Gadgets that access the internet are becoming more and more popular as they become more affordable. Several companies have released smartphones comparable to the iPhone (e.g. Samsung Galaxy) and several tablets are also on the market. Although the first impulse is to look at these gadgets just for entertainment purposes, the idea of mobile learning (m-learning) is gaining traction and actually becoming a reality. In fact, it is the fastest growing area of e-learning and has the huge benefit of mobility. What we thought mobility meant for e-learning (the ability to easily collaborate with people from all over the world) is multiplied a thousandfold in m-learning, where you have the opportunity to learn without being at a desk or even at to be tied to a desk a peg.
If m-learning hasn’t been taken seriously until now, tablets are making it seem like the next big thing in distance learning. Tablets are now being bought by companies for their oil and gas and construction workers. The numbers are also increasing for the tablets used in higher education. Apparently, the first million iPads were sold in the first week after publication.
Some of the tablets available now have features designed to impact the 21st century learning experience. Of course, the best example would be the iPad 2, which includes applications like MathBoard – quizzes for kids from kindergarten through elementary school; Solar System – interactive 3D tour of the galaxy; Introduction to Letters by Montessorium – Learning sounds and phonograms; Shakespeare in bits – animated illustrations and translations into modern languages Romeo and Juliet; Virtual History, Roma – 3D reconstructions of Ancient Rome etc. The iPhone4 also comes with a range of educational applications such as National Geographic – explore every corner of the world; New Oxford American Dictionary – with more than 250,000 entries; Cliffs Notes – reviews of great literary works; Periodic – the compact periodic table and so on.
While these applications are educational and useful, there are very few Learning Management Systems (LMS) supported by mobile devices. Some platforms such as emTrain, Element K, Sum Total and Blackbord Learn offer applications available on iTunes for use on handheld devices. However, there are no easy-to-use (quick) content authoring tools. Very few vendors offer web conferencing tools as downloadable applications. The importance of tools available as applications is that the user can access them faster. For example, if someone wants to create a quiz on the iPad, they’d rather search iTunes for “quiz” than Google for “Create a Quiz M-Learning.” Moodle is an open source LMS alternative that works very well on the iPad. The Moodle system itself is not in Flash and the input fields are very accessible for end users and administrators.
Apple knew how to capitalize on such an opportunity in the market and brought iTunes U with them, where the U stands for “university”. This provides institutions with a home for all their digital content, created by educators and available for download on Macs, PCs, iPhones and iPads. Since students know they already use iTunes and are familiar with the environment, it’s easy to incorporate some educational apps. Of course, iTunes U is accessible to all students.
For educators big and small who want to get content online quickly, there are other options. With your own LMS, you can make your content accessible to a large audience. Using an open source platform like Moodle, as mentioned earlier, could be a real time saver when it comes to getting your content out to the masses. Note: Apple’s iTunes store approval process can be difficult to navigate and time-consuming.
Thanks to Michael Roberts Jr