The Continuing Odyssey of Mobile Learning Apps: From A to B, and Now Beyond

Collection: 
Student-Generated Content
Author Information
Author(s): 
Dr. Katey Baruth
Author(s): 
Peter Chepya, Esq.
Author(s): 
Caroline Lieber
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Post University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The field of education has journeyed from wide-eyed speculation to eyes-wide-open realities about mobile learning (Bishop, 2006). But what have we discovered about the true nature of the early promises of what mobile learning has to offer as it has played out? Are educational mobile apps functional for the user? Are the mobile apps able to do what designers and instructors need them to do? Are the learner's expectations being met? What do designers and instructors really need in order to win the war for screen-based learning? What improvements should be made to heighten the educational experience? In this study, the researchers used a self report survey with both Likert-type and open ended questions in evaluating both instructor and student perspectives in online and blended courses at a New England university in terms of using the Blackboard Learn Mobile App. Fifty-three instructors and 213 student participants were examined in terms of responsiveness to the basic taxonomy of online instructional design in addition to the aesthetics produced by the software (Moore, 2011). Additionally, the study examined what instructors and learners would like to alter to enhance the learning process in keeping with the Sloan-C’s Five Pillars of Quality (Sloan-C, 2012). The analysis of data suggested that participants expressed that the Blackboard Learn Mobile App is “helpful” according to both populations, significant improvements in regard to functionality, aesthetics, and utility was also heavily indicated by both research populations to enhance faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction, learning effectiveness, scale, and access (Sloan-C, 2012).

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

In keeping with the tenets of excellence promoted by the Sloan Consortium, our research study was developed to examine issues related to the learning effectiveness, scale, access, and faculty/student satisfaction with their online learning experience (Bishop, 2006; Sloan-C, 2012)). In further exploring the Blackboard Learn Mobile App that is used by the institution, the researchers investigated student and faculty perspectives within the context of the university’s unprecedented growth. The researchers sincerely believe that the study is original in that the data encompassed not only student perspectives, but also faculty who use the App. If the results of the study are incorporated into both the design and vision of developers, the researchers believe the range and practice of mobile learning will be improved (Swan, 2004).

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

The researchers explored the flexibility, convenience, engagement, and effectiveness of the Blackboard Learn Mobile App related to the Five Pillars of Quality (Sloan-C, 2009). Student and faculty viewpoints, both positive and negative, correlate with perceptions of the learning experience (Moore, 2011). If both populations are not satisfied by the app, there will be a loss of engagement and interaction in the online learning environment (Moore, 2011). These factors could be detrimental and significantly impact the essential components necessary for promoting innovation, replicability, impact, and scope within the online learning environment (Allen & Seaman, 2010). The interface of social, cognitive, and teaching presence is now, more than ever, of the upmost importance as the number of non-traditional students seeking a fast-faced and engaging online learning environment grows rapidly (Swan, 2004).

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

                                                    

The results of the study are indispensable in furthering the mission of creating a successful learning atmosphere for mobile learners. Individuals in today’s online learning environment have diverse learning abilities and learner-centered courseware is critical in student being provided with multiple opportunities for learning success (Moore, 2011; Sloan-C, 2012). As demonstrated in our research, approximately 65 percent of learners used the App on a Smartphone device in a variety of settings such as “waiting.” The data provided in the study is invaluable as user’s feedback is paramount in identifying future ramifications to improve the functionality and reliability of delivery methods (Moore, 2011; Sloan-C, 2012).   

 

ACCESS

Student Data:

What type of device do you use when accessing the Blackboard Learn Mobile App?
Smartphone (e.g. Droid or I-Phone) *
65.33%*
I-Pad (or similar system)
16.67%
Other Devices
18.00%

Where do you use the Blackboard Learn Mobile App most often to aid in your coursework?
Home
23.49%
Work
20.81%
Commuting
18.79%
Waiting (such as for practice to end, in line at the deli, etc.)
28.86%
Other
8.05%

Further investigation into accessibility should be explored based on feedback by students stated below:

“I was very surprised how poorly the blackboard mobile application performed. I have had better success with the coursesmart.com mobile app. I think this should be addressed as mobile technology is very important to busy professionals who may be traveling and need accessibility and flexibility.”  
“It doesn't always load properly....doesn't always allow you to expand posts to read them completely. It also freezes sometimes which is frustrating. Additionally, I have had it freeze when I am attempting to post a reply on the discussion board. I lost what I typed because I needed to close the app and go back in.”
 

