Evaluation of a Mobile Platform to Support Collaborative Learning: Case Study

Evaluation of a Mobile Platform to Support Collaborative Learning: Case Study

Carlos Quental (Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, Portugal) and Luis Gouveia (University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-042-6.ch060
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Abstract

The MLE enables one to use the mobile phone as a constant way of learning. As a consequence it is possible to use every spare time to learn, no matter where we are, making it a very interesting tool to use in many fields by providing new opportunities to enhance learning.
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Introduction

The '80s were the decade of the personal computer introduction. Later, the World Wide Web became one of the most successful educational tools of all time: combining and integrating text, audio and video with interaction among users. Thus, in the ‘90s, the World Wide Web invaded our houses, schools and revolutionized the availability and sharing of information. As a result the development of new techniques and technologies in education allow the introduction of new methods of teaching (emphasizing learning instead of teaching), particularly distance education, e-learning and, more recently, learning through mobile devices, the mobile learning (m-learning).

Technological developments expanded the educational horizons in the 90s, eliminating constraints of time and space for both teachers and students. New learning approaches were created by the fast diffusion of Internet and online courses emerged as a new mode of teaching. Since then, interest in the development and use of distance learning in higher education has increased (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2004).

The e-learning itself, and the possibilities offered by the development of mobile devices potencies new opportunities and new challenges to educational systems. New tools and devices emerge in learning, involving teachers, students and transforming the environment in which they operate. These tools can be directly integrated into school activities, to enhance and promote new ways of teaching and learning.

Mobile computing, on the other hand, supports the paradigm of anywhere, any time and, therefore, mobile devices have become increasingly popular in several areas of activity due to its simplicity, functionality, portability, ubiquity, access, interaction and its ease of use (too many qualities not to be aware of mobile devices potential!).One of the great advantages of these devices is their size and mobility that, in education, may benefit learners in many ways. First of all, students use and adapt themselves to the technology as they have grown knowing and working with such devices their entire lives. Also, they can connect to the teacher and colleagues in a true collaborative learning environment and use learning objects in any place at any time.

Among the many potential applications is the one showed in Figure 1. This application family allows the information sharing between users (learners) using a common platform.

Figure 1.

The MLE communicates with the learning platform over HTTP and XML

This paper describes the (re)use of an adapted platform from an API of MLE (Mobile Learning Engine) (Figure 1), to create tests, quizzes, forums, SMS, audio, video, mobile learning objects, in combination with a learning platform (Moodle). Several examples of its use in a higher education course are shown. All tools are open source.

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Mobile Learning

Wireless applications are replacing the ones based on cable networks: e-commerce has changed to m-commerce, the m-business replaced e-business, m-banking will replace e-banking and, undoubtedly, the m-learning will replace e-learning.

The Internet has grown considerably. Between 2000 and 2008, the overall growth was 342.2%, 274.3% in Europe and near 70%, in Portugal (data from May 20091).

According to the International Telecommunication Union, at the end of 2008 there were 4.1 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, compared to 1.2 in 2002. Figures for Portugal are presented in Figure 2, where it can be seen the penetration of mobile broadband versus broadband and Internet.

Figure 2.

Internet penetration in the population (Total, broadband and mobile broadband) - % Clients in total population (Source: UMIC2)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Object: it is a resource that can be (re)used on a wide range of management systems. Some of its advantages include: the use of metadata to provide smaller, self-contained, re-usable units of learning and portability.

MLMS: Mobile Learning Management System is a component of LMS. The MLMS must provide, in different devices, different types of content; allow store content, easy navigation and provide tools to improve the navigation, such as zoom of text and images, allow access to online resources such as libraries, glossaries, reviews, databases and other tools of the courses and provide access to communication tools, synchronous and asynchronous, such as chat, email, SMS.

LMS: A Learning Management System is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting to support e-learning activity

Mobile Learning Engine: MLE is a special m-learning application for mobile phones that can access a LMS and use most of its activities and resources. It enables one to use the mobile phone as an alternative way for learning.

Collaborative Learning: learning and collaboration environments between students, teachers and both – this adds new possibilities as it offers new ways for real time interaction between all learning actors.

Usability for mobile applications: Ease and efficiency in the use of a mobile device. It extends the quality measures that are a reference for Web and computer applications.

M-Learning: Mobile learning, using a mobile device to access for learning and study materials, sometimes in a collaborative way.

Mobile Device: A device which can be used to access information and learning materials anywhere at any time.

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