Mobile Learning Services in the Higher Education Environment

Abstract

Mobile learning services have been applied in many higher education institutions as technology improves the approach to instruction delivery. In the dynamic learning environment, different mobile learning services are in one. These services are targeting students. In order to gain from these mobile services, the targeted students should be aware of their existence and requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to establish student awareness and requirements of mobile learning services in the higher education environment. The proposed study will attempt to identify the awareness level through a research survey targeting 70 respondents.

Introduction

Mobile learning resources have been applied in many higher education learning environments as the world embraces technological innovations. Among the notable mobile learning, services include custom content, simulations, refresher modules, applications, and mobility enablement. These services are targeting different students within the higher education environment. It is there important to establish the level of student awareness about mobile learning services and the requirements attached to these services. Therefore, this part of the paper develops the research problem, purpose, questions, hypothesis, and limitations.

Statement of the Problem

Recently, higher learning institutions across the globe have given more attention to the development of higher education infrastructure through the creation and modification of different mobile learning services. This in turn has resulted in the growth of mobile learning programs in higher learning institutions. This expansion was also motivated by the wide acceptance of mobile learning programs by students as well as the instructors who develop the content. Several factors encouraged many educational institutions and students to engage in mobile learning programs, such as the latest developments in the mobile learning industry, availability of broadband connectivity, the cost-effectiveness of mobile learning, increasing need for soft skills, and new IT and business systems.

The demand and need for mobile learning education facilities have increased rapidly. The increasing demand for mobile learning module is driven by the rise of investment in e-learning, which is seen as promising as an alternative to distance education. These programs target learners who may not be in a position to use traditional learning services. It is important to establish the level of awareness and requirements of mobile learning in the higher education environment, especially among students in order to establish their relevance. This is necessary to review the current trends and use the friendliness of the mobile learning services as perceived by the primary users, who are students within the higher education learning environment.

Purpose Statement (Research Objective)

The purpose of this research project is to establish the level of student awareness and requirement of mobile learning in the higher education environment. Specifically, the research aims at reviewing different mobile learning services within the higher learning environment and how much students are aware of them in terms of requirements and usage. The objectives are listed below;

  1. To explicitly review different mobile learning services within the higher education environment as observed by students
  2. To investigate the level of student awareness of the mobile learning services and the requirements necessary to enroll in them.

Research Questions and/or Hypothesis

From the above objectives, the research question was derived as;

  1. What is the level of student awareness of mobile learning services in the higher learning environment?
  2. What requirements are highlighted by the students as key in different mobile learning services within the higher education environment?

The research hypothesis is summarized as;

Null Hypothesis

Students within the higher education environment are aware of mobile learning services and their requirements.

Alternative hypothesis

Students within the higher education environment are not aware of mobile learning services and their requirements.

Limitations

There is relatively little research that has been framed to answer the above research questions. This means that the existing pool of knowledge with regards to mobile learning services may not give the research enough ground for comparative analysis of the findings to make tangible conclusions. This means that the findings of this research study will only be used for a guided review of the current mobile learning services and what can be done to improve student awareness.

Summary

The development of the research question, objectives, and hypothesis from the research background and rationale in this chapter has given the researcher the right platform for literature review. These aspects are critical in developing the scope and approach for further research as discussed in the preceding sections of this report.

Literature Review

This section will explore past literature on mobile learning services and student awareness from empirical and theoretical perspectives. The literature review will utilize sources such as journals, books, pamphlets, and online sites that have authentic material about mobile learning services and their usage in the higher education environment. The researcher used six sources in writing the literature review.

Mobile learning resources

Technological resources are different from other kinds of resources in their ability to be utilized as the form of educational technology. In this way, tools, materials, settings, devices, and people are all technological resources. On the other hand, natural or political resources do not fit in this definition because they cannot be utilized as educational technology. Another concept that must be focused on while talking about technological resources is the trends in the use of such resources. Long ago, digital technologies were not present in this world. After their discovery, they have been utilized at different rates due to the concerns about their applications in learning and performance (Berg, 2004). Suitability and compatibility of the technological resources including hardware and software have always been the main concerns before the adaptation of a particular type of technology in mobile learning services.

The invention of television, computers, and communication technologies or information technologies is the heart of modern educational technology. Such technologies were developed for general purposes but their applications in the field of education are undeniable. After World War II, the incorporation of digital media in educational technology became the necessity to support the theme of mobile learning services. Educational television programs were created in the 1950s (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011). Television was seen as the resources that could have replaced teachers and other traditional educational resources like textbooks and chalkboards.