FACULTY SATISFACTION:

In our study, we further explored faculty satisfaction with the Blackboard Learn Mobile App in terms of teaching success online. Faculty members who are satisfied, happy, and engaged in the App are more likely to indirectly promote student satisfaction due to enhanced engagement with course materials, etc. (2012; N=53) (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Faculty reported that while the App is helpful, improvements could be warranted as increasing the benefits of online teaching is crucial to the learning process (Swan, 2004).

Faculty Data:

How helpful is the Blackboard Learn Mobile App in your teaching?
Extremely helpful
16.00%
Helpful
36.00%
Neutral
32.00%
Unhelpful
12.00%
In our research, faculty provided valuable feedback in regard to the use of the App and how it relates to appreciation and usefulness. Reports suggest that while the App is helpful, there are issues which could be addressed to increase satisfaction. For example, one faculty reported:

“The application is slow and when using my iPad the format when going into the discussions are small view. Yes they are ok but not taking advantage of the full screen. Plus how each unit is formatted is the not the same within the computer. The view going into each unit is not great as well and at times confusing to see because how things transition from the blackboard to the mobile blackboard app format. Plus it crashes a lot and is slow when trying to reply and read comments on the discussion boards.”

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS:

The undertaking of this research study was to further investigate learning effectiveness via the Blackboard Learn Mobile App. As the researchers strive to provide students and faculty with the highest level of industry and institutional standards, exploring the interface between users and the App are of the upmost importance in keeping with the Five Pillars of Quality (Sloan-C, 2009). Even while rated “helpful” by students and faculty, the identified problems in terms of vicarious interaction via the App should be reevaluated for adaptation based on user feedback (Moore, 2011). Our study suggests that there is an opportunity to create and implement a mobile learning atmosphere that will be more conducive to both student and faculty satisfaction according to the Five Pillars of Quality (Sloan-C, 2009). In summary, users reported that while the App is helpful, there are issues which could be addressed to increase satisfaction such as what is reported below:

“It is horrible. You can access a course, but cannot respond to posts in the Discussion Board... It's practically useless.”

“Right now the experience is just 'ok'. I would love to use it much more and it would benefit me greatly. If you can sync the discussion board so the messages read on the app show being read on the PC, I would use it every day. Also, why do I have to select the school every time I open the app on my BlackBerry? We should be able to save our school.”

“I think I use it quite a bit. But it's not designed to do some tasks, like long posts or papers. emails and quick responses as well as watching videos is good.”

“It's slow and crashes and as well it doesn't format the information correctly for one to easily see and a lot of the video and activities are not able to be view and completed via the iPad or iPhone.”

SCALE:

This study is critical in sharing key evidence which will promote retention of both students and faculty as universities seek to achieve and maintain enrollment. The research supported that while in general both faculty and students view the App as helpful, improvements can be made which could contribute to retention and improve overall academic success and engagement in the online learning atmosphere. In terms of feedback, a student stated: /“I am a busy mom and I like to use the app while waiting to pick up children, standing in line at the store, or if I have a few down minutes I can post to class discussion without having to be tied down at home on the computer.”

STUDENT SATISFACTION:

One of the most important aspects of the research study is examining student satisfaction with mobile learning apps (2012; N=219). Evaluating student online learning experiences are of the upmost importance as the number of online degree programs continues to climb and a virtual learning environment is becoming more widely utilized. The data below demonstrated that students report that the App is “helpful” and to have used the program primarily fewer than 30 minutes in each session. Students also reported that they use the App fewer than 30 minutes each week which can be reflective of the student interest in using the program but also could explain many of the reported issues of dissatisfaction with the present format and usability issues.

