JISC has long been an advocate of mobile learning, funding numerous research projects and producing reports and guides synthesising good and emerging practice. Notable high-level guides relevant to mobile and wireless technologies include:
- Effective Assessment in a Digital Age (2010) www.jisc.ac.uk/assessment.html
- Effective Practice in a Digital Age (2009) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivepracticedigitalage
- Responding to Learners pack (2009) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/respondingtolearners
- Effective Practice with e-Portfolios (2008) www.jisc.ac.uk/effectivepracticeeportfolios
- Student Experiences of Technologies (2006) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2006/lxpfinalreport
- Innovative Practice with e-Learning (2005) www.jisc.ac.uk/eli_practice.html
In addition, reports, podcasts and briefing papers have been published by JISC and its delivery partner, JISC Advance, which comprises a range of advisory and complementary services. Specifically mobile learning-related publications by JISC can be found at www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/filter.aspx?Tags=30. More information about JISC Advance is at www.jiscadvance.ac.uk.
JISC seeks to “inspire UK colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies, helping to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in education”. This report will inform an ‘innovative practice’ guide due mid-2011. JISC infoNet (www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk), a JISC Advance service, “aims to be the UKs leading advisory service for managers in the post-compulsory education sector promoting the effective strategic planning, implementation and management of information and learning technology”. The latter shall be developing a Mobile Learning infoKit which shall also be available from mid-2011.
JISC Digital Media (www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk) is another JISC Advance service featuring resources and advice relating to mobile technologies. Focusing on the creation, delivery and managing of digital media resources their helpdesk, blog and training resources provide a useful service to the UK Further and Higher Education community. As well as relevant legal information and guidance from JISC Legal (www.jisclegal.ac.uk) other JISC Advance services provide more tailored services for the support of mobile learning initiatives. JISC Mail, for example (www.jiscmail.ac.uk) would like to gather opinions on the types of apps and mobile developments those in the sector would like to see.
A final JISC body to mention is JISC CETIS, the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards (http://jisc.cetis.ac.uk). JISC CETIS “provides advice to the UK Higher and Post-16 Education sectors on educational technology and standards” and has a number of briefing papers and reports that may be of use to those developing mobile learning initiatives.
In addition to the final reports from a whole host of JISC-funded mobile learning-related projects, the following relate either directly or tangentially (but importantly) to the theme of mobile learning:
- Podcast Mobile Learning: Telling Tales (2009) www.jisc.ac.uk/news/stories/2009/08/podcast85mobilelearning
- Mobile Enhancing Learning and Support (2008) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2008/melasfinalreport
- Web 2.0 and Intellectual Property Rights (2008) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2008/bpweb20iprv1
- Podcast: mobile learning is the way of the future (2008) www.jisc.ac.uk/news/stories/2008/01/podcast25johntraxler
- Game-based Learning (2007) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2007/pub_gamebasedlearningbp
- e-Portfolios Student Learning (2007) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2007/epistlefinalreport
- Google Generation (2007) www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/resourcediscovery/googlegen
- Student expectations study: Findings from preliminary research (2007) www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2007/studentexpectationsbp
Reviewing JISC publications and other outputs since 2005 a clear evolutionary path is evident, both in terms of mobile devices and attitudes towards them for learning. The technological context for mobile learning was vastly different in 2005: the first Apple iPhone was two years away; the social networking site Facebook was small, largely US-centric and closed to those without an educational institution-provided email address; YouTube was founded in the February. These three have proved not only to be phenomenally popular in mainstream culture but have served as catalysts to the mobile technology sector and, in turn, to mobile learning.
Whilst there are timeless elements to mobile learning, some are context-specific. Take, as an example of the former, the discussion of accessibility considerations (not just for those with some kind of learning or physical disability) and the ‘cool’ factor in JISC’s 2005 Innovative Practice with e-Learning Guide (p.16). The ability of mobile technologies to make learning experiences more inviting, engaging and accessible was as true then as it is with tablet devices such as the Apple iPad. On the flip side, some things change. The discussion of institutionally-owned devices and potential of USB flash drives reflects very much its time and context.
