Wilson and Bolliger (2013) provide an overview of the educational opportunities for the implementation of mobile learning, or m-learning as they call it, for educators in the allied health fields. After providing a brief introduction of the ubiquitous use of mobile devices in general, as well as the reluctance of educators to embrace the use of mobile devices as a learning tool, the authors go on to explain the basic elements and characteristics of mobile learning and how it can be effectively applied in the allied health education. Wilson and Bollier (2013) also address the challenges and drawbacks that can be faced when implementing mobile learning strategies.
There are potential advantages to implementing learning activities using mobile devices. The learning experience can be created to be more inquiry-driven by the learners, since they have the ability to research answers and collect data on their own or in groups. Instructors can create structured but more informal learning opportunities and work in asynchronous collaborative groups not only outside of the classroom, but possibly within the context of their job, since learning is not location-specific.
Particularly for learners in the allied health fields, mobile learning offers performance support and just-in-time instruction within the context of their work. For example, before performing a task related to their clinical specialty, they can review a brief video of the specific task and how to implement it, or receive a checklist to aid in their performance of the task. Reinforcing material or questions can be regularly sent to a learner’s mobile device to assess learning. This type of reinforcement was part of a pilot program at the American Council on Exercise (ACE), where it was a major success in terms of participation by learners (Philbrook, R. n.d.).
Wilson and Bolliger (2013) also note that mobile devices can also be useful in a classroom environment, by allowing learners to use mobile devices to research information, facilitate real-time collaboration or discussion or use surveys and quizzing on a mobile device to assess learning quickly.
Wilson and Bolliger (2013) also address some of the potential challenges for using mobile devices in educational settings. First is the issues of designing for a wide array of mobile devices, where there is no standardization among platforms. Educators need to be aware of third party services which may alleviate this problem, or be able to address the technical needs of using a standard, compatible streaming solution.
There is also the limitations of mobile device screen sizes, which can influence the types of learning activities that are possible in a given context. Consideration should be given to how long the activities will be and how much interaction is necessary or possible depending on the size of the mobile screen.
Battery life, connectivity and the ability to download (or not) to a mobile device is also a potential drawback for implementing mobile learning and should be considered in the design of learning materials. Other potential challenges, or design considerations, are the lack of printing capability for most people from a mobile device and technical support which might be needed to complete learning activities on a mobile device.
Positive Contribution to Society
In terms of analyzing this information related to how mobile learning can have a positive impact on society, using mobile devices in allied health education allows for learning and performance support in the context where a learner will be applying the knowledge and skills typically learned in a classroom setting. Taking these ideas a step further, by integrating the technical knowledge and skill that many already use for personal social networking, such as using Twitter or YouTube, collaborative and social performance support can also be readily accessed at the time of need in a learning situation. Using mobile devices for learning can increase the implementation and assessment of more informal learning opportunities which can enhance skill development and practical application of the material.
Once such example of using mobile devices to manage, implement and assess skill development and informal learning opportunities is the use of the learning experience manager, TREK. This is a platform designed to use mobile devices, in the context of the workplace to teach and assess. As technology advances, this type of platform will be a benefit to any occupation requiring education or training related to practical skill development and mobile devices will be the best way to implement this type of training. Wilson and Bolliger’s (2013) review of the practical applications of mobile learning in allied health education provides additional insight into the future advantages and challenges for mobile learning.
More about TREK and teacher education
Philbrook, R. (n.d.). [ACE Essentials of Exercise Science Mindmarker Report]. Unpublished raw data.
Wilson, M., & Bolliger, D. U. (2013). Mobile Learning: Endless Possibilities for Allied Health Educators. Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, 29(5), 220–224. doi:10.1177/8756479313503734