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An Introduction to Mobile Learning Muh Tamimuddin H

A. Introduction Nowadays, mobile devices have had more sophisticated features more than just communication tools. Now, they are capable to run application softwares and to connect to the resources on the internet. Meanwhile, numbers of mobile subscriber around the world are rapidly growing due to the trend of cheaper devices and lower comunication costs. These facts open a great opportunity to develop a mobile-based applications software for a mobile and wireless learning. This paper explores the stages of developing a mobile application to assist mathematics learning using J2ME technology.

Great numbers of people around the world have become mobile users and the numbers are still rapidly growing. In the other hand, mobile devices have more cheaper in price but more sophisticated capabilities from playing multimedia, taking pictures and connect to internet. Indeed, range of cellular network has a more wide area coverage and the services are getting better. These facts lead to develop a learning model based on mobile technology called mobile learning (m-learning) and enabling the awaiting dream: “Learning at any place, at any time�.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have undergone dramatic changes in the last decades, providing new opportunities for many sectors. This rapid development of ICT contributes to the increasing abilities and availability of the mobile devices and wireless communications. Convergent the technologies are already reshaping many industries and sectors. They are changing how, when and where people communicate, transact business and access information for a wide range of reasons including learning and education.

Mobile learning or m-Learning promising a new form of learning using the advantages of mobile devices and communication technology. Since the traditional education is made in classrooms where the teacher presents the learning material to a group of students and they must physically participated, m-Learning gives the more flexibility in where and when learning happens. M-Learning gives real independence of time and space more than one in e-learning. Elearning does not fulfill these independence as the basic requirement of the learning is a personal

computer (PC). M-Learning enables a learning to happen anytime anywhere we want to learn with the basic need is only a mobile device as the core of the learning media. Besides, the prices of mobile devices is getting cheaper and has got more sophisticated feature. Indeed, range of sellular network has more wide area coverage and the services are getting better.

However, m-learning has consequences especially in the capabilities of mobile devices and their restrictions due to the limitations of the computing resources. Mobile devices have limited power, processors, screen size, input possibilities and the availability of the wireless network resources. Thus, the development of a m-Learning system must consider those restrictions due to maximize the reach of the learning goals.

B. M-Learning The term mobile learning (m-learning) refers to the use of mobile and handheld IT devices, such as PDAs, mobile phones, laptops and tablet PCs, in teaching and learning[1].

In providing a definition of mobile learning one is faced with tensions between functionality and mobility. The technologies involved in e-learning and m-learning (computers, laptop computers, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants)/handhelds/ palmtops, smartphones and mobile phones can be arranged on a continuum:

Fig 1. Relationship of m-learning to e-learning

Many experts on mobile learning, especially in the United States of America, include laptop computers in their definition of mobile learning, but others disagree. The reason for who disagree is considering that it is the degree of mobility that is the defining element in mobile learning, even if one has to sacrifice functionality. Therefore, the term mobile learning should be limited to education and training on devices one can comfortably carry around, in oneâ€&#x;s hand or in oneâ€&#x;s pocket, and then exclude laptop computers [Keegan].

Nowadays the technologies become more portable, affordable, effective and easy to use. This provides many opportunities for widening participation in and access to learning technology, and in particular the internet. Mobile devices such as phones and PDAs are much more reasonably priced than desktops, and therefore represent a less expensive method of accessing the internet.

Mobile devices also have more flexibility in access due to the wide range area of cellular services. It can be an alternative solution for rural areas that have lack internet connectivity.

M-Learning is a form of existing d-Learning (distance learning) and e-Learning (electronic learning). Historically the distance education has more than one hundred years of experience and traditions. It's main characteristic is the distance and time separation between teacher and students. The e-Learning offers new methods for instance education based on computer and net technologies. Simultaneous to e-Learning the other forms of d-Learning still exist (for example satellite based d-Learning).

Fig 2. m-Learning as subset of e-Learning and d-Learning.

M-learning advantages. m-learning provides independence of the learning. This means the learner can take learning opportunities directly in the situation where they occur, because he has his learning environment always in hand. Moreover, the widespread availibility of the cellular network services will enable learning at anytime and any places.

M-learning offers the possibility to arrange learning settings flexibly and spontaneously, helps organisational skills , encourage a sense of responsibility, helps both independent and collaborative learning, and can be used to help track studentsâ€&#x; progress and for assessment [Laroussi].

