A framework for mobile learning

In order to move from theory to practice in mobile learning, one needs a framework. The JISC Mobile InfoKit introduces its frameworks discussion by listing six ‘course aspects’ (my term) which may be behind the drivers for mobile learning. The first four are pedagogical approaches. In sum, they are a pretty good, though not comprehensive, list of the ‘ideas behind the drivers’ toward mobile learning.

  • Behaviourist – activities promoting learning as a an observable change in behaviour
  • Constructivist – activities in which new concepts are actively constructed, based on a combination of previous and current knowledge
  • Situated – activities encouraging learning in an authentic context
  • Collaborative – activities encouraging learning through interaction with others
  • Informal and lifelong – learning activities outside dedicated, formal environments or curricula
  • Learning and teaching support – activities which help to coordinate learners and learning resources


As for the actual framework, three frameworks are presented in the JISC infokit. The one which makes the most sense to me is Koole’s Model for Framing Mobile Learning (2009). The model is called FRAME: Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education.

Koole's FRAME mobile learning framework

Koole’s FRAME mobile learning framework

The model reveals that Koole defines mobile learning in terms of three distinct aspects: device, learner, and social, and what happens at the intersections of these aspects. One reason I find this interesting is because it reveals that mobile learning has a different accepted definition now than it did even six years ago. Six years ago, the first iPhone was released. Being the first very-popular smartphone, the iPhone ushered in this new definition of mobile learning: the social aspect was added. Until then, unless one counted networked laptop use as mobile learning, which would be valid, mobile learning was only about the device and its user. A mobile learner might be listening to lecture podcasts, or learning a skill from drill-and-practice instruction videos on an mp3 player with video, or doing something with a PDA. Now it was possible to connect with others by means a device which could be held in one’s hand. Furthermore, making this connection over phone networks increased the number of locations in which this full connectivity could happen.

Koole also furnished issues to be considered by institutions looking to incorporate mobile learning:

1. Consider how use of mobile devices might change the process of interaction between learners, between communities, between systems. This reminds me of the School of Education Masters in International Education course in which every student was sent an iPad. One way the students unexpectedly and spontaneously used their iPads was to video-Skype with each other and with their tutors. It also meant that students would accessing their Blackboard materials with their iPad, which immediately brought the Blackboard mobile app capabilities up for scrutiny.

2. Consider how learners may most effectively use mobile access to other learners, systems, and devices, to recognise and evaluate information and processes to achieve their goals.

3. Consider how learners can become more independent in navigating through and filtering information. Our university’s medical school is seriously considering furnishing one iPad per undergraduate student. One of the goals is to give students more immediate access to core medical ebook texts, and encourage independent learning.

4. Consider how the roles of teachers and learners will change and how to prepare them for that change. I would add that the role of administrators will change as well. It may be administrators who are asked why the YouTube video works fine on the VLE on a desktop, but not on a tablet. Our institution was surprised to have to deal with customs officials in different countries, all reacting differently to the presence of an iPad to be shipped to a student, and it was administrators who had to help them to deal with it.

It is my hope that one output of this Places project will be a checklist of issues which may help a course team to decide whether and how to implement mobile learning, and to give them an idea of the kind of unexpected issues that may arise. I anticipate that the six course aspects at the beginning of this blog post will feature in the checklist, as they are a good summary of the kinds of things educators wish to achieve by including mobile in learning.

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

JISC InfoNet. (2011). Emerging Practice in a Digital Age (Mobile Learning Info Kit) (pp. 1-65). Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/digiemerge (Or: https://mobilelearninginfokit.pbworks.com/w/page/41122430/Home)
Koole, M. (2009a). Chapter 2: A Model for Framing Mobile Learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training (Vol. 1, pp. 25-47). Edmonton, Alberta: AU Press. Free download: http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120155