Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning (#mlearning)

From Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning, by Tanya Elias, Athabasca University, Canada

To date, m-learning research in both the developed and developing world has focused on the use of handheld computers and smartphones (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005; Ally, 2009).  In contrast, little research has concentrated on m-learning for simpler devices or m-learning capable of running on limited networks (Trifonova & Ronchetti, 2003).  After a successful pilot using simply featured phones, Gregson and Jordaan (2009) nonetheless referred to “the potential uses of the more recent smartphone and 3G handsets for supporting a broader range of academic activity within education in Africa” (p. 225).  Similarly, Ford and Leinonen (2009) have identified

a desperate need for a new approach…particularly in the developing world environment.  The model needs to take into account issues of usability, accessibility, and affordability, while ensuring that appropriate pedagogical models are adhered to… (p. 198)

Thus, m-learning has much in common with traditional forms of face-to-face and online learning with respect to both its pedagogy and its use of technology.  The current paper suggests that UID principles developed for other forms of learning can also be helpful in designing inclusive m-learning applications accessible to the largest possible audience from the simplest of devices.

Elias (2010) extracted eight UID principles that are particularly useful in distance education (DE):

  1. equitable use;
  2. flexible use;
  3. simple and intuitive;
  4. perceptible information;
  5. tolerance for error;
  6. low physical and technical effort;
  7. community of learners and support; and
  8. instructional climate.

mobile learning

This paper discussed the challenges and opportunities of mobile learning, and universal instructional design (UID) principles for designing mobile learning. The briefing table is as below.

universal instructional design for mobile learning

The paper concluded that :

Inclusive and accessible education should aspire to include all learners.  Mobile learning appears to have the potential to do that.  SMS and MMS technologies offer excellent opportunities to open up education to many who have long been excluded from it.  This effort, however, will involve the development of creative techniques for relatively simple technologies and the design of universally accessible educational materials for them.  The challenge will force educators to rethink their current approaches to teaching.  They should not look exclusively for the next great technological advance, but should focus on the accessible design of materials using tools that are currently available.  Intensive research is needed to consider the ways in which appropriate technologies and solid pedagogical approaches can remove the barriers to educational diversity.  The principles of universal instructional design will play a valuable role in this process.


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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