After the success of television as the instructional material, DAVI got converted into AECT. Different national and international communities, which we’re dealing with the educational concerns, agreed that communication technology is fundamental for instructional materials. Various models of instructional design for behavioral management and programmed instructions were idealized to be used for the online education systems that could have replaced traditional education. In late 1960, the term, ‘educational technology,’ got officially popular for the description of an entirely new field of education (Allen, 2003). The impact of information technology along with digital technologies revolutionized modern mobile learning services in the higher education environment.

The use of technological resources has always been a hot topic for discussion in the gatherings of education scholars because of the possible applications and risks that are associated with such usage. International Technology Education Association (ITEA) has defined technological resources as the means to optimize and enhance teaching and learning. On the other hand, many of the educational scholars have also defined technological resources in a broader sense than of educational applications. According to Bean (2009), the traditional educational cites like university campuses and colleges would be relics thirty years from now because of the advancements in educational technologies related to communication. Digital media elements are stored and transmitted with the help of binary codes. The message, whether it is audio or video, is firstly converted into binary codes and then recorded in the digital material. These binary codes are then translated into the given form with the help of digital devices. Computer displays, CDs, DVDs, video games, and web pages are some typical formats of mobile learning services (Bean, 2009). These technologies are replacing AV technologies because they have greater capacities, high speeds, and multiple functions along with many other applications.

The computer is the main device for the development and management of other digital resources. The computer is used for the creation of digital material and it is used for the display of this material in front of students. The home computer and portable computers can be seen in colleges and universities frequently. On the other hand, the word processor is now considered as traditional paper and pencil because it provides the same kind of functionalities along with many others to ease the writing process for users. The storage devices of educational material like CDs, DVDs, USB disk, hard disk with many others are not only portable but are also fast and easy to use. Due to the same reasons, the societal trend has been shifted massively toward the use of computers and other digital devices as part of mobile learning services. Interactive environment and web quests are the incorporations of simulated instructional and practical strategies in the classroom to give a real-time environment to solve problems in mobile learning services. All such digital technologies are the implementation of digital media for more sophisticated teaching and learning experiences. However, it has been considered that such technologies have limited distribution potential and can only be acquired by specializing in the given field with the help of digital media (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011). Web Quests are now being used to guide the learner in their selection of instructional material as part of mobile learning services.

Web based distance education has become common during the last decade due to its cost effective implementation. The learners can now use computers to study complex subjects on the internet without physically attending college or university. On the other hand, course management systems are the platforms for students to have all the instructional material on one point. The students do not have to go back and forth to collect relevant study material (Graff, 2003). The development of other internet-based applications like weblogs and social media websites gives interactive platforms for students and teachers to interact with each other and study the educational material. All such digital applications like weblogs, websites, and social media platforms can now be accessed through portable mobile devices as well. In addition, institutional performance support systems are being organized for the electronic support of the employees or members of a specific institute.

Characteristics of mobile learning services

As compared to traditional college courses, students pursuing online courses are in a position to exercise complete control over the structural organization of educational inputs such as meeting all the preset course requirements (Berg, 2004). This, in turn, allows them to adjust the process of obtaining educational content via the internet to match their intellectual learning with perfect precision. Nevertheless, the fact that the opportunity of online learning negates geographical barriers and provides educational opportunities for fully-employed individuals is not the only reason why it grows increasingly popular with more and more people. The premise of online learning is thoroughly consistent with the foremost principles of individual-oriented education and the establishment of preconditions for learners to be prompted to challenge prevailing ideologies (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011).

Due to the qualitative characteristics of a web-based educational medium, both students and instructors are provided with an opportunity to substantially increase the effectiveness of their daily schedules. The validity of this statement can be well explored in regards to the fully employed learners, who would be unable to pursue their much-desired academic degrees if they were required to attend traditional “on campus” classes (Bean, 2009). According to Bean (2009), “online courses provide increased access to students who work multiple shifts or are unable to leave their homes. These students are given the opportunity to engage in so­ciological discussions and material, even if they cannot attend class on campus” (p. 35). Given the highly dynamic nature of today’s living, the online learning feature does establish a full expansive legitimacy of this newly emerged educational approach.

Students’ exposure to the format of online learning does encourage them to strive to gain a basic user’s proficiency in the field of informational technologies (Bean, 2009). Thus, there are good reasons to believe that online students would be better adjusted to the realities of post-industrial living as compared to learners who pass through the traditional college courses. The traditional learners will solely depend on the lecturer’s physical presence to get the content. Since the world is quickly moving towards technological orientation, the internet learner has higher chances of integration than the traditional learner (Bean, 2009).

