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Introduction to M-Learning

April 04, 2012 by Mainak Biswas under Mobile Technology827 views
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M-Learning or “Mobile Learning” is a form of learning through mobile devices. It is a flexible form of learning as you do not need to be at a predetermined location at a predefined time. You can take up learning at your own convenience even while you are on the go using portable devices like Mobile, Mp3 players or tablets. Like any other forms of learning m-learning also offers collaboration among students and instructors and instant tips and feedback can be shared.

M-learning is the next big revolution in mobile technology. E-Learning is a passe and M-Learning is the beckoning future. The capabilities of mobile devices are gradually increasing which is facilitating further development in M-Learning technology. When the concept of M-Learning evolved a decade ago, no one imagined that it will undergo such phenomenal development. Thanks to the rapid growth in mobile technology and evolution of mobile phones into Smart phones.

Types of M-Learning
M-Learning comes in various flavors as discussed below:

mVLE Based Learning

This is an extension to Virtual Learning Environment like Moodle and Atlas. These E-learning providers have started offering Mobile Apps for facilitating learning through Smart Phones. So Mobile users can take advantage of activities happening in the non mobile version of the environment.

Apps based learning

There are specific mobile apps that help in improving vocabulary, mathematics and other skills. This is kind of discrete learning. This method supports interactive learning and hence works pretty well. There are free and paid apps available on different platform in the app stores which can be installed on the smart phone to begin study.

Podcasting

It is a form of passive learning where in the study materials are provided in the form of audio files. These can be played using mobile phones or mp3 players. Podcasting is more effective if it is accompanies with related slides and videos. If the audio podcast is instructional and allow users to follow certain instruction and perform task while listening to the podcast it becomes more effective.

Augmented Reality Based Learning

Augmented reality is a direct or indirect view of a real world based on the images captured through mobile phone camera and using the GPS. This technology can be utilized to impart M-Learning in a sophisticated way. Through Augmented Reality based learning users can input information and interact with other users as well. The HARP (Handheld Augmented Reality Project) project from Harvard University is based on an Augmented reality game to teach students Math and Science.

Experience Based Learning

This is a mode of learning that utilizes the device functionalities like GPS, Camera to enhance the user experience while learning. Students can share information on the fly while on a field visit.

Content Delivery Based Learning

This is another passive learning. The learning materials can be distributed in the form of ebooks, SCORM packages or html files to be read in mobile devices. These method is mostly available for Smart phones.

Game Based Learning

Game based learning is a very effective way of teaching with highest memory retention. This method is quite popular in offline learning as well as in E-learning. Due to the development in mobile technology it has now been offered through mobile too.

Social Learning

Social learning is also known as collaborative learning. This involves users networking with other users as well as peers using social network. Social Networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are facilitating this with their mobile apps.

Technical Approach to M-Learning

While building M-Learning products and services the sole goal is to reach the maximum possible audience. This means the technology used to build it, should be supported on wide range of devices. With that said, cross platform technology for building apps or relying on mobile web is the only option at hand. The existing web standards like HTML, JavaScripts and CSS can be used in imparting M-Learning through mVLE and content delivery methods.

The rapid development in Cross platform Frameworks like PhoneGap and Titanium enables cross platform applications to access device features which were only recently been possible through native apps. This approach is fulfilling much of the limitations offered by web approach. However for Game based learning or Augmented Reality based learning which requires sophisticated 3D technology no other substitute is available then going through the native apps and porting it to different platforms. The image below shows technical approach for various M-Learning techniques:

Few M-Learning Mobile Apps

As we discussed above, there are variety of M-Learning techniques. Some may require you to download an App and some can be done without use of any dedicated apps. Given below are few useful mobile apps related to M-Learning:

Moodle Mobile

Moodle Mobile is an extension of Moodle web. With the help of this app, you can get connected to your Moodle account and track progress of your course as well as take up course from your mobile. You can even download many courses for offline viewing.

Teachermate

As not all the students in a class posses same capability, it is very essential to impart them individual instructions while teaching. Teachermate differential instruction system helps teachers in imparting individualized and targeted reading and math instructions to students.

Martha Speaks Dog Party

This is an app for children to improve vocabulary. A study indicated that children, who played this, were managed to improve vocabulary by 31 percent.

Dictionary Apps

Dictionary.com is a quite popular mobile apps available in all of the smart phone platform. Orient Longman and Cambridge have also come up with paid mobile app based on their paper dictionary

Johnny Grammar’s Quizmaster

Johnny Grammar’s Quizmaster for Android is a grammar related app in a quiz form. It has everything related to English grammar like spelling, vocabulary and grammar.

Managing Content for M-Learning

People often think that mobile learning is delivering e-learning on smaller devices, which is not exactly true. M-Learning has much more potential than eLearning. There are Mobile Learning Management Systems (MLMS) which can be used to create interactive contents suitable for mobile devices. The M-Learning Content Management Systems should be evolved to match the requirements of the current mobile learning systems.

A managed content management solution which distributes the M-Learning contents to students’ device without manual intervention and facility for offline viewing always works best. This way the courses can be pushed to the registered student’s device anytime anywhere and students can start at his own pace.

iQpakk is an advanced MLMS that can be used to push real-time content to the students. This is currently built for web and ipad applications. Another advantage of iQpakk is that the students can download the study material to their device and later can read offline.

Hot Lava Mobile is another M-Learning Content Creator that can be used to develop content once and deliver across mobile devices ranging from basic mobiles to smart phones.

Advantages of M-Learning

  • M-Learning can be deployed in Software as a Service(SAAS) format to provide anytime, anywhere access.
  • It offers freedom and power of choice and students can take up courses while on the go.
  • M-Learning offers rich content on mobile even at a slower connection.
  • With the help of a mobile device like a smart phone or PDA students can access the course content, download them and track their progress.
  • It offers portability to students as students do not require carrying bulky copies, books and files.

Disadvantages of M-Learning

  • The M-Learning technology needs to develop more to provide better learning experience. At present it is incapable of integrating complex functionality that requires higher CPU power like 3D graphics.
  • Limited storage capacity of the mobile device prevents storing large volume of learning materials.
  • Some of the M-Learning techniques are not available in all types of phones.

Despite few of the disadvantages of M-Learning, it is an emerging technology and is definitely the future of learning. This is the next generation of e-learning. Development in sophisticated devices like PDA, tablet PC and smart phones are supplementing to the growth of M-Learning. M-Learning is not about the device but about the connectivity, capabilities and experience. Learning through mobile should be a choice and part of a larger learning environment.

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