mlearn project

Charles Sturt University's Mobile Learning Project


Summary of Findings

The findings from these trials are based on the two surveys conducted, one at the start of the trial one at the end. In addition to this data are written reports from academic staff and informal one-to-one interactions that occurred between participants and the project team. This feedback has enabled the project to explore how students and staff have utilised the iPads and what their views are about various aspects of mobile technology. ­

Pre-trial Survey

The pre-trial surveys were used to gather information to understand the participants’ general level of knowledge, experience and confidence with the devices. In Survey 1 there were 43 responses: EML309 47%, ITC594 26%, MRS222 28%, and in Survey 2, 14 responses: 4 Students and 10 Staff members. The key measures from this survey were previous use of iPads, confidence in using them at the start of the trial and their current ownership of technology at the start of the trials.

Figure 1: Previous experience with an iPad and smartphone ownership

Figure 1: Previous experience with an iPad and smartphone ownership

Figure 2: Question used a Likert scale to plot participant confidence.

Figure 2: Question used a Likert scale to plot participant confidence.

These surveys were also used to get a better sense of their expectations of services and content related to the LMS (Interact) that should be available on mobile.

Figure 3: Feedback from student as to what tools from the LMS they would like to access on a mobile device

Figure 3: Feedback from student as to what tools from the LMS they would like to access on a mobile device

Figure 4: Feedback from participants on what aspects should be accessible on mobile technology.

Figure 4: Feedback from participants on what aspects should be accessible on mobile technology.

Exit Survey

The exit survey was used to measure what staff and students had done in the trials, how they had used the devices and how they viewed using the iPads. This survey have been broken up into three participant groups; Student Group 1 were part of the first set of trials, Student Group 2 who were the longitudinal group from MRS222 who conducted the exit survey after two sessions with the iPad, and the final group was made up of the staff participants. Participation was as follows:

  • Student Group 1 (SG1): 13 Responses (EML309 77% & ITC594 23%)
  • Student Group 2 (SG2): 5 Responses (MRS222 100%)
  • Staff Group (STG): 9 Responses (Community Health 22%, Environmental Science 11%, Dentistry & Health Sciences 33%, Academic Support 11%, Other 22%)

Activities on the iPad

One of the key outcomes of the surveys was to gain a better insight into how staff and students would use an iPad. Across the three groups usage can be broken into the following categories:

  • Research/Investigation – websites, library catalogues and journals.
  • Reading – online and digital documents.
  • Communication – email, social media and Skype.
  • Note Taking – in class, in the field and at home.
  • Video Consumption – extensive use of YouTube and internal lectures
  • Video & Audio Creation – staff and students recording themselves as part of their practice, research and learning.
  • Group Work & Sharing – participation and collaboration around a device and content.

Students reported that they would spend more time accessing their subject outlines, Interact, other learning materials and their lecture when they had an iPad. Access to library, forums and textbooks remain unchanged.

The median measurements across the groups showed that the iPad was used 6.5 days a week for around 1.5 hours each day.

The iPad’s Effect

This section of the survey was used to gain a subjective assessment of how they felt using the iPad may have affected them. Staff and students responded that the iPad wasn’t a distraction in class, a distraction in their personal space nor did it make them more focused in class. The majority of staff and students did feel though that the iPad made them feel:

  • more engaged and active in class and the subject as a whole;
  •  it was a benefit during classes and personal time;
  • more motivated for study and that they were learning better;
  • and that they would recommend the iPad as a study tool.

Technology Preferences

Laptops are the preferred technology to:

  • Write an Essay
  • Use PebblePad.

Tablets are the preference for the remainder of the activities explored in the survey:

  • Write a blog/wiki
  • Access Interact
  • Access student.csu (which is the central student support website)
  • Access staff.csu  (which is the central staff support website)
  • Read your learning materials
  • Take to Class
  • Take to Practicum
  • Take to Conference
  • Take Home
  • Device supplied by the University.

One activity that had a preference for paper was “Read your Textbook”.

Some student comments

“We used various apps to make virtual storybooks for children where you could draw your own pictures and add words, audio and voice overs. I found this really useful and ended up using it in another class for an assignment which got really good feedback.”

“It was useful for bringing up websites, syllabus documents and resources, whilst typing the assignment on my laptop or iMac.”

“Loved being able to relax in an armchair and do reading for uni!!!  …  it was also great for sharing stuff with others in an informal environment.”

“Typing is slow for assignments, which I solved by connecting a wireless keyboard. Apart from that, some lecturers seemed to assume iPads were being used for things other than study in class/lectures and were perhaps not familiar with the possibilities of their use.”

“I had to learn a lot of new technology and felt I spent a fair bit of time learning about the technology rather than applying myself to the subject, but that is what happens when you use new technology”

Students were asked what was the most important lesson learned:

“That everything can be much simpler! Aside from typing an essay or notes, the iPad made studying significantly easier, quicker and simpler… it changed the way we studied and it is a big transition to go back to how we were doing it before.”

“How beneficial an iPad can be in class. I never really thought of an iPad as an educational tool but after using it for a semester I now realise how beneficial it was to my studies. Reading things online was the best thing and looking up the syllabus”

“That technology should not replace old methods such as using pen and paper and can be unreliable and not suited to all tasks.”

“It allowed for my education to be more interactive and engaging. It was really helpful.”

“How to take benefit by using while moving”

“How the iPad can be an effective marking and lecture delivery tool.”

“Classes are better with iPads”

Technical Findings

Other significant technical issues were uncovered during the trials including:

  • The CSU WiFi network uses the EAP encryption method that is incompatible with some devices, in particular eReaders and older mobile devices.
  • The Lithium batteries used in mobile devices are considered to be dangerous goods, and cannot be transported by air. Sending iPads by road transport lengthens the postage time to most students. Courier services offer an alternative in some cases but dramatically raise costs.
  • Apple licensing limitations that state a device can be associated with only one Apple ID account at any given time, and you may switch a device to a different account only once every 90 days.
  • Many components of the CSU online experience are not mobile friendly and use legacy technology or those incompatible with many mobile devices, in particular Java and Flash. These issues are compounded by the inability to provide support remotely or resolve systemic issues through the project.
  • The iPads were extremely robust and build quality is excellent. No devices failed and only three were damaged through accidental drops.

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