Review and Re-package: JISC Mobile Learning Infokit

For our Places project, which will evaluate the use of tablet computers in University of Leicester programmes, we are beginning with a literature review and a re-packaging of some of the information in the sources we choose. Why is re-packaging part of the project? I think it’s because this particular field — mobile learning — is moving at the speed of light. New technology looks old in a few months’ time. It is hard to write something well-researched quickly enough to still look current when it is published. And yet well-researched older material (even a whole 3 years old!) may present findings which apply perfectly well to current technology and practice. For example, when we were writing our final DUCKLING report in 2010, we felt we needed to comment on how outdated was the technology we had used: the original Sony PRS505 e-reader, the first e-reader available in the UK. But our findings agree with current findings of the use of mobile devices such as the iPad.

Reading a Sony PRS-505 E-Reader in 2009. Photo courtesy of Cwluc on Flickr

And so I’m reading through the literature, and am finding the JISC Mobile Learning Infokit very valuable. I will definitely be taking bits from it for re-packaging. It is not old — first published in autumn 2011. I appreciate, for example, having several definitions of mobile learning – ranging from Mike Sharples’ which emphasises processes, to the MoLeNET definition which emphasises the devices.

But what stood out more was the ‘Tangible benefits of mobile learning’ listed in the infokit. The list begins with the usual affordances attributed to mobile devices: ‘personal’, ‘pervasive’, ‘portable.’  The last item caught my attention: ‘Reduces technical barriers to e-learning.’ I was thinking that only a few years ago, mobile devices presented their own technical barriers — I remember endlessly struggling to help different colleagues to sync up their Palms to their desktop computers. But in 2012, yes, many mobile devices reduce technical barriers to e-learning. I am thinking of our Criminology distance masters programme in which students around the world are shipped an iPad, and instructed how to download the app which contains multimedia learning materials. I’m reading preliminary feedback from students, and so far the majority are saying they value the fact the app allows them to study even when there is no internet connection.  I am likely to find evidence to the contrary on that note, but so far, I’m seeing evidence of  ‘reduces technical barriers to e-learning’.

Now that we have healthy competition in the mobile realm, and products have arrived at a good level of usability, I believe we will see those ‘barriers to e-learning’ continue to fall.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

JISC. (2011). Mobile Learning infokit / Home. Retrieved August 22, 2012, from


Introducing Places

Welcome to the first blog post of Places, a new JISC Transformations Programme project being carried out at University of Leicester. There are different strands to the Transformations Programme projects. Places will be studying, within the strand of enhanced student experience, the use of iPads in several University of Leicester programmes — most notably, in the Criminology Masters in Security, Conflict, and International Development. In this distance learning programme, every student is sent an iPad and is given instructions to download a custom-made app for the course. Students taking part in this programme are located anywhere in the world, and often in conflict zones. We thought ‘Places’ would be an appropriate project name, highlighting the ‘anywhere’ affordance of mobile technology in learning.

Troops in Iraq making use of mobile technology.             Photo courtesy of The USO.

The first stage of the project is to examine the literature and learn from mobile-technology-in-learning projects that have gone before us. I am reading the final reports of JISC projects such as iBorrow, in which students could borrow laptops short-term for learning in the library at Canterbury Christ Church University, and also Project Erewhon at University of Oxford, which investigated the uses of geo-spacial and mobile computing in both higher and further education.

Of course, we will be very much informed by our own DUCKLING project which ran from 2008 through 2010, and which studied amongst other innovations the use of ebook readers as a course material delivery device for distance masters students. I was learning technologist on DUCKLING, and saw close-up the difficulties and successes of the approach, from the points of view of both staff and students. I am very much looking forward to similarly evaluating the use of iPads in our criminology and other programmes.

I created a Mendeley group called MobileLearn HE in which I’m gathering reports, journal articles, case studies, and blog posts on this topic. The group is public and I welcome you to join in. Please suggest case studies and papers you know of, on the topic of mobile learning in HE. Or suggest a case study or example via the comments below!

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester