Mobile Learning: 7 key benefits of the MyKnowledgeMap mobile app and why you should consider using it.

It is estimated by emarketer that around 1.75 billion people worldwide are using smartphones, with the trajectory of smartphone use expected to continue to increase. Currently a quarter of the world’s population uses a smartphone at least once a month. Six in ten adults in the UK now use a smartphone according to the 2014 Ofcom report on media use. Of these smartphone users the majority are 25-34 year olds and 45-54 year olds. Even activity by those aged 65-74 has increased since 2012 when around 12% of this age category was using smart devices; activity has risen to 20% in 2014. Of those that use smartphones 48% report downloading apps and on average have 23 apps on their devices of which they use 10 on a regular basis.

So with the majority of the UK population now regular smartphone users it is not surprising that many educators are now utilising this technology for delivering information, and communicating with students. The Jisc mobile learning infokit introduces three frameworks that educators may want to consider when operationalising the use of mobile technology as a learning tool (Laurillard 2002, Park 2011, Koole 2009).

We have been trialling using mobile technology to enhance research skills in the Allied Health Professions (AHP) department. Using the MyKnowledgeMap (MKM) MyProgress app we have developed a series of 9 tasks (see table 1) for masters students to work through to take them from an initial research idea to a full research proposal that is ready for submission for governance approval processes.

1 Tri-partite agreement between student, manager, and university on research topic
2 Elevator Pitch- The research idea
3 Preparing for Publication
4 The Literature in the Field
5 Method/Study Design
6 Gaining Stakeholder Input
7 The Research Journal
8 The Full Proposal
9 Feedback results to place of work- Presentation

Table 1 the Tasks used in the AHP Research app

Rather than using one of the frameworks identified by Jisc we have opted to deliver the research tasks through an intrapreneurial lens utilising an intrapreneurial pedagogy developed through a small Higher Education Funded research project(1). The pedagogy fosters learning by doing, learning by networking, learning from mentors and role models, learning from mistakes and learning from challenging tasks as a way of developing the relevant skills required to innovate within the work organisation where the student is employed; developing intrapreneurial skills through the context of their research dissertation.

So why use a smartphone app and not traditional e-learning platforms such as Blackboard and Pebblepad? Our post graduate students primarily are employed and are working mostly full time with no access to Blackboard and other e-learning platforms during working hours because of access to PCs in hospital departments. Even those that do have access to a PC can’t access traditional e-learning platforms because NHS firewalls prohibit website access to many traditional websites, and gaining the relevant access for specific users is problematic. We have found seven key benefits for using the MKM app with our PG students:

  1. Retaining contact and engagement with students that are out on placement (or at work) where the place of work has no Wi-Fi.

The MKM app works without the need for Wi-Fi. Students can download the app and all the tasks while at home or in a Wi-Fi enabled environment and work on the app tasks offline, simply synchronising the app once they are back in a Wi-Fi enabled area perhaps as they pass a Wi-Fi enabled café on their way home.

2.     Engaging students beyond the classroom.

Using the app enables learning to take place beyond the confines of the physical or virtual classroom, at any time when learning opportunities arise.

3.     Allows a student to be the orchestrator of their own learning, bringing in relevant stakeholders where appropriate.

The app and the tasks as they are designed encourage students to gain feedback from a range of stakeholders that they choose based on their own project and work situations. Stakeholders for our students can be colleagues, managers or patients/clients. For example, students are encouraged to present their research idea to a user forum (patient representative group) where direct feedback about the topic and study design can be gained from those present by handing the student’s smart device to a member of the audience and asking them to complete a short feedback form. This immediate feedback is recorded and captures important patient perspective that can inform and enhance the design of the study.

4.     Tutors can see at a glance how individual students on a cohort are progressing with tasks and activities.

Tutors either at the work site or at the University access the MKM app webpage where they can see all student activity, enabling tutors to monitor individual progression. It makes it possible to take early intervention where it is seen that a student maybe struggling and not meeting targets. Tutors can feedback directly on individual tasks providing immediate support, encouragement and advice where necessary, providing valuable links to the University. The student receives the tutor feedback each time they synchronise their app when in a Wi-Fi area.

5.     Students can monitor their own progress.

The framework of the app allows students to monitor their own progress seeing how much or how little they still need to achieve before they reach the stage where their work is ready for submission (ie all tasks are completed to a sufficient standard).

6.     Allows connections between university working and placement staff and placement learning.

The app enables better connections between University learning and real life work situations. It also provides an opportunity if required for work mentors to feed in reports on task achievements, providing a multi-faceted approach to student support.

7.     Facilitates the opportunity for stakeholder input and feedback on student work.

In the moment reflections can be recorded on the student’s smart device, simplifying the process for key stakeholders who need to provide input or feedback. The student simply hands over the smart device to the stakeholder who completes the feedback form at the point of the activity; this is invaluable for busy clinicians or staff who don’t have time to leave the clinical department to find an office and a PC in order to write and e-mail formal feedback to a student.

Why should you consider using the MKM MyProgress app?

The majority of our students now own and use a smart device and are comfortable with the technology, using it for communicating, shopping and gaming; the next natural extension for these users is to support their University learning. Accessing activities or messages from University tutors via their phone means students can feel connected to their learning in the same way they feel connected to their friends via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Being able to engage students beyond the classroom within a placement environment serves to authenticate and situate learning in real life scenarios enabling the learning to have greater impact.

As the majority of students are already using this technology it becomes a missed opportunity if tutors avoid engaging with smartphone technology as a platform for learning. The impact of exploiting mobile learning in the workplace via the MKM MyProgess app, particularly in relation to the 7 points above, is currently being evaluated. A future blog post will discuss the outcomes of this evaluation.

Acknowledgement to @cyclingbob1 who helped write this blog post.

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