Improving m-Learning Experience

Recently I made a course in Moodle designed to help faculty develop skills in instructional technology. The course is asynchronous online and mobile friendly. But from a mobile perspective, the user experience is not all that great especially with smartphones. You can access the content and search for information but it doesn’t allow learners to complete assignments. Assignments were entries for online discussions, blogs, evaluate an online tool, create screencast, and design a blended lesson. Educause (2015) stated one of the problems with mobile learning is that it doesn’t allow students to create meaningful learning experiences even though ownership continues to rise. A part of this is due to a lack of proper infrastructure and faculty development in utilizing this technology. A problem that I see has to do with the physical size – small keyboard and screen size. The keyboard makes it impossible to do any kind of writing except for phrases and a few sentences.  The screen size could also make it difficult to view fine details such as texts, images, or videos.

One idea to further explore is a voice-to-text app. This would allow users to review literature and jot down their ideas using their voice. The user could then focus on using the keyboard to do editing rather than writing. Previously I tested a desktop version of this tool to transfer sections of a reading passage to a word document so that I could use the tools within Microsoft Word. The flow from voice to text was pretty smooth, and so the experience should be similar on a smartphone because the microphones are just as capable if not better. Google Doc has a voice-to-text app built into their desktop application but have yet to add it to their mobile version (Note: they do have a keyboard/speech recognition app). Until that occurs you can download this tool from other companies. One thing that could affect usability would be how well the software can recognize speech.

Second problem that came up while viewing the mobile course was reading PDF documents. These are primarily designed for devices with large screens and so reading them with a smartphone was not practical. It is possible to copy the text from a PDF document and paste it into a two-column word processing document to improve legibility but it doesn’t help if the documents have charts or images because these don’t transfer. It would seem logical that mobile PDF readers would have some sort of responsive feature built into them. There is a way to create responsive documents using an authoring software like Adobe Captivate and so this would be option for creating documents in the future, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the answer for existing documents.

For educators who are interested in developing a better user experience for mobile learning, they should consider the smallest device first. The largest number of mobile device ownership is the smartphone (Educause, 2015) and so this could mean the greatest potential impact for learning. The learning platform and interactions would probably have to be redesigned specifically for smartphones so that it will allow them to do higher order thinking. An example of this was done by educators in Singapore who redesigned elementary science lessons, which allowed students to do all learning activities using a smartphone. They called it Mobile Learning Environment and the results showed that students had higher achievement (Norris, Hossain, & Soloway, 2011). The idea would essentially do the same thing for adult learning. For adults, who have bigger hands and fingers, it would mean incorporating different activities to accommodate this but also in the way that they learn.

Educause stated that top three uses for mobile devices were social networking, music, and games. Education was #14. Educational uses were to search for information, access courses, communicate with students and teachers, and using educational apps. Because social networking is number one, better understanding how this could be used for learning would be a must. My personal experience has been to access content to learn about the opinions of others, asking for help from a community, and/or learn about a technology. Communication is another major purpose using the phone and instant messaging, although from personal experience as a graduate student at Boise State we didn’t uses it for this purpose. Live meetings and chats were not emphasized because it was an asynchronous online course. Many educators have touted Twitter to be very useful for communications and other educational activities. More planning should be done to better understand this tool to see how it can develop both social and cognitive presence.

TATA Ineractive Systems (2013) stated that the top two places that mobile learning occurs is on the couch and in bed. The home was a popular place with other locations being cited inside the house. The home does provide an ideal situation for learning: the environment is comfortable, stable internet connection, and usually free from distractions. But it complicates the process of designing effective learning experiences for a smartphone because a laptop or desktop computer would seem to be more effective and just as convenient. It could be that they like the convenience of moving to different locations at will. The other idea is that they are not really studying and instead are using the mobile device for entertainment activities. Other places that students like to study are library and outdoors when the weather was nice. In Korea, I often see studying done in coffee shops and learning academies, which has an environment that’s similar to a school. To determine effective learning for smartphones, the studying location should be identified. Also important to know is if serious learning can be done using a smartphone. This can be influenced by the subject or work. Some learning may be ideal especially if it requires the person to be outside.

The article from TATA made a reference to Bob Mosher’s and Conrad Gottfredson’s Five phases of Learning. Mobile learning is well suited for phase 2, learning to learn more using the internet to search for information. Phase 3 was to apply knowledge and the challenge is to find an effective way to do this with a smartphone. The recommended practices for mobile learning was to make it simple and in small chunks (TATA). I like the ideas of smaller chunks but making it simple to me, is not the answer. Smartphones are sophisticated technology and so learning should be designed to match the technology. The fact that people would rather use mobile devices at home instead of laptop or desktop indicates that they prefer to learn this way.

Learning with smartphones

Advantages: lightweight and most portable among mobile devices, comfortable, great for accessing and viewing content, searching for information, plenty of productivity apps, communication through video, phone, messaging; data storage

Disadvantages: keyboard is inconvenient, screensize could be a problem, multitasking not as fluid

Goal and ideas are to see if we can use smartphones to create learning activities and experiences that are more than just searching and accessing information. It should require an application of knowledge, practicing, creating, analyze.

Ideas: use discussion board with higher frequency but reduce length of each entry; design a lesson using a smartphone.

Idea: develop a course that focuses specifically social networking and specifically designed for smartphones and so it creates a unique experience from a tablet or laptop.



D’souza, T. (2013). Creating mobile learning that works. TATA Interactive Systems. Retrieved from

Chen, B., Seihamer, R., Bennet, L., & Bauer, S. (2015). Student’s mobile learning practices in higher education: A multi-year study. Educause Review. Retrieved from

Norris, C., Hossain, A., Soloway, E. (2011). Using smartphones as essential tools for learning. Educational Technology May-June. Retrieved

  • Mobile learning environment: used by singaporean school; redesigned lesson so all activities could be done on smartphone: activities focused on collaboration, self-directed learning, inquiry based learning
  • Better achievement: reasons were students could learn and do all assignments on their smartphones and spend more time learning.
  • smartphone is the idea tool due to portability; better laptops
  • schools in U.S. showed that use mobile have more motivated students and higher achievements

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