Over the past decade, mobile learning is growing in scope and capability that offer new opportunities for learning that extends beyond the traditional e-learning or instructor-led classroom. During the early days of mobile learning, developers became aware of significant issues that came with the adoption of mobile devices for learning. Technical issues such as managing learning technology with short battery life were on one side. On the other, were pedagogical issues, such as delivering teaching content through a small device? With the immense popularity and easy availability of mobile devices, they are now being utilized for shopping, banking, gaming, entertainment and even advertising. There is a huge opportunity to design learning differently through learning communities, just-in-time and on demand learning as well as encourage the habit of lifetime learning. Coupled with the internet revolution which enables people to access, create and share media across the world, mobile learning is the way that the learners of the modern generation prefer to learn.
A big part of learning is evaluation, to ascertain the impact of learning. Although there are some tried and tested methods for evaluation of technology-aided learning, there are no such existing comprehensive frameworks for evaluation of mobile learning endeavours. This is because it is relatively new and lesser number of learning managers or learners have experience of learning through mobile devices. But since considerable budgets are spent on mobile learning development, it is necessary to find effective ways of mobile learning evaluation and ensure that learners are not just fascinated by the new devices in a way which they may find interesting but here is a lasting valuable impact of mobile learning on their work practices as well.
The success of technology-aided learning is closely related to way that learners can achieve pre-identified learning outcomes. This is true for mobile learning as well but the nature of learning outcomes in the mobile age needs to be adaptive.
1. Learners may assimilate information into their own experience and development, rather than reproducing knowledge in a pre-post questionnaire or traditional test. Practical opportunities of sharing and applying knowledge should be provided to ascertain the effectivity of learning. A very sound way of doing it is by analysing the learners’ contribution on online forums on the topic. Such forums can be specially created to encourage the learners’ online contributions. Evaluation can be conducted on the basis of how many times the learner has answered a query in the forum. Or it can also be deduced by analysing how many experiences or findings has he or she posted. Peers can ‘like’ these posts or tag them as useful to fellow learners. The number of times a learners’ post is tagged or forwarded by his or her peers can also be an effective measure of learning effectiveness.
2. Success may also be measured by how and how much learners use their mobile devices. The number of times that a learner logs on to the LMS using the mobile device, or searches for relevant course content on his handheld device can be a sign that the mobile learning endeavour is effective. Increased learning time on the mobile device is a definite sign that learners are keener on learning on these devices.
3. By analysing the quality of a text report or assignment can also be a measure of the effectiveness of a mobile learning course, as it is when the course is delivered through traditional e-learning or even through classroom sessions. The text reports can be written on mobile devices itself and submitted online. The textual content does not have to be extended to present a clear picture of learning effectiveness. Short descriptive questions or objective test papers can also be utilized to throw light upon learning evaluation.
4. Actual log data, with respective to the interactivities built within the mobile learning course can also be utilized to understand how well the learners have been benefited from the course content. For instance, the fact that a learner accesses a particular section of the course more than one time is an indicator that the section contains material which definitely garners his attention or he finds it useful. This is especially true if the course is fortified with audio-visuals or even short skill-based games which the learner wants to experience more and then apply to his work. Not only does this throw light on the effectiveness of content, it also reveals what kind of content most appeals to learners.
Evaluation needs to respond to the challenges of mobile learning and create more avenues of effective data collection as well as analysis. In the continuous process of creating more effective ways of delivering mobile learning, stringent methods of evaluation also need to be developed to ascertain the true worth of mobile learning in the modern context.