mlearn project

Charles Sturt University's Mobile Learning Project

The Learning Curve

Most staff and students agreed that the setup and learning to use an iPad would be quite quick and easy, and that there is no need for prior learning or skills. However, while intuitive in design, the iPad still has a significant learning curve associated with its adoption. The main reason for this is that it is not simply a new device or tool that needs to be learnt, but mobile is significantly different to traditional desktop computers, utilising a variety of new and complementary technologies.

There is a need to adapt, not only to the new device, but to learn a variety of new concepts and methods of working with the technology.

Some of these include:

  • lack of a visible file system is disorienting and a massive difference to traditional computing
  • lack of available applications, in particular like-for-like versions of desktop standards like Word and Outlook
  • a number of incompatible file types, in particular Flash-based content
  • cloud computing services are integral to the functionality of the device so a range of new services are required to be signed up for to maximise the effectiveness of the user
  • students are not as sophisticated as we think, being good at fairly low level tasks and basics, but struggling with more complex tasks
  • not all students are confident using mobile devices – “It took quite a long time to get past the need to focus on how to use the technology and the apps, so that students could concentrate on the skills and concepts related to subject content.”
  • lack of information and knowledge available around apps, effective pedagogy, information around the use of mobile at CSU or official and ‘supported’ applications.

The Project team has found that setup tends to be the most difficult part of the rollout, and the most effective way to handle this was to be on hand through the initial phase, providing face-to-face support during those initial stages. In addition, the Project team developed and provided walkthroughs, documentation and video tutorials to support DE students and off campus staff.

Staff and students alike found the speed of the trials limited their ability to explore and test the limits of the device. A lack of available documentation and information around mobile devices, applications, software and usage, was highlighted by many participants. There is a need for the many existing users and for any future systemic rollouts, for CSU to provide more information and advice. One academic commented on the need for “an instant advice service” where you could ask “I want to do this…What’s currently the best app to do that?”. The Project has worked to establish some community of practice style, peer-supported groups and has provided assistance through Yammer. The Project is planning to complete the development of a Mobile Hub in 2013 to meet some of these needs, and to engage with various stakeholders to provide a one-stop-shop source of information around mobile.

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