The mLearn Project has not only attempted to find out how mobile technology can be applied to learning and teaching, but also to investigate the possible rewards for its adoption and rollout. While the Project has not conducted financial or cost/benefit analyses as part of its brief, some of the initial financial impacts and teaching and learning related outcomes can be commented on, from which some emerging themes can be seen:
- Improved digital literacy
- Support for current initiative
- Increased engagement & flexibility
- Enhanced communication
- Reduction in costs
Improved Digital Literacy
The discussions and survey data from the program demonstrate that staff and students are reporting improved confidence and knowledge working with the technology. Students and staff have demonstrated an improvement in digital literacy by taking on increasingly difficult tasks, adopting new technologies and practices, and taking technological leadership within their faculties. In some cases this has come from surprising sources, as the technology and freedom provided in the Project have created an environment for experimentation and learning. Conversations have progressed from low-level discussions around how to use the device to more detailed technical questions around associated technologies, such as Cloud integration, QR codes and augmented reality.
Support for Current Initiatives
Mobile technology provides a platform to support current university initiatives, such as eStudent, paperless marking and an increasing move to online and blended modes of teaching. The trials have seen a large number of staff from the Project participating in paperless marking and other current initiatives. The iPads provide specific affordances that could allow them to further support a range of sustainable, pedagogical and technological initiatives across the university. They provide a platform for change and embody a very real and tangible alternatives, such as the ability to increase sustainability at CSU by reducing print materials.
Increased Engagement & Flexibility
Students and staff have been given much greater flexibility through the technological affordances and improved engagement with course and subject work. The devices are able to provide rich and engaging content, through apps and digital publications that take advantage of the unique abilities of mobile devices, sensors and digital affordances like 3D and interactivity. They can also facilitate an increase in work flexibility by providing the capability for staff to work remotely. They improve the options for flexible learning practice by leveraging the portability of mobile devices for digital content and wireless data connections.
Mobile device provide opportunities for opening new channels with staff and students across a range of social media and online tools, improving access to current and future communication technologies. If rolled out more widely, this could improve communication options for CSU to students and peer-to-peer, that can take advantage of new technologies, such as social networks, video chat, text messaging and webinars.
Reduction in Costs
In one of the Project trials, a significant reduction in travel expenditure was achieved through the provision of iPads, providing a stable platform for contact while on placement. Instead of location visits, supervisory sessions were conducted via Skype and FaceTime and non-essential communication over social networks. Staff and students could also benefit from the reduction in costs of learning resources, such as textbooks or learning materials traditionally printed by CSU. Students could also reduce costs across a range of areas including hardware, textbooks, print and travel, through the widespread adoption of mobile technology. These savings could assist students on the whole, and allow CSU to provide equity to specific cohorts of students by improving their ability to access CSU services, content and overcome issues related to costs and location. Costs could also be lessened through improved efficiencies providing staff greater flexibility in work location and time.