A Critical Meta-Analysis of Mobile Learning Research in Higher Education

By Al Zahrani, Hasan; Laxman, Kumar | Journal of Technology Studies, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

A Critical Meta-Analysis of Mobile Learning Research in Higher Education


Al Zahrani, Hasan, Laxman, Kumar, Journal of Technology Studies


CONTEXT OF STUDY

Mobile devices are "popular everyday tools and services that are also potential or de facto resources for education" (Kukulska-Hulme, 2012, p. 247). The increased availability of personal mobile devices is taking education and learning to a new level. It has been predicted that mobile devices will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020 (Anderson & Rainie, 2008). Mobile learning (m-leaming) can be defined as examining how mobile technology can be used for educational purposes such as "the process of using a mobile device to access and study learning materials [and] to communicate with fellow students, instructors, or institution" (Ally, 2009). Mobility, informality, and personal ownership are all characteristics which make learning with mobile devices different from other forms of e-learning (Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004). Mobile devices allow e-learning to be delivered virtually anywhere at any time (Rouse, 2005). Mobile learning has been identified as a new stage of distance and e-learning (Georgiev, Georgieva, & Smrikarov, 2004). However, m-learning is more than using mobile technologies to access information and a potential solution to global demands for more access to education, m-learning represents a challenge to conventional education practices. Some of these challenges are explored in this critical metaanalysis of mobile learning research on the acceptance, readiness, and use of mobile digital devices for learning in higher education.

According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) there are currently over six billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, and for every one person who accesses the internet from a computer s/he does so from a mobile device. The emergence of the digital native generation, that is children who grow up using and relating to modem ICTs, provides a strong motive for research of learning with mobile devices in order to understand and achieve the potential educational benefits of m-leaming. Although the focus of this paper is m-learning in higher education contexts, m-learning also has implications for employers and industries as an educational resource and training in other than educational contexts (Mungania 2003).

This study attempted to discover what benefit m-learning brings to education and to identify what questions remain unanswered by research in the field of m-leaming. This study also examines current findings concerning social attitudes towards m-learning (acceptance), individual and institutional preparedness for pedagogical uses of mobile devices (readiness), and the impact of mobile learning on students' educational success (outcome). This review is guided by the following questions:

Research Questions

* What are the conceptual frameworks and theories underpinning mobile learning research studies?

* What have been the global experiences of using mobile digital devices for learning in the context of higher education?

* What factors are indicated by research as enhancing or hindering the acceptance and use of mobile digital devices for learning?

RATIONALE FOR A CRITICAL META-ANALYSIS

Gilliam and Zigler (2001) used the term 'critical meta-analysis' to describe their review of available impact evaluations from 13 state-funded preschools in the United States from 1977 to 1998. The concept of meta-analysis originates in the fields of psychiatry and medicine where it is "a standardized approach for examining the existing literature on a specific, possibly controversial, issue to determine whether a conclusion can be reached regarding the effect of a treatment or exposure" (Russo, 2007, p. 637). In the field of education "instead of students or participants being the unit of analysis, the primary studies themselves become the unit of analysis" (Denson & Seltzer, 2011, p. 216). The term critical is used in many different educational contexts. …

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