Student data:

How helpful is the Blackboard Learn Mobile App in your education?
Extremely helpful
31.08%
Helpful
37.84%
Neutral
22.30%
Unhelpful
6.76%
Extremely unhelpful
2.03%

 

When you use the Blackboard Learn Mobile App, how long do you use it each time?
0-30 minutes
67.57%
31-60 minutes
20.95%
61-90 minutes
5.41%
More than 90 minutes
6.08%  

When you use the Blackboard Learn Mobile App, how long do you use it each time?
0-30 minutes
67.57%
31-60 minutes
20.95%
61-90 minutes
5.41%
More than 90 minutes
6.08%  
Individuals provided valuable feedback in regard to the use of the App in terms of student satisfaction. Improving basic design and usability features in addition to other aspects shared below could also improve overall satisfaction. Students stated:

“It is difficult to type long posts on the mobile app and when you do, you cannot save to finish the post later so if the phone locks or you get signed out, the post is gone. You also cannot refer back to the post to which you are responding. As a result, I usually only use the mobile app to check my grades or other simple tasks. Maybe make it easier to go from course to course without having to hit the 'back' arrow several times.”
“Some courses it takes too long for the discussion board post to load. For instance some classes have minimum requirement for how long your initial post has to be example minimum 450 words. Well once 20 students post 450 words at a minimum it takes too long for the discussion boards to load."
Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Individuals must download the free Blackboard Learn Mobile App to their mobile device from the following (but not limited to) sources: iPhone/iPad: App Store Android: Play Store

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The Blackboard Learn Mobile App is free for students to use. There are no additional fees or costs to the student beyond the cost of enrollment in their academic course of study.

References, supporting documents: 

Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Class difference$: Online education in the united states. Babson Park, MA: Babson Research Group.

Bishop, T. (2006). Research highlights: Cost effectiveness of online education. Retrieved from sloanconsortium.org/publications/books/pdf/ce_summary.pdf

Moore, J. C. (2011, December). A synthesis of sloan-c effective practices. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/sites/default/files/jaln_v16n1_7_A_Synthesis_of_Sloan-C_Effective_Practices,_December_2011_0.pdf

Post University. (2012). Post university student blackboard online orientation . Unpublished, Post University, Waterbury, CT., Available from Post University. *Note: This course was developed for all students (campus; blended; online) and includes a component which introduces them to the use of the Blackboard Learn App. This component begins with downloading the App. It then continues on to the navigation process required for locating Post University online courses in which the student is enrolled. The student is then required to navigate those courses and participate in a series of discussion board exercises designed to ensure a comfort level with the use of the App. (This course is password protected.) Post University. (2012). Post university student blackboard training course .

Unpublished, Post University, Waterbury, CT., Available from Post University.

*Note: This course is required for all online and blended course instructors. It includes a component which introduces them to accessing and teaching with the Blackboard Learn App. There is an assessment feature to the course which ensures competence with the learning objectives of the Training Course. (This course is password protected.) Sloan-C. (2009).

Pillar reference guide. [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://www.sloanconsortium.org/sites/default/files/pages/Sloan-C Pillar Reference Manual.pdf.

Swan, K. (2004). Relationships between interactions and learning. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/books/pdf/interactions.pdf

Additional Readings:

Bigatel, P. M., Ragan, L. C. , Kennan, S., May, J., & Redmond, B. F. (2012). The identification of competencies for online teaching success. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(1), Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v16n1/identification-competencies-online-teaching-success

Jones, S. J. (2012). Reading between the lines of online course evaluations: Identifiable actions that improve student perceptions of teaching effectiveness and course value. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(1), Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v16n1/reading-between-lines-online-course-evaluations-identifiable-actions-improve-student-perc

Meyer, K. A., & McNeal, L. (2011). How online faculty improve student learning productivity. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 15(3), Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v15n3/how-online-faculty-improve-student-learning-productivity

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Katey Baruth
Email this contact: 
kbaruth@post.edu
Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Peter Chepya
Email contact 2: 
pchepya@post.edu
Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Caroline Lieber
Email contact 3: 
clieber@post.edu