I’m very pleased to announce that Dr Sian Lindsay, Ajmal Sultany and myself recently had our paper on the role of Mobile Learning in HE accepted for presentation at the 2011 European Mobile Learning Conference in Bremen. The abstract for our paper is below:
Just because they own them, doesn’t mean they use them: Exploring the potential for mobile learning in Higher Education
This paper explores a two year study conducted into current trends in student mobile device ownership and attitudes in a UK HE Institution. In February 2010 after the first year of our study, we reported on the finding that 99.8% of City University London students owned a mobile device, however our student body had clear ideas as to how they would like to utilise these devices for their Education.
This paper presents the findings of our 2010 and 2011 student mobile surveys. The survey results overwhelmingly indicate that even a year on from our original survey, our students still want to use their mobile devices for accessing teaching-related activities, learning content, and administrative tools. However after implementing a new wireless infrastructure at the University, based on the results from last year’s survey, the majority of students are still not positive about using their personal devices for interacting in class. The paper explores what CUL are doing to respond to the request for more access to information via mobile devices, while questioning why students are not willing to use their mobile devices in a more formal classroom setting, and examines what happened when we piloted in class use of mobile devices.
1. The Mobile Learning Survey at City University
The aims of the student mobile device survey was to discover the types of devices students own, what they currently use them for, their attitudes towards using these devices for formal and informal learning, and any issues surrounding the use of these devices on campus, and more importantly whether these attitudes are changing over time. The explosion in smartphones and more recently tablets has been attributed to advancements in wireless technology and 3G mobile networks, as well as the production of extremely sophisticated hardware. The 2009 Horizon Report suggested that mobile devices would be widely adopted for learning within a year (Johnson et al. 2009), and it is important for institutions to consider both the pedagogic potential, and the degree to which students are both willing and able to put their gadgets to this purpose.
The Mobile Device Survey at CUL ran in January 2010, and then again in January 2011. Several changes were made to the survey the second time it ran, the most significant improvement to the design has been to the sampling. During the first student mobile survey in January 2010, the research team used a ‘self selection’ sampling technique in which the students were made aware, through the use of advertisement, of the study survey and could choose whether or not to complete the survey. The researchers had no control over who would take the survey and how many times, and this method does not allow results to be generalised to the target population as there are many biases involved.
During the second survey conducted in January 2011, based on methods outlined by Dr R. Sapsford, stratified random sampling was applied (Sapsford 2007), this was in order to give a research sample that would be more representative of the population studied as a whole and therefore more likely to satisfy mathematical assumptions underlying many of the statistical tests we wished to use during analysis of the data. To produce a random sample we obtained an accurate list of student email addresses at the University. The sample was then stratified according to School so that students from all Schools were fairly represented, the researchers then used a program to randomly assign a number to each member of the population from which the sample was taken, these students were then send personalised email invitations asking them to complete the survey.
In order to ascertain whether the questions on the survey were clear, we used a pilot group of colleagues within the University, but not necessarily working with technology to pilot the survey and produce feedback, before releasing the survey to the students.
2. Results and Conclusions
Although the methodology used in disseminating the survey changed in 2011, the results have been consistent across both years of the survey despite avoiding a ‘self selecting’ sample the second time round. The survey showed that only one student each year did not own a mobile phone, and many students own Smartphones and tablets. In 2010 69% of students had used their mobile devices for web browsing during the last ten days, in 2011 initial results show that this has risen to 72.3%, In both 2010 and 2011 65% of students use their mobile phone to access their email, and that 53% of students had accessed Facebook on their mobile phone within the last 72 hours. These results illustrate that our students not only own sophisticated devices, but also use them in a sophisticated way.
In the 2010 survey the majority of students complained about their inability to access the wireless network on campus via their mobile devices, at that time you could only access campus Wifi with a laptop. The evidence collected during the survey was used to build a business case to improve the network infrastructure on Campus, and this new network was then implemented in September 2010. However while students now use the improved WiFi network on their mobile devices, the way in which they want to use their mobile devices on campus has not significantly changed.
We asked the students “if accessibility was improved at CUL, what would you like to use your mobile device(s) for? (please select all that apply)”. In both 2010 and 2011 the results were very similar. The top three answers that students gave were: Viewing timetable information (2010 & 11), Receiving Grades and Feedback (2010 & 11), Receiving Txt Alerts from Tutors and administrators (2011), Accessing the VLE (2010). The answers that the fewest number of students opted for were: Asking questions in class by txt message (2010 & 11), in class voting (in place of PRS/Clickers) (2010 & 11), Subscribing to RSS and Podcasts (2010 & 11).
It was clear from these results that while students are extremely competent at using the complex features their phones offer, and would like greater mobile access to institutional services such as grades and feedback, they are not keen to use these devices in a formal classroom setting. In both the 2010 and 2011 surveys the majority of students ticked a box that said they “did not want to use my mobile device in class as part of my education”, many students left additional comments stating that this could be distracting, and they didn’t think it was appropriate.
In his 2010 article on student mobile devices John Traxler said that “student devices unlock the dreams of agency and control and choice amongst students… Universities cannot afford, procure, provide nor control these devices, but they cannot ignore them” (Traxler, 2010). With the current funding cuts in Higher Education across the UK, coupled with the pressure from employers to provide graduates with high level computer literacy skills, institutions may expect student owned mobile devices to play a larger role in students formal education. As institutions become less able to afford up-to-date technologies, our paper examines how student attitudes may influence our use of mobile devices for teaching and learning.
Johnson, L., Levine, A., & Smith, R. (2009). The 2009 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Traxler, J. (2010), Student Mobile Devices, ALT-J Volume 18. No.2
Dr. R, Sapsford (2006), Survey Research, Sage Publications Ltd; Second Edition