The medium of online learning is not only capable of eliminating geographical obstacles on the way of students pursuing the academic degrees of their choice but is also more affordable than the traditional college courses. When compared to the costs of pursuing an academic degree in the traditional learning environment, the costs of pursuing web-based academic degrees may well be described as being more friendly and flexible. Unlike traditional college courses, internet courses have definite charges per academic year. Once payment for an academic year is printed, there are no further changes since internet courses do not require any physical materials. The element of affordability also applies in zero accommodation, meals, transport, and manual charges since everything is paperless and done from the comfort of an office or home (Allen, 2003).

Unlike the case within the operational framework of face-to-face education in the traditional college courses, the effectiveness of web-based learning strategies is assumed to be primarily dependent on instructors’ ability to collaborate with online students, throughout the course of a learning process. Basically, “teaching online courses require a new form of pedagogy; one that is more focused on the facilitation of a collaborative process than on the delivery of content” (Graff, 2003, p. 56). This particular feature of the format of online learning is a confirmation that the internet course as an educational format is indeed relevant. Generally, under the internet courses, the learner is empowered to become a responsible individual who may operate without physical supervision (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011).

Awareness creation in the mobile learning services

As indicated in the ‘discursively-interactive’ learning theory, the currently applied approaches to providing students with the web-based formats are better than the traditional college courses since learners are becoming more knowledgeable of their existence (Berg, 2004). The discursively-interactive theory indicates that the learner-educator interaction should remain proactive and limited to the scope of the lesson. Unlike traditional courses, internet courses are very flexible. In fact, “this crucial meditational role of discourse in learning is the focal point of the revolutionary changes occurring in internet courses” (Graff, 2003, p. 48). Standard of online learning assumes participants’ continuous exposure to the complete change of education-related discourses. These discourses include proactive instructor-learner interaction, assignments, and course syllabus, which enable online students to actively and critically engage with the received knowledge, relevant to their professional careers (Berg, 2004).

Motivational theories in education have been categorized as extrinsic and intrinsic. The advocates of an extrinsic approach towards motivating students suggest that the motivational incentives, provided by educators, must necessarily be clearly within the scope of the coursework in mobile learning services. On the other hand, the advocates of an intrinsic approach believe that students should be provided with psychologically sound incentives to proceed with their studies that they may remain thoroughly committed to studying in order to understand mobile learning services. The sound incentives are helpful in direct learner engagement in the education environment. In the provision of proper incentives to excel in academia, it is important to identify the factors that are capable of diverting students’ attention from studying. In other words, in order for educators to be able to ensure that their students do not consider the possibility of dropping out, teachers may never cease taking advantage of students’ ability to rationalize the consequences of their actions (Bean, 2009).

When motivation is utilized within the framework of web-based learning, there is an assumption that many online students’ have less commitment to studying because of teachers’ failure to provide them with strong ‘external’ educational incentives. Nevertheless, given the fact that the concept of externally enforced educational discipline has never been an integral part of online learning, it is inappropriate to dismiss internet courses on the basis of motivation. It is important to note that every “human being is seen as having an inherent motivational system and a regulatory system which by its ‘feedback’ keeps the organism ‘on the beam’ of satisfying his motivational needs” (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011, p. 24). Satisfying motivational needs mean that internet courses are more suitable for persons who have to balance several learning needs with private needs.

Summary

As a matter of fact, from the theoretical and practical perspectives, it is apparent that mobile learning services are more favorable than traditional college courses since the online format integrates the elements of motivation and interaction at a secondary level besides allowing the learner to select the most flexible and manageable learning schedule. Moreover, internet courses are well integrated and appreciate the technological advancements in the educational and work environment. Apparently, a learner who successfully passes through online education is likely to be more flexible to the technological metamorphosis than the counterpart who passes through the traditional college classes since this platform is based on the application of technology. However, the level of learner awareness of mobile learning services is dependent on the flexibility of the learning environment.

Methodology

The richness of content in a research work may be achieved by following a clearly delineated research approach that provides a rational, step-by-step data collection framework. This research will use a deductive research approach because of its applicability in collecting a large volume of data, as is required for this research. In addition, compared to the inductive approach, deductive approaches better facilitate the gathering of data. Additionally, this research work will be structured so as to move from the general to the more specific. This will ensure that the goals of the research are achieved throughout the research process. The deductive research approach is appropriate and authentic as it reduces vagueness and bias in the research findings and conclusions. This section of the paper will review the methodology design, participants, instruments, procedure, and data collection/analysis plan.