Some advantages of m-learning including: 

Ensures all students have equal access

Interaction and collaboration

Creation of a learning community

Access to a variety of online resources

Enhances self-directed learning

Enhances learning by making technology ubiquitous throughout the educational experience

Employers are demanding technical skills

Classification M-Learning systems can be classified into several types[Georgieva]. According to the information and communication technologies the proposed classification is based on the following main indicators: 

the type of supported mobile devices - notebooks, TabletPCs, PDAs, cell phones or

smart phones; the type of wireless communication which is used to access learning materials and

administrative information - GPRS, GSM, IEEE 802.11, Bluetooth, IrDA.

Fig 3. M-Learning classification

According to the educational technologies the proposed classification is based on the following main indicators: 

support of synchronous and/or asynchronous education;

support of e-learning standards;

availability of permanent Internet connection between the mobile learning system and the users;

location of the users;

access to learning materials and/or administrative services.

According to the time when the teachers and the students share information with each other the mobile learning systems can be classified as follows: 

Systems, which support synchronous education. These systems give the ability to students to communicate in real time with teachers and other students. More often for this purpose voice communication and chat are used. More rarely a video communication is used.

Systems, which support asynchronous education. In these systems the students can‟t communicate in real time with teachers and other students. More often email and/or SMS are used to send asynchronous information.

Systems, which support synchronous and asynchronous education.

At present there are no m-learning specifications and standards. This is the reason to include in our classification the indicator about support of e-Learning specifications and standards. According to indicator about support of e-Learning specifications and standards the m-learning systems are divided in: 

M-learning systems which don‟t support e-learning specifications and standards

M-learning systems which support e-learning specifications and standards.

The next classification examines mobility as access to learning materials and administrative services with the dependence on the location of the users and permanent Internet connection availability. Depending on the necessary of permanent Internet connection between the mobile learning system and the users to reproduce the teaching materials on mobile device the existing mobile learning systems can be divided in the following way: 

Systems for on-line mobile learning. These systems require permanent communication between the system and users‟ mobile devices.

Systems for off-line mobile learning. The learning material is uploaded in the users‟ mobile device. There is no need of wireless communication between mobile learning system and mobile devices.

Systems, which ensure both on-line and off-line mobile learning. The access to the part of the learning materials is on-line while the access to the remaining materials is off-line.

Depending on the location of the users the mobile learning systems can be divided to three groups: 

On-campus systems, which can be accessed inside the universities, schools and companies. The typical access to such system is by using laptop computers or Tablet PCs and via wireless network of the educational institution.

Off-campus systems, which can be accessed outside the universities, schools and companies. The access to these systems is realised by pocket size computers (PDA), cell phones or smart phones as these devices support long distance wireless communications and offer more mobility than laptop computers and Tablet PCs.

Systems, which can be accessed both from inside and outside the educational institutions.

Depending on the access to learning materials and/or administrative services existing systems can be divided to the next three groups: 

Systems for mobile learning which support an access to the educational content

Systems for mobile learning which support an access to the educational administrative services.

Mobile learning systems which support an access to the learning materials as well as access to the educational organisation administrative services.

Figure 4. Mobile Learning Devices


Limitations of m-learning including: 

The limited processing power and resources

The variety of screen sizes and resolutions limits the amount of information that can be displayed.

The lack of input devices reduce the device‟s usability.

The limited storage size

The intermittent connection network

The limitations of device lead to the conclusion that not every mobile phone is suitable for mobile learning application software and need some solutions to overcome this problems and emerges some challenges to be addressed.

The Possibilities for Mobile Learning When mobile learning first arrived on the scene about 10 years ago, it was thought to be like elearning except on a smaller screen. That is, educational material was packaged as courses, and tests were given on mobile phones. 10 years later, there are many new developments in mobile learning, some of which have the potential of being highly disruptive of how teaching and learning has traditionally been carried out. Here are 10 new possibilities for mobile learning [Woodil]: 1. Micro-blogging and social media on mobile devices 2. Data Collection and Information Retrieval 3. Augmented Reality 4. Mobile Gaming and Virtual Worlds 5. Contextual learning and personalization 6. Rich media production and playback 7. Performance support and coaching 8. Multimodal input 9. Aggregated inputs 10. Self-organized collective behavior

Fig 5. The Possibilities for mobile learning [Woodil].

C. M-Learning Application Development Mobile Learning Content Adaptation

Mobile learning content has a different characteristics from e-learning or conventional learning. Due to the limitations of the device m-learning content has to be adapted.

Mobile learning also has unique learners and environtments. In m-learning environment, learners rather use the application during the spare time or in the „idle periods‟ i.e. while they are waiting bus or sitting in restaurant. It makes a learning process should allow to be possibly disrupted or stopped abruptly as well as to continue anytime. It also indicated that learning process has only could happen in a limited amount of time. In addition, learners rather enjoy the learning process with their mobile devices in less than 5 minutes. The limited learning time and the small screen size leads to the requirement that each learning contents should be structured in small and homogenous information chunks and each should be fit one screen and easy to read. The screen size also limits the amount and type of information that can be displayed and, thus, requires the adaptation of presentation data, scrolling and navigation elements.

