Mobile or m-learning involves the use of broadband connected devices – smart phones, tablet devices, e-readers, and laptop computers – so that students can connect to learning opportunities either synchronously or asynchronously from anywhere in the world. The mobility has two dimensions - the students are not restricted to a classroom or any other physical location, and the devices are easily portable and usable for communication and collaboration, as well as information delivery.
Mobile learning is a fast growing, especially in developing countries. According to Ambient Insight Research, the world-wide mobile learning market was worth $538 million in 2007, but is growing at close to 23% each year and will be worth $9.1 billion by 2015 (it passed the $3 billion in 2010). In 2012, the North America market was worth $1.4 billion. The Canadian market is growing more quickly at 20.8% than the more mature US market at 6.1%.
Mobile learning for apprenticeship, college and university courses enables students to connect to each other, to course materials and to their instructors anytime, anywhere, as well as to engage in real-time classroom-like activities using video and audio conference services. It also permits assessment activities through secure systems and instant feedback. According to the NMC Horizon Report 2012 Higher Education Edition, mobile apps are the fastest growing dimension of the mobile space in higher education right now, with impacts on virtually every aspect of informal life, and increasingly, every discipline in the university.
Colleges and universities have developed apps for teaching and learning, for student support, and strategies for fully mobile institutions:
- Algonquin College in Ontario has positioned itself as a “Digital College”, with about 140 mobile programs as of September 2013 and a goal to be 100% mobile by 2015. The Mobile Learning project means that all students in the program are expected to have a mobile computing device that meets their program requirements. All students are given access to a suite of software packages and online resources, as well as those specific to their programs. The educational applications vary from program to program. The college website provides links for students and faculty to resources, information, and support services.
- Canberra College of Technology in Australia is using video glasses to capture apprenticeship activities (e.g. welding, carpentry, electrical installation) in real time for review either in real time or later. Apprentices undertake work assignments in the workplace wearing the video recording glasses and their instructors review the resultant video with the apprentices.
- George Brown College in Ontario offers an example of a mobile application for English language learning.
- The Justice Institute of British Columbia has developed apps for its Incident Command System, Emergency Social Services, and hazardous materials awareness.
- Nipissing University in Ontario has been working with mobile applications in its School of Business and as part of the University Success course, as well as testing platforms for the development of its own apps.
- OCAD University in Ontario recently released a 5-year Mobile Action Plan to improve productivity, competitiveness, and public services in Ontario. The implications for post-secondary education are considered in detail.
- Queen’s University in Ontario has just developed a new app to improve communication between students and their professors.