WA11EL05 Access to Mobile Technology


Executive Summary


This was our first trial into the mobile learning space. We have learnt there is plenty of potential for mobile phones to support learning. We tried developing aids for a range of mobile phones but not one software is built for a specific operating system. Our conclusion is that mobile phones that you are creating content for has a large market share. These are IPhones and Androids operating system phones at the current time. The screen size is also an issue because there is a range of screen sizes

Background

New Online Learning (NOL) a registered training organisation (RTO) has identified the database unit, Operate a Database Application, as one that requires extra support, due to its difficulty, but also due to NOLs clientele's unique learning needs. The majority of clients are long term unemployed and disengaged. Many students are also Indigenous and/or youth and all live in the regional town of Geraldton or its surrounds. NOL have noted that students tend to struggle with this unit and consequently the completion rate is lower than desired.

It has been observed that students are quite reliant on mobile phones and NOL thought this may be a great vehicle for offering support to these students. NOL envisaged making instructional aides for their mobile phones to assist with the database unit, hopefully with the outcome of engaging learners and producing a significantly higher completion rate. It would also then be easier to create more m-learning instructional aides as the need arises in other units.

If this project were not funded, it is believed that the students would continue to struggle with the unit, with many of them not completing and growing further disenchanted with learning. Also, the desire to create further instructional aides via m-learning tools would be greatly lessened.


Our team consists of:

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New Online Learning CEO and

Trainer and Assessor

Robert McWilliam

robertmoz@newonlinelearning.com
08 9965 0950

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Graphic Designer and Relief Staff

Alida Oosthuizen

alidasa@hotmail.com

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Instructional Designer

Kay McAuliffe

design@redhousecreations.com.au
08 9964 8665


What was done


Early Preparations (2010)...

NOLs original goal was to use Android phones for the project using Google Appmaker for Android, with Android phones being a smart phone and NOLs target market being the unemployed.

After designing a brochure to encourage people to enrol, there were ten expressions of interest for participating in the project. In NOLs research, it came across several other mobile phone software development tools, however Hot Lava Mobile was chosen. The reason for this is that Hot Lava Mobile supported over 500 different mobile devices. However, NOL also used other tools including BSR Screen Recorder, CamStudio, Raptivity, iSpring, Microsoft PowerPoint and Adobe Flash.

NOL generally focused on the more difficult topics but have also included an introduction to databases. The topics that were included in instructional aids for mobile phones were data types, queries, calculated queries and how relationships worked in databases and specifically in Microsoft Access.
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NOL transferred videos to two types of phones. One being the Nokia E72 and the other being the Garmin-Asus. It was really easy to transfer the video to the Nokia E72 but the screen size was quite small which meant the video was impossible to view. The Garmin-Asus was more difficult to transfer but the screen size was bigger and the video was clearer. The interactive learning aids did not work, but NOL screen captured them in order to show the students what could have been.

What NOL would do next time is have a group of the same phones which would make it easier to develop content.

The First Trial (January 2011)...

  1. Learning aids were created:
    • Video - introducing databases
    • Database basics - quiz
    • Creating a query - video
    • Calculated query - video
    • Reports - An interactive scenario
    • Linking relationships - video
    • Understanding relationships - video
    • Understanding relationships - SMS game
  2. Learning Aids were loaded onto mobiles.
  3. Students were taught by trainers.
  4. Students were shown the learning aids and feedback was recorded.


The Problems on the Day
  • The learning aids were stored on a computer at NOL and the older Nokia phone was not compatible with the operating system of the computer and would not load.
  • The Samsung phone wasn’t recognised by the computer and required a device driver.The other phone was just a basic phone and not suitable for the trial.
  • However, NOL were able to show the students the learning aids and receive feedback.
Please enjoy looking at and interacting with some of our Trial Learning Aids and images below.

