Increasing eLearning Engagement through Mobile Learning Integration
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eLearning applications have penetrated the world of education as most higher education organizations all over the world choose to deploy eLearning applications. A review of literature and surveys performed confirmed that currently there is very little engagement of students in web-based eLearning applications, especially related to web-based constructive activities. In fact, eLearning platforms are mostly used as on-line repositories for a variety of course related documents without actively contributing to the learning process utilizing available modern learning methods. eLearning aims to actively engage students by making available learning content, but also through using interactive practices in the process of learning. Therefore, students in addition to access learning content may actively participate in the discovery of knowledge rather than being passive receptors to that content. Consequently, engagement of students to eLearning activities and content is important. Two surveys were undertaken in order to identify the reasons why web-based eLearning platforms fail to achieve both constructivist learning and the required engagement by both students and instructors. In addition to that, these surveys investigated and measured the level of interactivity of both students and instructors with on-line Information Technology (IT) services offered by both web-based and mobile applications and services. The rational was to investigate opportunities in creating a technology that can disseminate eLearning content that is mainly offered by institutional eLearning platforms and popular on-line services like social networks and communications services, in order to increase awareness, availability, and simplicity of eLearning activities and thus engagement to eLearning. The findings illustrated that most instructors fail to create and promptly support constructive eLearning activities largely because of the complexity and time required for such undertakings. Consequently, the critical student participant mass is not achieved. Additionally, it seems that most learning platforms rely on email messages and native applications’ notifications to update both students and instructors on new interactions. However, these channels of communication are not within the preferred communication channels and thus updates become outdated and fail to serve their purpose. Finally, web-based learning platforms seem to be oriented around laptop/desktop computer use (i.e. a full sized computer screen) rather than adopting and adapting to current mobile use of technology. The research presents a novel conceptual model of a mobile application that integrates and combines various already existing popular, on-line, web-based and mobile application services (communication, social media, voice command systems, etc.) including relative technologies (smart devices, mobile sensors, application servers), with institutional eLearning platforms. The aim is to increase the engagement of both students and instructors to eLearning, through constructive eLearning activities using a variety of existing popular technologies. This research shows that a Mobile Technology Enhanced Learning (mTEL) technology that integrates eLearning activities to both students and instructors will assist in increasing the awareness of learners to eLearning activities. At the same time, it offers the means to access, respond and participate in learning activities virtually from everywhere, thus making interaction ubiquitous, simpler and prompt, thus addressing key eLearning weaknesses leading to low engagement. These benefits are offered to both students and instructors, for a variety of eLearning activities and tools (positivistic and constructive). The research goes one step further by evaluating mTEL’s effectiveness. A conceptual novel model of a mobile application was designed and positively evaluated to contribute in the resolution of the major problem of low engagement of both students and instructors to eLearning. This is achieved by technologically enhancing mobile learning and introducing learning activities and materials at the current, highly populated on-line ecosystems where learners are already engaged instead of expecting them to directly interact with the institutional web-based platforms.
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