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Mobile Teaching and Learning Good Practice: 2008-2009 Case Study

Title of Case Study: Connect to Succeed Institution: The Grimsby Institute Author: Tracey Mace Date: Keywords: retention, achievement, accessibility, mobile technologies Learning context: FEclassroom, workshop, work-based Technologies used: Nokia N810 Internet Tablets, vehicle based mobile Wifi routers (using 3G network)

Introduction/overview : The Connect to Succeedproject run by the Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education utilised mobile technology to improve retention and achievement within identified curriculum areas, through improved accessto learning resources across the campus. This accessutilised hand-held devices and new accessibility via WiFi on the Institute fleet of coachesand buses, which are used daily by learners who travel from rural locations up to 50 miles away. The project allowed the Institute to purchase mobile internet tablets for 250 learners, WiFi routers for 10 of the mobile fleet and build m-learning to enable students to accesscourse information on the Institute’s VLE, Moodle, the internet and in user group portals created for their courses.

Intended outcomes: Improving retention and achievement was the pivotal focus of the project and participants of the MoLeNet research project included a total of 95 learners and 13 tutors from the curriculum areas of Brick, Hospitality and Business.Action research methods were used to ensure the project was not a tick box exercise as a result of receiving funds but to encourage the dissemination of the potential benefits and usefulnessof mobile learning.

Addressing the challenge: Learners used the Nokia devices in a variety of different environments both whilst at the Institute and at their work places. The devices were used to capture materials for portfolios, research using the Internet and for communication with both tutors and other learners using the Institute’s Moodle VLE, Skype, text messaging and e-mail.

Outcomes and Benefits : One of the key benefits to the project has been the initial development of tutor and learner

Fig 1: Institute staff and students with mentor Mick Mulane try out one of the wifi enabled coaches

learning communities which had already been identified strategically by the Institute, as a staff development need for all tutors, subsequently reinforced by the new Ofsted CIF framework published for the new cycle commencing September 2009. Although in the early stagesof infancy the use of mobile technologies has proved pivotal for the Institute in kick starting the response to this strategy.

Learners’ reactions: Feedback from learners was positive on the whole. Learners were instrumental in finding new ways to use the Nokia tablets to enhance their own learning. Quotes from learners relating to the Nokia N810 included: “ I have to travel every weekend and stay in a hotel. What I found from the tablet is that it is very compact and can hold all the work that you want.”

Fig 2: Nokia N810 Internet Tablet

“I have found it beneficial and useful, such as using it to check e-mail when not at home. I have also found the loading times on websites to be quick. The user interface is also easy to comprehend”

Teachers’ reactions: Tutors were keen to be involved with the project from the outset and took every opportunity to make use of the Nokia Tablets in their delivery whether it be gathering content for portfolios, research or communication. Comments from tutors included: “Having the device has given students flexibility to accessthe Internet and Moodle wherever they are” “One of the advantagesis that the device is quite small and discreet but allows accessto the Internet without students having to go to the Library and find a free PC”

Key messages and lessons learned: Ongoing support for learners and tutors is essential – both in using the devices and, particularly for tutors, how to integrate the use of mobile devices into teaching and learning to enhance the learner experience. We were aware from an early stage that the sudden increase in wifi usage in specific areas may stretch the existing campus wide wireless network so it was essential that at the very beginning of the ‘live’ phase of the project that this was evaluated and all necessary upgrades completed as a priority.

Next steps: From the very beginning Grimsby Institute saw this project as the start of a longer term project to integrate mobile technologies into teaching and learning. As we enter the next academic year six additional departments successfully pitched to join the project – all departments were given the chance with the simple message‘Innovation’.