Try the quiz, it should work and so should the interactive scenario. (You may need to refresh the scenario though as it is set to go automatically.)
Have Fun!!
The Sucesses
  • Students were enthusiastic about the course and willing to give feedback.
  • Made NOL rethink its future plans for the next trial, i.e., Android App Maker, focus on younger students possibly from the Community Education Centre.
  • The autopan feature on the screen capture software allowed NOL to create video for smaller screen that showed a lot more detail. (CamStudio and BSR Screen Recorder)
Database Basics Quiz:

Comments from Students
The learning aids did not load onto the students’ phones, however NOL were able to show them briefly on our phones. A discussion ensued with these being some of the comments:
  • A touch screen for the interactive learning aids.
  • Students like to use a computer so the videos are bigger and you can easily flick between the windows of the video and the database.
  • What is an App Store? (After speaking about downloading the learning aids from the Android App Store)
  • It would be handy to have reference information on your phone so you could quickly look something up.
  • The Learning Aids would be good as reinforcement, but not to do the course material.
Image of Scenario for learning about Reports:


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SMS Game
The SMS Game was trialled as another alternative for use with all phones. Timing is important to ensure that they are available to respond, needs to possibly occur during the course time or a designated time. The content was quite difficult, so it does offer a chance for individual feedback on their responses and further learning and consolidation. The SMS game Learning Aid will not be pursued further in this project despite its potential, as it is moving away from the App focus.

Note: Following Trial 2 we have discovered a way to use Android App Maker to run the SMS game more easily than through a standard phone, with automatic messages being sent, etc. However, due to time constraints this will not be pursued.
The flyer for introducing the SMS Game:

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What Next?
  • Develop Applications directly through Android App Maker.
  • Learning Aids reduced to four: Glossary, Video x 2, Quiz. We will recycle Trial 1’s Learning Aids and also add to them.
  • The other Learning Aids no longer being used for mobile will be utilised as part of the current online course.
  • Finding younger clientele from Geraldton Community Regional Education Centre. We contacted the youth connections worker and sent an email to her with the details of the project. There was no response from them.
  • The phones required would need to have at least Android 2.0 platform. (Following this project, applications for iPhones may also be developed.) The focus is on Android due to its rapidly increasing market share.
The Interactive Scenario Learning Aid for Reports in Databases:

Second Trial (March 2011)...

We had a group of four students that came in to learn about databases. At the end of the first day, we showed the students the Apps on our Android phones. The Apps included,
  • a database glossary,
  • a scenario set up like a quiz and
  • basic quiz

A discussion about the Apps and their pros and cons for learning followed. A brief summary is provided below.

The students liked the look of the Apps. They were clear and easy to use. They believed it would be a terrific bonus to a course to have extra information available on their phones and that is it something "a little bit fun and motivational". One student commented on the value of having a "cheat sheet" available on her mobile to sit next to her computer while she is working on the course material. It was also suggested that the "cheat sheet" could link to further information on the web or videos that they had previously uploaded from us. This group was very enthusiastic about using the Apps perhaps due to them being a little younger and more computer and mobile phone literate.

Benefits experienced by New Online Learning

  1. We can see that mobile learning definately has a future especially in terms of workers to upskill. They can view small bits of content at a time without taking time to spend at a training course.
  2. Application time for the Learning Aids was significant, but the more we got involved the easier it became. Also once you have a working program, eg. a quiz, it will be easier to create new ones using that template.
  3. It was actually a lot of fun creating the Apps in Android Apps, definately challenging our brains. With more experience with Android App Maker a lot of new creative Apps could be developed.
  4. It will be fantastic for our organisation to have something innovative and different to offer our students - great for marketing.
  5. The students will find their course enhanced by having these extra learning aids available and hopefully should find them quite motivational and handy on their personal phones.

