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In many parts of the developing world, mobile devices are increasingly being used in distance education to support the learning process. Considering that the vast majority of adult learners in developing countries have access to a mobile phone, but not to a computer, and especially not to a computer that is connected to the Internet, mobile phones are an obvious avenue to explore when looking for ways to support learners.

However, there are several barriers to the use of mobile phones, such as the small screen size, which makes it difficult to handle extensive text. Also, the operating systems of basic mobile phones usually do not handle graphics or diagrams.

Reflection

  1. Can you  think of other possible barriers to the use of mobile technology in your context? 

  2. If you mentioned low battery life as a barrier, how serious do you think this problem is if learners have electricity and are able to charge their phones regularly? 

  3. What about the cost of making calls/ sending SMSs? Would you as a tutor be prepared to pay for this? And your students? 

  4. If you use a mobile phone for supporting your learners, have you had any experiences of learners 'abusing' this support by phoning you at unreasonable hours or taking up unreasonable amounts of your time? How did/ would you deal with this? 

  5. How do you think your family might react if you were frequently receiving calls/ SMSs from your students? And, from the students' point of view, how do you think the use of their phones for communication with their tutor/ other students might go down with their families? 

  6. Have you tried using podcasts with your students? For more information on this, see the section in Unit 4 on asynchronous tools, and the section in Unit 6 on giving students feedback on their assignments via podcasts.  

Additional resources

For further information and discussion, see SAIDE’s report prepared for the Commonwealth of Learning, Using Mobile Technology for Learner Support in Open Schooling. Although this study was undertaken within the open schooling (secondary school) context, it is probably true to say that the principles of mobile technology are valid across all sectors.

See also the UK-based JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) website for tools to help in planning for, and using, mobile technologies in education: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/innovativepe.pdf

Mohammed Ally, of Athabasca University, Canada, has edited an e-book on mobile learning, which can be freely downloaded at http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120155