Perhaps most useful from this 2005 JISC publication is the ‘model of implementation for mobile and wireless learning’ on page 47:
This remains a good basis on which an institution can begin a discussion about mobile learning. And again, the ‘Final Word’ (p.49) remains as relevant as ever:
“The introduction of mobile and wireless technologies in a phased process, starting with the development of resources on a learning platform and moving on to policies to ensure secure network access from handheld devices, is more effective than uncoordinated experimentation. Implementation of mobile and wireless learning will involve long term planning and will be ideally linked to teaching and learning strategies, audits of current infrastructure and e-learning provision, knowledge derived from pilot studies and student perception surveys, and an understanding of the pedagogical gains that can be achieved.”
Whilst now the social element of learning is much more at the forefront of colleges and universities’ approaches to engaging students than in 2005, the importance of basing mobile learning initiatives on sound pedagogy continues.
An increasing realisation of the affordances of mobile learning was evident in the 2006 publication of both JISC infoNet’s ‘Designing spaces for effective learning’ (www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2006/pub_spaces) and JISC’s ‘Student Experiences of Technologies’. The latter talked of the ‘fragmentation’ of time and “the expectation of information and results on demand” (p.6). Whilst students cited email and search engines above mobile devices as technologies most used for learning (p.56) this was still above those who cited Virtual Learning Environments and electronic libraries. The shift towards the use of student-owned mobile devices for learning had begun.
The explosion of social software and so-called ‘Web 2.0’ technologies at this time, along with a growing realisation of the changing ‘blended’ world in which students increasingly inhabit, led to several JISC reports and publications in 2007. ‘In Their Own Words’ (www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2007/intheirownwords) discussed how “ubiquitous mobile connectivity challenge[s] our preconceptions about what e-learning means and how learners should be supported” (p.3). A JISC-commissioned MORI ‘Student Expectations Survey’ (reporting before the launch of the Apple iPhone) found that whilst a third of young people intent on university did not use the ‘advanced’ features of their mobile phone, nevertheless:
“Technology was used by the majority of those that we spoke to as an aid to their life – finding information, communicating with friends and family and organising events – although they were wary of using technology for the sake of it.”
At this time, and again reflected in the JISC/MORI report, was an uncertainty relating to the boundaries of student-owned mobile devices. Debates around the appropriateness of, for example, sending SMS (‘text’) messages to students continued. This was followed-up in a JISC-funded ‘Mobiles Enhancing Learning and Support’ (MELAS) project in 2008 which found that “universities and their students will benefit from institutional wide use of communication via SMS” (www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2008/melasfinalreport).
‘Tangible Benefits of e-Learning: Does investment yield interest?’ was a timely 2008 JISC briefing paper (www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2008/bptangiblebenefitsv1) based on an original JISC infoNet resource that visualised the problem educational institutions face when dealing with innovation:
Transforming learning using complex, disruptive technologies such as mobile devices is both expensive and uncertain in terms of Return On Investment (ROI). One of JISC’s roles is to provide the evidence base for such investments and to share good practice with the rest of the sector. This mitigates some ‘first mover’ risk.
In addition to funding reports into the state of integration of technologies with institutional strategies and outsourcing email to third-party providers, JISC funded a study in 2007 entitled ‘Web 2.0 for Content for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education’ (www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2007/web2andpolicyreport) which foresaw the rise of mobile devices for learning once third-generation (3G) high-speed connections became the norm. This prediction was built upon by a 2008 publication, ‘Effective Practice with e-Portfolios’ which cited the possibility for mobile devices to capture evidence for learners’ e-portfolios.
