Editor’s Note: This research explores for graduate-student’s perception of mobile learning in educational sciences. The results show positive interest, especially where these devises are familiar to and used by students. It also shows that training may be valuable for those with lesser experience.
Graduate Students’ Perceptions Toward Mobile-Learning (M-Learning) at the University of Jordan
Faisal M. Khwaileh and Abdelmuhdi Ali AlJarrah
The purpose of this study was to investigate the graduate students’ perceptions toward M-learning, in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the
In the short space of five years, mobile learning (M-learning) has moved from being a theory, explored by academic and technology enthusiasts, into a real and valuable contribution to learning (Stead, 2005). The term “ M-learning “ or “ Mobile learning “ refers to the use of handheld devices such as PDAs, mobile phones, laptops and any other handheld information technology devices that may be used in teaching and learning (Harriman, 2007).
In terms of differentiating between E-learning and M-learning some commentators see M-learning as being E-learning using mobile devices and wireless transmission. They also see M-learning as allowing learners to move away from the stand-alone computer, to interact with more devices with information being made accessible through a wireless connection to a server (Walton, Childs, & Blenkinsopp, 2005).
According to Stead (2005), countries such as United Kingdom, Italy, and Sweden have been using M-learning for educational purposes for years. They believe that M-learning will help to decrease the problems of young people’s literacy and numeracy. Moreover, they believe that M-learning can make learning fun, increase the motivation of students (especially those who hate studying at schools), and support lifelong learning.
In the UK, thousands of mobile handsets have been purchased as learning tools. User trials have successfully helped a wide range of hard-to-reach learners in many different contexts (Stead, 2005). Furthermore, many projects have been used for a long time to help people everywhere in the UK. Some of these projects are “math for those who do not like math”, “Using SMS to improve the basic skills of employees”, “Practice driving theory test on your mobile” (M-learning, 2007).
A report for the “Portio Research Corporation” showed that at the end of 2005 there were 2,129 billion phone users in the world. Also, the report expect that this number will increase to 4 billion users by 2010. On the other hand, users of mobile phones in the Middle East according to “Zawia Center for Research” became 75 million at the end of 2005 (Al-Tamimi, 2006). However, this number of users in the Middle East went up to 120 million by the end of 2006 according to (WCIS), (Al-Tamimi, 2007). Statistics show that mobile device adoption is not only widespread but also growing at a significantly fast rate (Zuga, Slaidins, Kapenieks, and Strazds, 2006).
As for the educational contexts, the mobile educational services and research are widely used in some countries and in leading educational institutions around the world like the University of Regensburg in Germany and the Technological University of Alberta, Canada. However, attempts to use mobile communication devices for education in some other countries like Bulgaria are still few and limited mainly to universities (Doneva, Kasakliev, & Totkov, 2006).
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) in Jordan found that 86% of Jordanian families have mobile phones, while 36% of them have computers (Asharq Alawsat, 2007). However, this fact is not just limited to Jordan. It may apply to many countries all over the world. In Austria, the market penetration of mobile phones is currently at a level of 81% and the numbers are still increasing. This means that the majority of the population, in general, and the younger, in particular, have a mobile phone available at hand most of the time. Considering this fact, M-learning can be an important instrument for lifelong learning (Holzinger, Nischelwitzer, & Meisenberger, 2007). Since the use of mobile phones and handheld devices among students has dramatically increased, implementation of M-Learning in academic institutions becomes an interesting and urgent need (Amin, Mahmood, Abidin, & Rahman, 2006).
Moreover, the widespread availability of mobile devices and wireless networks offer enormous opportunities for knowledge acquisition both in terms of interaction with sources of information and in terms of collaboration. Developments in microelectronics and telecommunication technologies provide continuing increase of processing power, improved interfaces, extended functionality, and fast, diverse wireless connectivity for mobile terminals. Combined with tendency to go down in price per unit and having advantage of being truly personal, mobile devices have a potential to become a valuable learning and information acquisition tool for everyone (Zuga, et al., 2006). Therefore, mobile technologies offer a tremendous opportunity to re-engage excluded individuals back into society through education, using technology to learn, especially people who feel excluded from traditional forms of education (Keefe, 2003).