In e-learning, learner can use a keybord which has more rich input capabilities. Meanwhile mobile device has got only limited keys. It is needed to develop a click-centered application than type centered one [Morita].

Another m-learning restriction is the lack of network connectivity. Though cellular network has a wide range of services, mobile learners posibbly move around the unpredicted places. Since the coverage services of network operators differ from one area to the others and sometimes even lost, a m-learning application might not have suitable signal connectivity to access an online learning resources in anyplace. It is needed to develop application that can handle information stored in the device‟s storage rather than „always connected‟ one. Stored content reasonably easy to be accessed anywhere, even when learners are outside the coverage service area.

Mobile learning facilitates an easier and natural way for learners to consume information, one that works well with human memory and today‟s shorter attention spans in a noisy and crowded information world. Instead of just dumping information on learners, we have an opportunity to guide them by structuring content by how our brains process information. Structure the new information in small, related chunks so it is optimized for working memory. Don‟t overload the working memory with irrelevant content. If you have lots of unrelated facts, then turn bits into chunks. Bundle facts, proof points, and rules into relevant chunks of associated data to facilitate learning and retention [Brink]. E-learning need not be a 45-minute lecture, but can bring together an active and engaging combination of short videos, audio snippets, games, performance tools, activities, chats, and discussions tailored to a person‟s learning style. This active learning is not only more fun but also more effective. The Research Institute of America found that 33 minutes after a lecture is completed, students retain only 58 percent of the material covered. By the second day, 33 percent is retained, and at the end of three weeks, only 15 percent of the knowledge is retained. When one practices, collaborates, and applies the concepts, however, retention rises significantly. Here are some tips on how to use chunks in mobile learning content [Brink]: 

Focus on what matters.Think 80/20 and zone in on the key topic areas that will make the biggest difference.

Reinforce or build up prior knowledge. Consider a short video case study, demo, or podcast to help learners gain context and integrate prior experience. Case studies, short simulations, and practice exercises are good when they combine old and new information to build on the learner‟s knowledge.

Encourage investigation. Provide resources, references, "what would you do?" scenarios, videos, and podcasts to create an ideal environment for personal exploration and investigation.

Grab interest. Make learners want to find out more by starting out with a suspenseful scenario that learners need to solve. Creating emotion and mystery is a great motivator.

Present the benefits. In two minutes or less, present “what‟s in it for them.” Provide a compelling statement about how they will become more productive, reduce error, or increase sales by X percent, etc., by taking the training.

Facilitate sharing. Sharing knowledge and experience through informal networks is a motivating and natural way to learn. Blogs, forums, short videos, podcasts, and chunks of information facilitate sharing by peers and reinforce learning.

Make it real.Build in opportunities to practice, and make mistakes, in a safe environment through realistic goal-based scenarios, with coaching and support. Create short exercises and real-world scenarios that help learners apply the new information into a workplace context.

Stimulate the mind. Ask thought-provoking questions and offer problems that don‟t have one right answer. Challenge learners to think about competing objectives, exceptions to a rule and to question conventional wisdom.

Content Development

Mobile applications can be created in several forms. For example a web-based application, i.e. WAP, or x-HTML for online internet-based application. For offline applications that can be installed on the phone it must be an software applications speifically designed for mobile devices such as Java, Symbian apps, Flash Lite, etc. Some programming language skills would be the requirement to create the applications. For creating mobile applications instantly and no need programming skills, we can use several tools. One of the tools to create mobile book application is mjBookMaker.


The mobile application could be transferred directly to a mobile device via cable, Infra red, or bluetooth an then installs the application. But not all mobile devices support this kind of installation. The most popular of application distribution is publishing the application in a webserver and then a device downloads the application via OTA (over the air) provisioning. But, unfortunately, the OTA download will be charged by network operator for the amount data transfer. When applications available in internet they are could be downloaded from anywhere using cellphones or computer.

References: Keegan, Desmond, Mobile Learning: The Next Generation of Learning, 2005, Laroussi, Mona, New E-Learning Services Based on Multimedia and Ubiquitous Computing, 2004, Georgieva, Evgeniya, Angel Smrikarov, Tsvetozar Georgiev , General Classification of Mobile Learning, 2005, Masayasu Morita, The Mobile-based Learning (MBL) in Japan, Brink, Julie, Tips for making learning more manageable and easier to integrate into long-term memory, 2010, Woodill, Gary, Webinar Presentation:10 New Possibilities with Mobile Learning, 2009,

introduction to mml