The Use of Mobile Devices in University Distance Learning: Do They Motivate the Students and Affect the Learning Process?

The Use of Mobile Devices in University Distance Learning: Do They Motivate the Students and Affect the Learning Process?

Sean B. Eom (Southeast Missouri State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2021100101
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Abstract

Mobile devices, primarily cell phones, smartphones, and tablet PCs, have gradually been introduced into the university campus and online education over the past few decades. Does the use of mobile devices in distance learning motivate students and affect the learning process? These are important questions that were raised more than a decade ago, but they are still unanswered. This research aims to answer these vital questions. A total of 323 valid and unduplicated responses from online students at a Midwestern university in the U.S. were used to examine the structural model, using SmartPLS v. 3.3.2. This study shows that the use of mobile devices positively affects the students' intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to learn, which in turn positively affects the cognitive learning process variables (student-student dialogue, student-instructor dialogue, and metacognitive self-regulated learning processes). Furthermore, the learning process variables positively affect the perceived learning outcomes.
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Introduction

Over the past few decades, we have seen mobile devices such as cell phones, smartphones, and tablet PCs gradually being introduced into society as well as the university campus. Now, 99% of U.S. adults aged 18-29 own a cell phone or a smart phone (Pew Research Center, 2021). Furthermore, it was reported that most online college students use a smartphone or tablet to complete some of their online course-related activities such as accessing course readings, lecture files, and learning management systems (LMS); communicating with professors and fellow students; finishing assignments and research projects (Clinefelter, Aslanian, & Magda, 2019).

The use of mobile devices for learning among university students provides nearly seamless continuity of formal learning for the increasingly mobile learner (Ally & Wark, 2018; So & Park, 2019; Xiao, Wang, Wang, & Pan, 2019). This trend has transformed the nature of e-learning significantly. Middleton (2015) introduced the concept of smart learning (teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets). He further argued that smart learning altered the learning landscape by converging several important phenomena firmly embedded within a learning landscape: digital media, social media, user-generated media, BYOD (bring your own device), open learning, and mobile learning. All of these changes have made distance learning a more effective delivery medium.

Many prior empirical research studies have focused on the impact of the use of mobile devices on the students’ satisfaction and learning outcomes with simple cause effect modeling (Arain, Hussain, Rizvi, & Vighio, 2018; Goh, Seet, & Chen, 2012; So, 2016; Zhonggen, Ying, Zhichun, & Wentao, 2019). A direct cause-effect relationship modeling between each variable and the learning outcomes have produced suboptimal and often inaccurate conclusions. In addition to this inaccurate modeling approach, another research area that needs further attention is the impact that mobile device usage in university distance learning has on the motivation of distance learners. Members of the Penn State World Campus Learning Design team (Mockus et al., 2011) initiated a mobile learning motivation study investigating the impact of mobile access on the distance learners’ motivation to determine how course content and information delivery on mobile devices impact the students’ motivation to learn. Due to the absence of rigorous methodology and insufficient sample size, their study failed to produce meaningful and comprehensive conclusions. Does the use of mobile devices in distance learning motivate students? This is an important question that was raised more than a decade ago, but it is still unanswered. Other researchers have not addressed this question, and thus, this topic is still in need of research1.

Motivation is the psychological feature that triggers an individual to action to achieve a goal. It is a critically important input to distance learning systems. Distance learning is rooted in the constructivist model of learning as well as several other learning models which are extended from it (Piaget, 1977; Vygotsky, 1978). These include collaborativism, socioculturism, the cognitive information processing model (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995), discovery learning (Bruner, 1985; Vygotsky, 1978), and facilitated learning (Rodgers, 1983). All of these models postulate that knowledge is constructed individually and independently rather than instructed and that distance learners do better when they study at their own time and pace. Consequently, it is necessary for distance learners to become self-regulated learners as well as active learners.

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