8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses!

I’ve been counting down the posts for the time when I get to share these tools and tricks on mobile learning options since starting this blog. Previously I’ve posted on Mobile Learning Design and our 100% Mobile Blackboard course. Today I’ll share several different ways to jump right in and start implementing mobile learning in courses.

8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses

1.  Learn Mobile Design. I would start by reviewing principles of mobile learning design. Just knowing basic principles of instructional design for mobile devices can go a long way as you decide how you want to approach mobile learning. It also helps you to consider what things you may already be doing that can be slightly tweaked to leverage this technology. Here is a post I did recently on 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design.

2.  Use Surveys. Before you start mobile learning, consider your students. Do they have access to mobile devices? What would they like to do with them? Think of questions to put on the survey that will give your institution a good insight into the mobile device usage of your students. This will help later on when you decide which types of mobile devices to support, how many you extra devices you might need to have accessible, and overall help you understand your student’s perspective. We sent out a survey to our students and they gave us great feedback. A couple tools that I think that are good for surveys are surveymonkey and polleverywhere.

Surveymonkey – Is a free survey tool (free version and a pay version available). Check out this tool. You’d be surprised how helpful surveys can be to help you gain insight into what your students are thinking. It is very easy to create them and then you just either email or embed the survey link in your website. Be sure and include a “respond by” date and incentives are always great too (extra credit points, etc)! Surveymonkey works on mobile devices as well.

Polleverywhere – This tool embeds right into your Power Point presentation or site so as you present to the class, you can ask them questions. They simply whip out their mobile devices and text the response which shows up automatically on your slide.  This is a lot like the really expensive clickers but it leverages the mobile devices students already have. There is a free version (I think up to 30 students) and then there are cost versions. I’ve been able to use the free version so far but there are some great reasons to upgrade to the pay version if you can.

3.  Podcasts & Vodcasts. Why not make a podcast of your lesson? There are some great tools that allow you to easily record an audio message and then share it with students. Then they can listen to it on the bus, as they wait, or wherever they go. Podcasts don’t take much time and students appreciate the option to rewind and review topics you are presenting. You can put them on a website and send the students a link, or just put them on CD or a jumpdrive.

Audacity is a great free open source tool for making podcasts. Once installed you simply click the record button and export the podcast to your computer.

Aviary.com is a free online tool for creating podcasts! It’s part of the fantastic suite of online tools they provide. You can also add intro music to your podcasts to make them sound even more professional. Once you are done, just publish your masterpieces to your computer as MP3.

For video podcasts (where it shows you on a webcam in addition the audio, you can use  Garageband (free with Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows).  Just be sure and publish the video to a format the works on mobile devices (and test it to be sure it works).

Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? No problem! There are an ever-growing library of podcasts on almost any topic. Simply perform a search like “Spanish podcasts” and you may be surprised that you find just what you are looking for. You can also use itunes U to locate educational podcasts.

4.  QR Codes. QR Codes are similar to barcodes but you take a picture with your mobile device (that has the QR code app reader on it) and it will pull up videos, websites, or other links. We actually put a QR code in Blackboard so students can take a picture of their computer screen while working on a unit and have the practice stored on their mobile device for easy reference later on when they want to practice. This keeps them from having to log into BB or remembering long URL codes.  Here is a link to a great QR code maker (Kayway) that is free. QR code readers for mobile devices and regular computers using webcams are also available. Still not convinced? Check out this video McGuffey SD in PA made on how their school uses QR Codes. Pretty neat stuff!

5.  Mobile Practices & Learning Games. I’m a big fan of practices for students so they can grasp the particular concepts that they struggle with. If every topic has some non-graded practices or learning games for them, they can self-select the practices that will help most. This individualized learning can impact their assignment and test scores dramatically.

Softchalk – Softchalk is a simple tool to create multiple choice, matching, true false, etc practices. It isn’t free but they have a SCORM tool and it works with learning management systems quite well. We developed mobile practices for each unit of some of our courses and placed the practices prior to the unit quiz. This way, students can practice and prepare for the quizzes on the go.

Raptivity – Raptivity has a huge selection of learning game & practice interactives which we use in our courses. Most are flash-based, but there are several that work with HTML5 so they work on mobile devices. The tool is somewhat intuitive and you type in the questions and answers and publish the games to your computer. Similar to Softchalk, the files can then be placed on a server or a CD/jumpdrive, and shared with students.

Hotpotatoes – This trusty tool has been free for awhile and a lot of educators use it to create simple practices for their courses. It’s great for that! While not specifically developed for mobile devices, I found that if I create a hotpotato practice, it creates an HTML file. Then, if I open that HTML in notepad and add the following metadata, the practice will snap to fit the mobile device that views the practice (making it look nice on mobile devices). Its a bit of a “duct-tape” way to do it, but its free, pretty simple and works! Students are just thrilled to have the practices mobile! 😉

If you do use Hotpoatoes, here is the HTML to make it snap to fit a mobile device:
<meta name = “viewport” content = “width = device-width”> <meta name = “viewport” content = “initial-scale = 1.0”>

The metatag HTML above actually works for a lot of different HTML pages. Try it out with your HTML page and see how it looks.

MobileStudy – This is a free tool which lets you easily create practice questions for students and then publish them to their mobile devices.

AppInventor for Android – This tool lets you create apps for your courses. It’s free to use and very intuitive. However, it only works for Android mobile devices. iOS also has an app inventor but I heard that is it not quite as easy as this one for Android. You pretty much just build your little site using their tool and publish it. Pretty cool!

6.  Mobile Blogs & Communication Tools. Students want to be in contact with their peers. Thankfully, there are some great ways you can incorporate collaboration and communication using mobile devices.

Mobile VoiceThread – Voice thread is an online tool you can use to create conversation among students around a graphic, video, website, or any topic. Students can use their mobile devices and post verbal or text comments on a particular picture, video, etc.

Posterous & Blogger – Both of these blog sites have the ability to create a private blogs and can share only with your students if you choose. They both also have an app so students can post comments or posts to the blog using mobile devices. I have two blogs, one on posterous and one on Blogger. Both tools have advantages and weaknesses.

7.  Educational Apps. It’s really important that you check out what mobile apps are available in the content area you are teaching. Because of the touch screen of a mobile device, apps are creating new ways to interact with content for learning. The Star Walk app, Algebra Touch app, and Fooducate apps are just a few examples.

If you decide to incorporate educational apps into your courses, keep in mind what devices students have access to. If you don’t want to restrict them to a certain device, you can find an alternative app for each of the main mobile devices (can be time-consuming). You will also need to decide if you’ll only use the free apps or paid apps as well. There are many educational apps to choose from.

8.  Use a Mobile LMS. If you are already using a Learning Management System, you are likely familiar with some of the benefits of an LMS. However, now there are some mobile options for accessing content with them as well. I posted earlier about our course using Blackboard Mobile, but there are actually several different options.

Thanks to Idaho Digital Learning, here is an archived webinar of this presentation that was given to faculty this summer (2011).

These are just a few ways to incorporate learning devices in courses. I’m sure there are many more ways that I didn’t include, so please let me know what you think in the comments area below. Also, if you are on Twitter, do a search for #mlearning #mobilelearning #mobile or #edtech and you will find an enormous amount of great tools and apps that are available for educators using mobile devices.

2 thoughts on “8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses!

  1. Thanks a lot, Sarah! I’m glad you have enjoyed my blog. I am just starting a new position at UNLV this week but will be posting again shortly.

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