M-Learning has the ability to provide rich mobile internet experiences that are accessible, rich in content, efficient, flexible, secure, reliable, and interactive. With the advancement of mobile technology, the traditional classroom-based learning that has been supplemented by other forms of education will be capable of reaching out to a larger audience. M-learning is expected to offer possible solutions that address the shortcomings of the traditional classroom-based education, and it can provide important opportunities for learning and collaborative interaction (Amin, et al., 2006 and Sung, 2005).
Advantages and disadvantages of M-learning
When E-learning was introduced few years ago, one of its biggest failings was the assumption that it could become a solution to all learning problems; that teachers will no longer be required, and that anything could be ‘E-taught‘. Success was only about broadcasting good quality learning materials. We now know that this is not true, and that good teachers, communication, collaboration and discovery activities are still essential for a successful class. The good news about M-learning is that it is possible to avoid making the same mistakes because the devices are much simpler and less powerful than PCs in E-learning (Stead, 2006).
Another reason for using M-learning is that the handheld devices provide a cheap alternative to the PC in a format that can easily be taken out into the workplace or wherever the learner needs to be (Whitsed 2004). Whitsed mentioned other advantages for M-Leaning for the medical students who are considered the greatest users of palmtops. He explains that the “major reason for using palmtops in medicine and health is the fact that they can be used anywhere”. He adds “there is evidence that a mobile workforce such as those employed in medicine and health professions may be using hand-held devices as ‘performance support, decision support and productivity tools’ with some 28% of USA physicians using mobile devices as an integral part of their daily work. Therefore, having material on your phone or palmtop means that it is always accessible to you. Whenever you have a spare five minutes, you can use it to practice some learning.
Wireless handheld devices (WHDs) encompass an array of tools such as, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and handheld gaming devices. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, have different operating systems and are used for a range of purposes. Despite the dissimilarities between them, they share five commonalities: 1) Connect ability – they connect to the Internet wirelessly, 2) Wear ability – they are wearable and therefore always at the fingertips of the user, 3) Instant Accessibility – they turn instantly on and off, 4) Flexibility – they can collect data by accommodating a wide variety of peripheral extensions, and 5) Economic Viability – they have much of the computing capability and expandable storage capacity of laptops at a fraction of the cost (Dieterle, 2005).
Most mobile devices are useful in education both as administration, organization and teaching aids for practitioners, and also as learning support tools for students. Moreover, there are some advantages of M-learning such as: portability where students can interact with each other. It is also much easier to accommodate several mobile devices in a classroom than several desktops because are lighter to carry anytime, anywhere. Mobile devices can be used at home, on the train, in hotels, as learning reference tool for quick access to data in the field (Riva and Villani, 2005). Therefore, the concept of mobility (anytime, anywhere- capabilities) of M-learning encourages learning experiences outside classroom-based environment as well as inside it. Inside the classroom, mobile devices provide students with the capabilities to link to activities that do not correspond with either the teacher’s agenda or the curriculum. Apart from that, lifelong learners would also need effective tools to record, organize, and reflect on their mobile learning experiences (Amin, et al., 2006). Finally, many educators consider the core advantage of mobile phones as the high availability of such devices (Holzinger, Nischelwitzer, & Meisenberger, 2007).
On the other hand, we should also consider some disadvantages linked to these technologies. One major disadvantage is the small screen that limits the amount and type of information displayed. Another disadvantage is that storage capacities are small in comparison with PCs and cannot be used by some applications. Moreover, the batteries used with these devices require regular charging, and a common platform is lacking (Riva and Villani, 2005). Many of these have no keyboards, connection speeds are slow, and the processing power of such devices is generally weaker than desktop devices (Stead, 2006).
Research question and aims
This study aimed at investigating the graduate students’ attitudes toward and perceptions of M-learning in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Jordan based on the graduate students’ knowledge and/or experience with M-learning. To achieve this purpose of the study, the researchers sought to answer the following question:
What are the attitudes of graduate students toward mobile learning (M-learning) at the University of Jordan?
Mobile learning (M-learning): is the use of handheld (mobile) devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, laptops and any other handheld information technology device that may be used in teaching and learning.
The research focuses on the attitudes of the graduate students in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, regardless of their awareness level of M-learning.
The research is restricted only to the graduate students in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Jordan.
The population of this study consisted of all graduate students in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Jordan during the fall semester of the academic year 2009/2010. There were (941) graduate students attending the MA’s and PhD’s programs. Table 1 shows the distribution of the population according to gender and study programs despite the fact that gender and study programs were not treated as variables in the study.
