In the past few decades the use of mobile technology has been increased rapidly. The one main cause of the increased use of the mobile technology could be the reduction of its prices and the easily availability of these devices. The technological development such as MMS, internet access, touch screens, handheld computers, wireless communications like infrared and Bluetooth also could be a reason of its increased usage. Moreover it also allows its users to record information and store applications (like Microsoft office) have also been incorporated in the phones is also a part of the new technology. According to researchers, the use of mobile devices supports teaching and science learning as it offers mobility and innovativeness which, in turn, helps in increasing the motivational level of students with distinct and engaging activities as opposed to conventional teaching methods and classroom activities. (Uzunbolylu & Ozdamli 2011)
The kind of learning that is done with the use of mobile devices is known as “Mobile Learning”. The main benefit that can be derived by the introduction of mobile technology in universities could be that users can learn anything using the mobile technology without any time or geographic constraint. Mobility, connectivity and information accessibility at all times are the key features of m-learning, providing a flexible learning environment. (Yi et al, 2009; Laurillard & Pachler, 2007)
Different viewpoints about mobile learning generally pertain to its technological aspect, considering the portability of devices and accessibility to information from virtually everywhere (Winters, 2006; Taylor, 2006).
With the constant increase of the use of mobile and wireless technology the educational experience has been redefined. These services coupled with personal computing devices present new means for science students to access information, research innovatively and communicate anytime and anywhere.
However some shortcomings related to mobile learning has been detected that can distract a student while learning. The shortcomings like the battery life or screen size of device, a storage capacity and processing power limitation etc. has been considered. But if these shortcomings are compared with the advantages of the m-learning, then those shortcomings are almost negligible.
The true meaning and the traits of Mobile learning are illustrated by various theories and research work. (Sharples et al., 2005-2006, Arnedillo-Scanchez et al., 2007, Jones et al., 2006)
In the research of Quinn (2000) it is stated that the concept of mobile learning is basically derived from mobile computing and e-learning. Thus for this reason m-learning is constantly focused so that it can be better leveraged for education and training. Technologies like data protection, online communication and data transfer helps to improve the value of Mobile learning.
According to Ozdmali and Cavus (2011), there are five basic elements of mobile learning which are discussed as below:
Figure1: Basic Elements of Mobile Learning
A learner plays a prominent role in the learning process. This is a major element to which the other elements render their services. The learner is the one who takes initiative and direct own learning activities and can access information as and when required. The learner while being innovative, stay connected to associates, share info and study collectively.
The teacher is a medium who conveys information to the students (Halis, 2001). However with the improvement of technology, the basic role of the teacher has been confined to that of a consultant. Ghaln (2011)
The job of the teacher is now to identify the goals and interests of students and guiding them with the prospects to reach those learning goals.
Content is the information and material that the students are expected to learn. This content is set by various stakeholders and teachers that may fluctuate in accordance with the pedagogical needs of students. Mobile learning allows presenting the content in innovative ways with the use of graphics, videos, games, multimedia presentations etc.
It is referred to as the area or place where students can have access to the information. It can be either online or face to face. The technological advancement in the form of internet, Wi-Fi and social networks provide opportunity to the students to learn, research online and interact with one another and with the instructor.
Assessment means the evaluation of the performance of the learner. This is the one of the key components of m-learning. Mobile technology offers a number of ways to evaluate and assess end results such as online exams, chat rooms, online quizzes, discussion board etc. The feedback that is generated from this evaluation helps the learner to overcome their shortcomings as well as with the clarification on the courses without a feeling of discouragement (Sharples et al., 2005; Behera, 2011).
There are several characteristics of mobile learning that are discussed below:
- Portable: It is the major feature of mobile learning. With the portable size of the mobile devices, a learner can learn anything while travelling or waiting for a meeting to start, everywhere. The size of mobile learning tools is small filled with tailored learning contents.
- Blended: If the learning involves different types of activities, then mobile learning can be better approach. It combines the advantages associated with the traditional learning techniques and m-learning approach and thus, enhances the productivity. (Uzunboylu, Cavus & Ercag, 2009; Ocak, 2010; Bonk and Graham, 2006).
- Private: Each learner can easily work on his projects or studies anything without the interference of any other person unless the learner himself desires. Hence, privacy and individuality of every learner is maintained. (Chidi, 2001; Zhang, 2003; BenMoussa, 2003).
- Interactive: M-learning creates an interactive learning environment. The student with the use of mobile technology can interact with the instructors or teachers anytime. The mobile learning empowers the learners to initiate their own learning activities. (Sharples et al., 2005; Cavus & Uzunboylu, 2009).
- Collaborative: since the mobile learning offers interaction among the users, students and teachers can utilize collaborative learning techniques which may maximize the learning opportunity. (Virvou and Alepis, 2005; Uzunboylu, Cavus and Ercag, 2009;).
- Instant information: it is also an important feature of M-Learning is that it provides Real time and immediate accessibility to information is the paramount characteristic of using mobile technology. It enables “just in time” learning i.e., learning at the point of need. (Cavus and Ibrahim, 2009; Eteokleous and Ktoridou, 2009; Cohen, 2010).
- Graphic Displays: while selecting a mobile phone especially for mobile leaning, a user tries to get the best possible graphic display. The display is an essential element of the mobile device because whatever we do on our mobile is reflected or the output of the mobile phone is only provided through these graphic displays. The graphic power of the display varies from device to device and all the data or information including pictures and animations and its quality is dependent on the power of the display that is installed in the mobile device. They support appropriate context information and rapid serial presentations. These kind of Graphic displays are suitable for any kind of learning (Pulichino, 2004). The device also allows a user to install coding software that can run all the software that are run on a personal computer.
- Downloadable Programs: As mentioned earlier, the user can easily secure his data or information in his device thus the mobile device provides a lot of storage facilities. A user can easily download large files and can save those file in his device. This storage facility provides the user with ease of use. A user may also use several programs that accelerate the process of downloading and offer multipart downloading as well. During these days the developer of these devices are providing various types of softwares that allows a user to view, open, edit or send the downloaded file directly using the mobile phone only. He is not required to connect the device with the computer in order to perform the said functions. You can even consider a mobile phone as a mini laptop in your pockets. The technological improvement has really made the learning through mobile phones easy and interactive. Even the programs that are downloaded provide several utilities to the user.
- Mobile internet browser: As I said above that with the technological improvement, mobiles are mini laptops but the mobile cannot be considered a mini laptop until it has the utility to browse internet. Thus with the development of internet browsers for mobiles, it has become a most useful device for the learners. The browsers are developed with the technology of 3G and GPRS. A user with the use of these browsers can access Google, eLearning tools and applications, LMS applications and so on. Thus all of the above discussion implies that M-learning has a great impact on the education, agriculture, healthcare etc. (Paramythis and Loidl-Reisinger, 2007).