Sunday, November 18, 2007

mLearning - the thing of the future?

I've been interested in mLearning for the last 5 years

Since long before it was called mLearning. Following is an extract from my MSc thesis, written at the start of 2006, discussing mLearning.

Research has show that PDAs, mobile phones and other mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular as tools for delivering training and education resources. The popularity as given rise to the term mLearning – mobile learning (Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, 2004, Harry Ketamo 2002 and others).

This project explores the use of PDAs as devices that can deliver highly interactive training to users. In addition to researching existing projects the developer has created a proof-of-concept application that demonstrates the potential of PDAs as tools for delivering highly interactive and engaging training applications.

The resulting product successfully shows the potential of the PDA as a method of delivery of a complete multimedia educational application.

1 Introduction

Over the last few years the PDA has evolved from an electronic address book to a powerful and versatile pocket computer. Where once it was amazing to see one of these machines hold more than 100 names and addresses, they are now commonly used to surf the internet, read email, read books, play music, play video, read and create ‘office’ documents such as word processor, spreadsheet and presentation documents and control the television in place of the manufacturer’s remote control and play highly interactive 3D games. With expansion cards, a high-end PDA can carry as much as 8Gb of storage. 1Mb is enough for an 800 page novel. 2Gb is ample space for thousands of documents, 25 albums worth of music, or around 25 hours of video.

The mobile phone has also evolved - from a brick-sized device, to one small enough to hide in the average pocket. The cheapest mobile phone has a sophisticated address book, can handle email, sending and receiving text and multimedia messages and will synchronise contact, calendar and message information with PC or laptop systems. “Texting occurs within and between nearly every social situation—driving, going to the theatre, attending classes—despite the abhorrently kludgey interface” (Bryan Alexander 2004). In addition to these features in ‘ordinary’ mobile phones, newer super phones, called Smartphones, are appearing in phone retailers. These phones combine all the power of the best mobile phones with the power of a mid-range PDA.

Owners of cell phones and PDAs do not usually know all that their devices can do because they have become very powerful devices. As the ubiquity of the PDA grows, now that every phone is essentially a PDA too, developers, users, businesses and schools are looking for ways to harness that power to improve their lives and productivity. Training is already an important target function, spawning the term mLearning, as can be seen by the wealth of academic literature on the subject.

Much of the current literature concentrates on delivering web-based content, (for instance Stephen J.H. Yang et al 2003) in part because it can be efficient in terms of file size. High-capacity, cheap memory cards mean it is possible to deliver large quantities of training to mobile devices by removing the need for an internet or network link. With individual memory card capacities are available with as much as 4Gb are affordable for consumer use, and as much as 12 Gb for the business or military applications , these cards have room for significant amounts of high-quality video and other multimedia. The Encyclopaedia Britannica already produces a PDA-friendly version on SD card.

Follow this link to view a larger extract Steve_Howard_MSc_EXTRACT.pdf

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