of teaching meanwhile consuming too much instructional time (Paxhia, 2011). These educator concerns and further factors must also be considered as mobile-learning makes its way into the educational setting.

Like any innovation, mobile-devices, such as the iPad, have advantages and disadvantages. In the context of higher education and student learning, additional advantages and disadvantages exist. The opportunity to increase student engagement, faculty-student relationships, student learning and collaboration seems far too attractive to take a pass at the potential rewards iPads have to offer. However, digital and technological divides pose the risk of inhibiting some of these advantages from effectively making their way into the classroom. Additionally, the perceived newness of the device may threaten certain educators who are comfortable in their traditional teaching roles, and it may cause discomfort and isolation among students who may lack experience with such technology. These costs certainly have the potential to diminish the role of the iPad as an effective tool for learning.

However, students and educators, as well as producers and third-party affiliates, can all play a role in maximizing rewards and reducing costs and uncertainties. Students can support teachers with the integration process, as well as support their peers whom are likely to have varying levels of familiarity with the technology (Rossing et al., 2012). Educators can address drawbacks by planning how to best integrate iPads and mobile-learning into their specific environments. By considering students knowledge of and comfort with the technology, educators can designate the proper time for all parties involved to become acclimated to the learning device (Rossing et al., 2012).

Those on the production end can work to ensure that future models continue to be mobile and user friendly. By developing interactive software and high image quality, and offering the product at a realistic price point to markets, content and product producers have the potential to address some of the drawbacks as well. For example, many book publishers are making these efforts by adapting their content to be more visually appealing (Miller, 2012). By incorporating multimedia and collaborative elements, these third parties are working to meet the needs of the iPad consumers in the education field (Miller, 2012, p. 55).

Not surprisingly, Apple, Inc. is working to address issues as well. With new and improved iPad models, as well as the creation of the iPad mini, Apple is addressing needs of engagement and mobility (Apple, Inc., 2013). Furthermore, to ensure the iPad is user friendly, the company offers Apple Education Professional Services, which address the products usability and offers a helping hand to educators from pre-planning efforts to post implementation of the device in the classroom (Apple, Inc., 2012). The service offers on-site workshops through which Apple specialists visit universities to ensure that the products are leveraged in a way that will benefit both educators and students (Apple Inc., 2012). This program addresses previously mentioned concerns of discomfort and unfamiliarity held by educators. Particularly, the workshops aim to help teachers become confident and comfortable integrating Apple products into their teaching strategies (Apple Inc., 2012, p. 2).

Apple, Inc. also offers training and education courses designed for students in a variety of methods and platforms from books and e-Books to video training and classes (Apple Inc., 2012). The organization also addresses issues of product cost with Apple Education Pricing, which offers special discounts to faculty and students. Similarly, their Volume Purchase Program offers college institutions an opportunity to save up to 50 percent on select software and products (Apple, Inc., 2013...