When we talk about advanced technologies and implementing new methods of learning, one of the first expectations is that of high cost.
In mobile learning, expected costs include those of the mobile device, cost of required software applications and supportive technologies, internet access costs, etc. But are these investments really expensive compared to the alternatives?
Let’s look at some of the key developments that are making mobile learning an affordable reality.
If we compare mobile devices to other computing devices (like PCs and laptops), mobile phones are the cost-effective alternative. Mobile phones like smartphones today offer tremendous computing capabilities enabling users to do a lot more and at a cheaper cost than a few years ago. Additionally the mobile phone is now ubiquitous. With this high rate of ownership, the investment cost may not be as expensive as initially perceived.
Today there are more direct applications for teaching and learning as opposed to simple platform-independent tools and scalable data storage. The 2005 web search found that organizations of all sizes were using mobile devices for learning because technological advances meant that there was no longer the need for large infrastructure and support costs, and even small enterprises could deliver mobile learning simply by structuring learning around web-based content that could be accessed from web-enabled mobile devices.
Opportunities to overcome barriers in usage charges are being offered by technological solutions such as packet transmission technologies, like Wireless Application Protocol/Wireless Markup Language – WAP/WML – applications that work with mobile phone web browsers with a transmission cost that is negligible.
The economics of cloud computing provide a compelling argument for mobile learning. Cloud-based applications can provide students and teachers with free or low-cost alternatives to expensive, proprietary productivity tools. For many institutions, cloud computing offers a cost-effective solution to the problem of how to provide services, data storage, and computing power to a growing number of Internet users without investing capital in physical machines that need to be maintained and upgraded on-site.
Free learning tools
As noted in the 2008 Horizon Report, it is also becoming easier to create mashups using multimedia and tagged data with online tools. Many free or very low-cost tools that are educative in nature, like capture and display of geolocative data, are available online and they continue to improve in usability and flexibility.
Using free online tools, authors can create and market books on any topic, and make them available online at low cost or no cost. Despite the work involved open content textbooks, open course notes, and collaboratively-authored textbooks are gaining acceptance in some pockets of academia, as they address the rising cost of textbooks.
2009, “Addressing the cost barriers to mobile learning in higher education”, International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation
2009, Horizon Report, New Media Consortium, & EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative
2009, “Mobile learning: transforming the delivery of education and training”, Mohamed Ally