Methodology Design

Because of the nature of the research, the researcher will adopt a qualitative research method. This is because this approach allows a researcher to understand a particular social phenomenon and discover its innermost meaning in relation to the level of awareness and requirement of mobile learning services. In reference to the research study, the qualitative research method will be used to understand the perspectives, views, and awareness of mobile learning services by students within the higher education environment. This will allow the researcher to obtain in-depth information and data relative to the subject under study. In addition, it will be possible to approach a personal level with the participants since an interview, which is a qualitative data collection method, will be used (Creswell, 2012). From the perspective of the participants, it will be possible for the researcher to understand the situation of the level of awareness and requirements of mobile learning in the higher education environment, especially among students in order to establish their relevance. Since no quantification of the collected data is required, qualitative research methods will ensure that extrapolation, understanding, and illumination of the situation under study are realized.

Participants or Subjects

The research is to be undertaken in one of the higher education learning instructions that have e-learning services. Only 65 students will be selected for 15 interviews and 50 for self-administered questionnaires, with the aim of gathering information relevant to the effect of their level of awareness of mobile learning services and requirements that come with these services. The major characteristic of the participants is that all are students within the age bracket of 16 to 20 years and have been active members of e-learning within the institution for at least the last two years. This age bracket and level of experience are necessary as they will assist the researcher in obtaining the required perceptions, experiences, and opinions to achieve the research study objects (Creswell, 2012). The researcher shall include female and male students as research participants. This will reduce bias resulting from gender and enable the researcher to obtain different views from both male and female participants.

Instruments

For the purpose of carrying out the research study, the researcher will use structured interview schedules and personally administered questionnaires. Interviews have been described by Creswell (2012) as one of the qualitative research methods applied in research studies for its ability to gain rapport and confidence with the respondents. The interview schedule has been designed in such a way that it flows from general questions to more specific questions and includes a section of closing remarks. 15 participants shall undergo a face to face interviews for approximately 40 minutes. The formulated questions shall be directed to the interviewee and their responses recorded. Before the recording is done, consent shall be sought from each of the participants to ensure that they are comfortable with the recording. The audio recording will be carried out during the 40-minute interview session. Once the process of interviewing is completed, the responses will be transcribed and the transcripts validated by each of the participants. The data shall then be imported to enhance representation, which will later be used for analysis and discussion.

Procedures

In this particular study, the simple random sampling method is used for sample selection purposes. As specified by Creswell (2012), simple random sampling is used to give an equal chance to every member of the university to be selected to be part of the sample used. Simple random sampling has been described as a sampling technique that involves the selection of a group of participants for the purpose of studying a larger population. In addition, each participant is chosen on the basis of chance, meaning that each individual in the large population shares the same chance as the selected participant. Following this line of thought, the researcher shall adopt random sampling to select 65 students within the targeted institution of higher learning.

Data Collection and Analysis Plan

Before data collection is carried out, consent shall be sought from 70 participants. Moreover, the participants shall be informed of the nature of the study, its goals, objectives, and why the research is being carried out. In addition, a letter from the university and a cover letter outlining the purposes of the research study will be made available to the participants and to the relevant authorities. It is imperative to note that in this study both secondary and primary data collection methods will be used. Because of the nature of the research study, face to face interviews coupled with personally administered questionnaires will be used to collect data and information from selected participants.

The researcher will use semi-structured interview schedules to obtain the required information from the participants (Creswell, 2012). This implies that systematically structured questions will be asked, starting with general questions and moving to the specific. To avoid bias during data collection, leading questions will be avoided. The researcher is aware of the consequences of asking any leading questions and to ensure originality and both internal and external validity and reliability, the researcher shall offer an explanation where the participants may not fully understand, and do this in as clear a manner as possible. The analysis plan will involve the use of excel, SPSS, tables, charts, and graphs to make sense of the data collected (Creswell, 2012).

Summary

The research will use a research survey to collect data from 70 respondents randomly chosen with the targeted higher education institution. The survey will be carried out through interviews and questionnaire filling. Data collected will be coded and analyzed using statistical tools such as SPPS and excel.

References

Allen, J. (2003). Seizing the opportunity: The quality and extent of online education in the United States, 2002 and 2003. Needham, MA: Sloan.

Bean, J. (2009). Student attrition, intentions, and confidence: Interaction effects in a Path Model. Research in Higher Education, 17(4), 291-320.

Berg, Z. (2004). A model for sustainable student retention: A holistic perspective on the student dropout problem with special attention to e-Learning. Distance Education, 17(1), 44-71.

Creswell, J. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Erichsen, E., & Bolliger, D. (2011). Towards understanding international graduate student isolation in traditional and online environments. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(3), 309-326.

Graff, M. (2003). Learning from Web-based instructional systems and cognitive style. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(4), 407-418.