Mobile learning

Sue of Mobile Technology in TAFE just posted an article of providing learning material on mobile phones and pointed out this article about the options of delivering training material via the mobile phone. While I can see real advantages in be able to deliver training material via mobile devices, so student can have their training material on hand and easily accessible in the workplace. It should not be the only channel at present.

All mobile phones do a couple of things well, the send and receive phone calls and SMSes, from there the similarity ends. While almost all students own a mobile phone, their capabilities will vary from the basic model capable of sending and receiving phone calls and SMSes, to small computers capable of running a number of different programs, surfing the web and connecting to various services through HDSPA, wi-fi and bluetooth. Unless all the students have (or are provided with) a suitable mobile device, you can not provide training material to the selected few who have enough money to be able to purchase the right device and pay the connectivity charges involved. And is some cases select the right provider for their training location, for example at least few months ago, Vodafone and Optus did not provide coverage to Kwinana or Rockingham, which means if you are training/working in one of those industrial areas you better be with Telstra or 3 if you want to access the internet on your mobile device cheaply.

That does not mean you should not provide training material for mobile devices, you just need provide alternative means to access the information. For the examples given in the article:

1. XHTML-MP and CSS

This is the most restrictive option in terms of number and cost of mobile devices capable of accessing the web and the data costs involved (currently in Au anything from $10 for 500Mb to 2.2c a kb). However, it provides the easiest alternative access if a web browser in your phone can view a webpage, so can the web browser of any computer. Using a content management system, the content can easily be provided in both a mobile friendly format and large computer format.

2. a Java and eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML)

I thought this was the best option in term of being accessible on the largest number of mobile devices, as well as the advantage of download once, access many times. Unfortunately the content creation tool Maxdox has disappeared from view. So unless an alternative can be found this is no longer an option. What is really needed is an application that takes the XML and packages the information for both mobile devices and PCs.

3. Mobile movie format

Tools like Lectopia make it so easy to deliver audio and video content in a variety of formats suitable for different mobile devices. So creating the content is not the problem, it is content delivery and storage. Videos can consume bandwidth, which is expensive when you pay by the kb. However using alternative methods it can be a cost effective solution.

The future

While Stuart Smith believes that web enable mobile phones are inexpensive enough in the UK and this is probably true in Australia for a basic web enabled phone. The main issues here are data cost and coverage. I believe that over the next couple of years as data costs and coverage improve, not only will some learning material be delivered to mobile devices, but students will demand more learning materials be delivered to their mobile devices. Time to start thinking about how to better deliver State Library material to mobile phones.

7 Responses to “Mobile learning”

  1. Sue Waters Says:

    Great post Nick and I totally agree with your view that training material can not be mobile device alone. I think that data plans in the UK aren’t that cheap – if you read some of Stuart’s other articles he does talk about blue tooth. The reason why he is focusing on mobile phones is because more learners have them than any other device however we are all faced by exactly the issues you are talking about. Not all students will have mobile phones, or afford data plans, is it realistic to expect them to purchase – probably not. On the other hand, it is not realistic for organisations to be expected to supply them, especially given how fast mobile technologies are changing.

    We have an interesting challenge ahead which is why I believe we need to keep whatever content we create adaptable to a range of mobile devices, and situations .

    Lectopia is definitely a great system, but based on the cost of implementing and the fact that TAFE is shifting from campus to workplace based delivery it is unlikely that our sector will invest in this technology.

    Sue

  2. Stuart Smith Says:

    Nick, I think those who are in favour of using mobile devices in learning are probably broadly in agreement that they shouldn’t be used in isolation in learning and they are unlikely to be the only medium we use. However, as I’ve been discussing with Sue we are the cutting edge of the technology and that does offer challenges as I discussed in the articles I wrote which are dissected here. As I posted before it does look like Maxdox is out of the picture for the time being but that does not mean that J2Me is dead as well. Although it is definately a blow for mainstream use of the technology for content creation

    Here is the UK the cost of accessing the web and downloading etc. via mobile is decreasing rapidly. It is not as cheap as desktop broadband nor as effective but it is going in the right direction. Only a year ago I argued that download costs were very prohibitive its a lot harder to make that claim now.

    The real barrier still remains a lack of imagination about how to use the mobile medium with students and hopefully those of us in the vanguard of using this technology are helping challenge and change that.

  3. nick Says:

    Stuart, access to the web via mobile in Australia is also decreasing rapidly, not as cheap as the UK yet, but far cheaper than it was 8 months ago. But cost should not be the only factor, acceptance of the technology by students and availability of the service in the area were training will occur are also major factors.

    Cost would not be a major factor if a large number of student were already using the mobile web. My show of hands sample at BarCamp, had about half the audience using the mobile web (but that was a quite difference group).

    My main concern is the availability of mobile web. In the outer areas of Perth, and likely location for training (industrial areas) are only serviced by 1 or 2 of the 5 major Australian telecommunications providers.

    J2ME reference material for mobile devices that can be distributed by various means is a good solution for Western Australia’s vast distances and limited telecommunications infrastructure. It would be great for students anywhere in this state to be able to grab their phone and find the information they need, then and there. I hope an alternative solution is found soon.

    Sue, Lectopia does a great job in converting audio and video, not just lectures to various different formats suitable for different devices and delivery methods.

    Stuart, imagination is something we need to show in providing services for mobile devices with students or anybody else. Because I am sure if you provide the right services, they will be used.

  4. Mobile Technology in TAFE » Blog Archive » Will Mobiles Be THE Tool of The Future? Says:

    […] We debate which mobile devices (e.g. PDA, ipod, mobile phone) to use for mlearning? And it is good to hear differing opinions from people like Stuart Smith and Nick Cowie on the use of mobile phones. But more importantly, we have others reflecting on whether they should be letting their students take their mobile phones out of their bags. Unfortunately, in most circumstances, if teachers want to use their student’s mobile phones for learning they will not be allowed to because it is against school policy! [image by bb_matt] […]

  5. Sue Waters Says:

    Hi Nick

    I agree totally with you about Lectopia; done quite a bit of research on it. The key issue in the VET sector will be whether the organisations will be willing to spend the money to set up Lectopia and supply the staff to support it. I believe without Lectopia you will not see widespread up take of podcasting in VET but I can not see TAFEs purchasing the system.

    Sue

  6. » STOP, LOOK, THINK - What Is Material Really Going To Look Like on A Mobile Device Mobile Technology in TAFE Says:

    […] Mobile learning […]

  7. shakir miah Says:

    i’m at the moment doing my coursework and need contrsting information of mobile learning. if possible you could post some information. address deleted

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