The evidence base for the success of mobile learning initiatives grew, especially after a follow-up MORI report, ‘Great expectations of ICT: How Higher Education institutions are measuring up’ (www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/research/2008/greatexpectations) found that:
“Students… seem to be well equipped with their own ICT kit. [They] all appear to have their own computers / laptop, access to the internet and a mobile phone. They are expectant of the university to provide them with support for use of these technologies and most seem to provide this adequately.” (p.40)
Despite media outlets such as the BBC promoting podcasts, most students remained both unfamiliar and uncomfortable with them for learning. Text messages, so long as of an administrative nature, were deemed relevant; social networking services such as Facebook, whilst familiar, were not comfortable places for ‘learning’ with students:
This report raised a latent ‘digital divide’ issue with the use of student-owned technologies for learning. Over and above issues surrounding e-safety and appropriateness, educational institutions became acutely aware of potential problems regarding the cost of devices being relied upon for learning. Smartphones in particular, despite their affordances (e.g. GPS and 3G connections), continue to be viewed as luxury items rather than necessities by institutions.
The mobility of the learner and researchers of tomorrow was addressed in a JISC and British Library-funded ‘Google Generation’ project (www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/resourcediscovery/googlegen) that showed younger people do indeed interact with each other and systems differently although not necessarily in ways institutions expect. Specifically, the assumption behind discussions of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ was shown to be wide of the mark.
In 2009’s ‘Effective Practice in a Digital Age’ (www.jisc.ac.uk/practice) JISC could, for the first time, assume that institutions were both aware of the importance of the social context for learning and interested in the results of their student satisfaction ratings in the National Student Survey. “Ownership of personal technologies” stated the introduction, “is now pervasive and use of the internet, including Web 2.0 technologies, is commonplace” (p.3).
The case study featured in ‘Effective Practice in a Digital Age’ reflecting upon Southampton Solent’s use of iPod Touches with students spoke of mobile devices enabling learning to be “timely, spontaneous and flexible” (p.28) whilst the Director of ILT at Kingston College was quoted as stating that,
“Students’ mobile phones are sacred to their sense of personal and social identity: in many cases, they have made a considerable financial investment in their choice of phone and selected tariff… Mobile phone ownership is a clearly lifestyle issue for students; it is not a simple matter to invade that aspect of their lives. You have to accept there are boundaries between personal and institutional technologies that it is not always profitable to cross.”
The use of specific, student-owned technologies is of particular importance when students have a disability that may impede their learning (p.9). JISC TechDIS blog about accessibility considerations relating to specific devices such as the Apple iPad (www.techdis.ac.uk/blog) but fund, through a scheme called HEAT (www.techdis.ac.uk/getheatscheme), institutions to develop and share good practices relating to the inclusive use of technologies. Inevitably, many HEAT projects involve mobile devices and multimedia.
For those institutions wanting to develop inclusive practices, but for whom the HEAT scheme may not be appropriate, JISC TechDis have two resources that may be of interest. ‘Upwardly Mobile: Getting Started in Inclusive m-Learning’ (www.techdis.ac.uk/upwardlymobile) is a DVD-ROM that provides guidance on creating and distributing inclusive mobile learning practices. ‘GoMobile! Maximising the potential of mobile technologies for learners with disabilities’ is a publication that, in conjunction with MoLeNet, draws on the “experiences of those working in the vanguard of mobile learning and inclusivity in independent specialist colleges and further and higher education institutions” (www.molenet.org.uk/search/resource-30492.aspx).
In 2010 JISC published ‘Effective Assessment in a Digital Age’, a much-anticipated resource that, amongst other things, talked of ‘moments of contingency’:
“The concept of ‘moments of contingency’ [is] a pivotal factor in making assessment formative. These are critical points in the teaching and learning process where the flow of instruction cannot be predetermined. Technology does not create these moments but can enable spontaneous change to occur through affordances which can be exploited in the assessment design – for example, harnessing the portability of mobile phones to capture images of a learning experience that can be used later to prompt reflection on what has been learnt.” (p.20)
The use of mobile devices for assessment purposes is the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle for mainstream adoption of mobile learning in Further and Higher Education.