Mobile learning or “m-learning” is a relatively new learning modality in higher education and it refers to the delivery of educational content by means of mobile devices, such as PDAs, cell phones, and MP3 players, effectively enabling learners to access course materials anytime, anywhere, and any while (Walker, 2006). M-learning is also characterized as “personalized” … “bite-sized”, and “portable”, characteristics not often associated with “conventional tethered e-Learning” (Traxler, 2007).
In the early 2000s, the rapid development of portable technology gave rise to hardware devices that were powerful, small, and mobile. Generally, these devices were designed to fit in a jacket pocket, a trait requisite to classify it as a mobile or handheld device, so that they could be “carried on a regular, if not constant basis” (Caudill, 2007). Examples of such hardware devices include Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), smartphones (such as iPhones), and MP3 music players (such as iPods). As reported by the International Data Corporation, these mobile devices, due to their utility and relative affordability, quickly consumed the high tech market – with more than 700M mobile devices sold every quarter in 2007 alone (“Handheld Device Vendors,” 2007).
Furthermore, the traditional classification of mobile devices by segregating them by functional utility into phones, music players, or PDA became less apparent as many smartphones, for example, featured the functionality of all three types of aforementioned devices. The harbinger of the unprecedented demand for such all-inclusive devices was the launch of Apple’s iPhone – whose sales exceeded .5M units during its opening weekend (“IPhone Sales Said,” 2007). Attracted to the prospect of carrying only one device (rather than many), users of mobile devices quickly embraced iPhone’s extensive lists of capabilities (e.g. ability to access email, text, photos, music, videos, calendar, Internet and phone services).