Lessons learnt


Wide variety of phones.
The problem with developing content for mobile phones is the wide variety of phones. In enrolment group, we have a number of different smart phones that have different screen sizes. Most of our learning aids are videos and can be transferred to different phones but we have to create videos for the smallest screen size or create two: one for the small screen size and then another for larger screen size. Due to time constraints we have just created one for the small screen size. This will mean we don't make the most of screen resolution for the other smart phones.

Also not everyone has a smart phone especially in the demographic that we were looking at, which poses another whole set of issues.

Learning Aid development challenging.
It is quite a difficult to create Learning Aids for Databases as it can be quite complex material. The further challenge is making it simple and small enough to go on a mobile phone. Please have a look at the SMS game that we are going to use for supporting the understanding relationships in databases. Hopefully this will be a little bit of fun to reinforce a difficult concept that is covered in the course and within App Maker we can create an App that allows automatic mass messaging after a trigger.

Also a simple quiz was developed in a program called Hot Lava. But we did not have a lot of success with it functioning as it should and we are not happy with the aesthetics. Android App Maker to the rescue! The scenario based Learning Aid and the Data Matching Learning Aid took a very long time to be developed, but now they are set up could be used as templates.We would need to justify the time spent developing by ensuring the Learning Aids were well used at our RTO for the benefit of the students.

Android Appmaker also had limitations with the size of video. This would make it difficult to present a visually based course.

Enrolment Challenges.
We had problems finding students that were from our target area who are first, interested in studying databases, and secondly, in possession of a smart phone. For both trials most of our enrolments are working and not youth. We suspect the choice of content in running an Access course is why we are attracting workers. Most office workers have reasonable computer skills and would have knowledge of Word and Excel. Access is a program that is a bit more involved.

The results

The key outcome of this project is to create Learning Aids to be used on mobile phones to help engage our students in their learning and provide greater retention of knowledge.

In order to guage the successes and failures of the project, we kept a record of the outcomes of the discussions that we had; both with the students and also at our team meetings. Even though we planned to do formal surveys, we found that small group discussions were far more effective in gaining the feedback that we required. From these discussions we were easily able to get a feel of how the project was going, as well as gaining specific feedback regarding the Learning Aids.

Assessment data became irrelevant with the project as the Learning Aids were shown for evaluation in a focus group style rather than being implemented as part of the course. Also we were unable to compare two groups (one with Android phones and the Learning Apps and one without) as there simply were not the correct type of phones available with our clientele. We needed to rely solely on focus group discussions arising from demonstrations.

We believe the project has achieved quite a bit in regards to producing the Learning Aids, that they are functional and relevant to the subject matter. The Logistics of getting the Apps onto the real clientele phones was not a success, but something to troubleshoot in the future.

Reflections and suggestions

Upon reflection, it would be a more legitimate trial of student learning to provide Android mobile phones to students for the duration of the project and this would need to be factored in to the funding.

It would have been better to focus on Android App Maker and get a really good knowledge of that program We learnt that even though companies advertise solutions for mobile learning that work on multiple platforms. It hasn't been optimal for us and to get a effective mobile learning application, it is better to develop on platform dependent solutions. This would probably restrict learning applications to A


Framework connection

The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework[[#_ftn1|[1]]]) funds and supports E-learning Innovations projects which aim to embed e-learning into the national training system by supporting and enabling innovation in training design and delivery, at the state and territory level.

The experiences of New Online Learning in creating Learning Aids in Android App Maker are documented and available for all those interested in this technology and who want to benefit from our setbacks and advances.

In engaging in this E-learning Innovations project, the following Framework products and resources were used…





Acknowledgement

This is a Western Australia E-learning Innovations project output, developed by New Online Learning with seed funding from the Framework.
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For more information

For more information on New Online Learning:
Robert McWilliam
Chief Executive Officer
Access to mobile technology
Phone: 0414063008
Email: robertmoz@newonlinelearning.com

For more information on the Australian Flexible Learning Framework:
Phone: (07) 3307 4700
Email: enquiries@flexiblelearning.net.au
Website: www.flexiblelearning.net.au