How Can Mobile Learning Increase Student Motivation?

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The mobile learning movement is beginning to gain momentum. Teaching in schools, universities, colleges (and even learning from home) has the potential to be more engaging with the integration of m-learning. And as a result, mobile learning is becoming exceedingly popular. It was reported by Ambiant insight that the US market for mobile learning products had generated a staggering $958.7 million in 2010. Not only this, but they predicted the compound annual growth rate to be 13.7% over the next five years, proving that mobile learning will continue to develop as more and more people begin to recognise its advantages. 

A number of reports have suggested that mobile learning can in fact help students to be more motivated and therefore improve their overall performance. M-learning introduces a whole new type of learning, different from the typical tasks such as making notes, reading from a textbook, etc. This variety within a learning course is sure to increase levels of interest among learners. 

This hypothesis was tested in 2005 by a university in Ohio. Research was conducted into student perceptions of mobile learning to find that it was having a positive effect. Students felt that mobile learning made the work seem easier and ‘more fun’ which eventually resulted in an increase in quality of work produced. However some people still have reservations about how effective m-learning could be. 

There is a stigma around using phones in the classroom. Educators and parents alike have a negative assumption, reinforced by school policy, that mobile devices are a distraction to learning as opposed to an aid. However, this view is not universal. Diana Laurillard from the Institute of Education believes that motivation is actually a key aspect of m-learning. She went on to say ‘It is clear that learners working with m-learning enjoy the process’ which she put down to aspects such as students control over their own goals. Not only this, but M-learning is very accessible. Students are able to complete homework tasks wherever they are. If students know that they can complete their homework without being glued to a desk, they would be more likely to do so.

A study by Tsinghua University in Beijing also indicated an improved enthusiasm in students using mobile technology, but for different reasons. As teachers posted content onto forums and sent emails to the students, there was a closer student-teacher relationship which was seen as the main reason behind the increase in motivation. However, many cynics see mobile learning as being far more entertainment- based rather than educational – and these perceptions will need to be dispelled before mobile learning is able to reach every classroom. 

Once more people realise the benefit of mobile learning technology the trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) will move from only being applicable to the work place, to also being relevant to classrooms. This is already happening. Earlier this month the BBC reported of a school in Newport which lifted a ban on mobiles as a way of ‘embracing technology for learning’. The school reported that it was ‘working well’ and that it was time that schools caught up with the technological revolution.

It is time for other educational institutions to follow suit and ensure that they are keeping up with the latest technology to provide educational content that is relevant and reflective of our modern society. In doing so, student motivation could rapidly increase which would inevitably also help their overall performance.

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