Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Towards a Method for Mobile Learning Design

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Towards a Method for Mobile Learning Design

Article excerpt


Mobile learning has been an emerging topic since the introduction of cellular phones and wireless technology; recently this interest has picked up pace due to further technological advances that are making mobile technology simpler and more interesting to use as a means of learning (Burdick & Willis, 2011; Weilenmann & Juhlin, 2011). Mobile learning is the combination of mobile technology and its affordances that create a unique learning environment and opportunities that can span across time and place.

Learning is a form of communication, of transferring knowledge and information, so it makes sense that the most "ubiquitous form of communication" (Franklin, 2011) is used as a tool for learning. What is raised, however, is not so much whether mobile technology should be used but how it should be used. Various models for understanding mobile learning systems have been created and adapted to measure performance, user acceptance, understand the user's context, and understand and develop mobile systems and technology (Parsons & Ryu, 2006; Sha, Looi, Chen, Seow, & Wong, 2012; Williams, 2009). The uniqueness of mobile learning lies in it being a ubiquitous, social, context sensitive, and collaborative tool (Ozdamli & Cavus, 2011; Patokorpi, 2006).

Mobile learning design is the design of a mobile learning course taking into account what needs to be delivered, how it will be done and the structure of such a delivery. This design needs to look at the "real needs of instructors and learners" (Alvarez, Alarcon, & Nussbaum, 2011) and at the social aspects that mobile technology was originally intended for to get the most out of mobile learning. In addition it should consider the 'as-lived-experience' of mobile learners (Kjeldskov & Stage, 2012), because in essence learning is deeply social (Burdick & Willis, 2011). However, the determining factor for mobile technologies in learning will be dependent on its adoption by both educators and the learners (Alvarez et al., 2011).

Williams (2009) considers the major element of a successful mobile learning platform to be the "instructional design"; by simply posting lecture content as-is on the Web, the teacher is not necessarily creating "a viable tool" for learners. While many universities have provided apps, these have been non-instructional, and thus there is little experience of how to deliver learning through mobile technology (Cheon, Lee, Crooks, & Song, 2012).

Another issue is that "few researchers have discussed ways of integrating mobile devices with web-based learning systems to cover most learning processes by generating a ubiquitous learning environment" (Chen et al., 2008, p.78). Designers and teachers need to have a basic understanding of the various characteristics of mobile learning and how they can best be used. The use of traditional user experience knowledge is insufficient for this as it doesn't take into account those unique characteristics of mobile learning such as mobility and how smaller screens limit the type of content delivered (Chittaro, 2011; Costabile et al., 2008; Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004).

Where mobile learning is a supporting tool to the classroom, understanding the contexts and teaching concepts are required to effectively implement the system (Alvarez et al., 2011). The theme that arises in the literature is one of understanding: the designer needs to be able to understand and conceptualize all aspects of the mobile learning system to be as effective as possible in delivering the objectives.

This paper looks at bringing together the research around mobile learning to create a method for mobile learning design that does not prescribe the content and structure but rather facilitates the process of planning and creating a course while ensuring that the various aspects such as technology, context, usability, and pedagogy are considered along with the objectives of the course. …

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