Distribution of population according to gender and study program
However, the researchers distributed the study instrument (a survey questionnaire) to 323 graduate students who were randomly selected from both programs as the sample for this study. The total number of the surveys received back was 314. Table 2 shows the distributions of participants according to their gender and study programs.
Distribution of sample according to gender and study program
A survey questionnaire developed by the researchers was utilized to collect data in order to investigate graduate students’ attitudes toward M-learning. The instrument consisted of 30 positively and negatively phrased statements to preclude any response set. Several items, used in other questionnaires from other studies, were re-phrased for this study to meet its purpose. A five point Likert scale was used (5= strongly agree – 1= strongly disagree) and was completed by the participants. The first draft of the questionnaire was sent to a panel of referees to determine its relevancy and validity. Minor changes were suggested by the referees. Upon re-examination of a second draft, consensus among the referees on the questionnaire’s design and validity indicated a strong validation of the statements used in the questionnaire. A correlation coefficient value (0.83), calculated on Alfa-Cronbach, was used to test the internal reliability of the questionnaire and it showed an acceptable reliability value. The statements of the questionnaire divided to three sections (axis), which are:
The score of the survey goes from 30-150, which is the number of statements multiplied by the lowest grade (1= strongly disagree) and by the highest grade (5= strongly agree) on each item. The score 90 which is approximately 60% of the total score for each statement is considered as the measure that indicates whether or not the student has a positive attitude.
Results and Discussion
The main purpose of this study was to investigate the graduate students’ perceptions toward M-learning in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Jordan. In other words, one of the aims of the study was to reveal whether or not there is an orientation toward this concept, regardless of its efficiency.
Descriptive and analytical statistics as well as the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) were used. The major findings for the opinion measures found in the questionnaire are reported in Table 3.
The results of the study also show that the highest percentage (80.73%) was for the first axis of the questionnaire “statements from 1-6 that measure the students’ willing to use M-learning.” This result reveals the fact that graduate students at the University of Jordan are really willing to use M-learning if it is available and implemented on and off the campus. This positive attitude might be based on the fact that almost all students know how to use such devices and that these are used by them on a daily basis. Therefore, a majority of students show a high number of positive attitudes towards M-leaning. This result agrees with the findings of other researchers (Amin, et al., 2006, Sung 2005, and Keefe 2003) that students become willing to use technology if they are used to using it before its application in the educational setting.
The second general mean score for the second axis “statements from 7-17 that measure the advantages of M-learning that support using it” was 80.36%. This result means that there is a general agreement among the students who see the bright side of M-learning and see its advantages as a good vehicle for learning. Such result could be valuable for the University of Jordan who might consider it as a source of support and encouragement for the adoption of M-leaning. That is because of the many advantages that the students perceive and that the students believe in these new methods of learning and teaching. In other words, in an era of change and evolution of every educational system around the world, the University of Jordan will anticipate that M-learning will be met with minimal internal resistance from the students.
Mean (M) and standard deviation (SD) concerning the items of the questionnaire
It is hoped that this study will contribute to a better understanding of graduate students’ perceptions toward introducing M-learning at the University of Jordan. Based on the results of this study, the researchers indicate that graduate students tend to view M-learning positively and that they are willing to use it. These findings are consistent with other research results presented in the current literature about the topic. Current literature indicates that training is necessary before students are exposed to M-learning. A clear strategy is therefore required prior to the implementation of M-learning. Moreover, the results of the study showed that Jordanian graduate students are well educated and updated with the modern high-tech devices used by educational institutions in the developed countries of the world. Also, students are not only knowledgeable about these high-tech devices but actually use them in their daily life matters. Therefore, it is advisable that this usage is transmitted to educational purposes.
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References in Arabic
Altamimi, N. (2006). Users of cellular phone are 2.5 billions by the end of this year. The
Altamimi, N. (2007). 1.15 billion cellular phone will be sold this year. The Middle East Newspaper, June 14th, 2007 Issue 10455. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from:
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About the Authors
Faisal M. Khwaileh received his Ph.D. from
Abdelmuhdi Ali Aljarrah received his Ph.D. from Colorado State University Fort Collins CO with a major in Education and Human Resource Studies and an emphasis in educational technology and distance education. He has taught from 2002 to the present as an assistant professor in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Jordan, Jordan.
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