Student Readiness and Perception of Tablet Learning in Higher Education in the Pacific- A Case Study of Fiji and Tuvalu: Tablet Learning at USP

Student Readiness and Perception of Tablet Learning in Higher Education in the Pacific- A Case Study of Fiji and Tuvalu: Tablet Learning at USP

Pritika Reddy (Fiji National University, Suva, Fiji), Bibhya Sharma (The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji) and Shaneel Chandra (Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/JCIT.2020040104

Abstract

Significant growth and successful integration of mobile devices to the education landscape have garnered the introduction of mobile learning (mLearning) as a new technology-enabled educational tool. Mobile learning has become a new higher educational paradigm which makes learning more flexible and accessible. However, student readiness and their perceptions about educational use of tablet devices are still a concern particularly in the developing countries like the Pacific island countries (PICs). This article investigates these two important attributes of tablet devices in a first year blended course from a higher education institute in the Pacific with a sample of 43 students. The results revealed that the participants perceived that tablet devices were effective and innovative learning tools. The participants supported the idea of using tablet devices and were ready to incorporate them for learning provided there was training in place. This article finally outlines recommendations for the education sectors in the Pacific.
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Introduction

The rapid development in information and communications technologies (ICT) has brought about significant changes to various aspects of our lives and everyday endeavors, most recently, education (Chandra & Sharma 2018).The vast usage of emerging technologies and technological devices in education has re-engineered higher education curricular, and transformed its modality from face- to-face to virtual learning and the type of learning from teacher- centered to student-centered (Ajoku, 2014; Al-Fahad, 2007). The student-centered learning enables learners to be more involved in learning through prior knowledge, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, experimentation and discovery, hence the learners work on information to create and share knowledge (Dimitrios et al., 2013; Joutsenvirta & Myyry, 2010; Morrison, 2014; Reddy & Sharma, 2015). It is widely documented in the student-centered learning that the role of a teacher transforms to that of a facilitator of learning, which is from a sage on the stage to a guide on the side (King, 1993; Morrison, 2014). Notwithstanding the transformation, the teacher’s role remains essential for learning (Morrison, 2014).

The integration and assimilation of appropriate ICT technologies into learning and teaching has resulted in strong positives including enhanced student-centered learning (by making the delivery of content robust and engaging), improved quality of the content and flipping of the entire learning process deepening the creation of knowledge (Bachmair & Pachler, 2015; Joutsenvirta & Myyry, 2010; Makewa et al., 2014; Sharma et al., 2015). However, the integration of ICT to succeed depends largely on the readiness, utilization and perception in embracing the new technology-driven education paradigm (Bernado, 2013). The paper considers these three important attributes for tablet learning in higher education in the Pacific.

The Pacific Islands have shown enormous growth in the use of mobile devices and broadband technology in recent years. A decade ago telecommunication services were provided to and provided by only the government authorities and were costly, however the improvement in ICT infrastructure in the Pacific in the late 2000’s increased the access to telecommunication services and the Internet at a reasonable cost (“The state of broadband 2015, Annual Report” 2015). According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), mobile broadband connections will grow from 1.1 million in 2014 to 4.1 million in 2020 (“The Mobile Economy Pacific Islands 2015” 2015). Figure 1 illustrates the percentage population of Internet users in the Pacific Island countries. According to the statistics shown in Figure 1, it can be said that the diffusion of Internet in the Pacific is paramount.

Figure 1.

Percentage population using Internet (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2018)

JCIT.2020040104.f01

A survey by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) carried out in 2015 shows that by the end of the year 2015, the mobile broadband subscription per 100 capita in Fiji was estimated to be 42.3%, the percentage of households with Internet was 29%, and the percentage of individuals using Internet was 41.8% (GSMA Association, 2015). In another Pacific Island Country (PIC) report about Tuvalu, in 2015 about 3000 people were subscribed to broadband and 6000 people had mobile subscription (“The Mobile Economy Pacific Islands 2015,” 2015). With the availability of high speed Internet, falling prices and accelerating growth in the use of and subscription to Internet, education institutes in the Pacific are shifting their focus towards ICT leveraged learning in order to provide quality education to the populace - 1 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or global standalone goal (Alexander, 2014; United Nations, 2017).

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