Laura Del Vecchio
Chinnapong @ stock.adobe.com
Nowadays we are used to using mobile phones to communicate with friends and family, to do online shopping or to order food, and so on. It now comes out that mobile phones can also be used to support learning processes. They are cheaper than computers or laptops and thus more readily available for individuals. Mobile learning, also known as M-Learning, is a way to provide content and quizzes via the internet and apps, or text messaging services, such as Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).
Those who cannot access formal institutions traditionally, could have the possibility to learn whenever and wherever they please. Using mobile phones for educational purposes can enable a large population without access to the internet or resources for more expensive devices to get an education. For instance, far-to-reach regions or rural areas often have schools that are poorly equipped or lack well-qualified teachers, therefore, this learning method could empower children in such areas to boost their education, enabling them to learn in addition or independently to their formal school capacities.
Instructors may send questions during a training process, while the audience could answer them via a questionnaire taken on cellphones. Even though most people today that access internet content use mobile devices to do so, they could also combine the use of desktop and laptop computers in the learning process. Depending on the devices' availability, instead of choosing just one device, multiple devices could be used for different activities.
In the corporate training sector, learning material created by one person can be shared with other employees, so they can learn about contents using their mobile devices, in their own time. Learning material can easily be shared through email or by simply sending links by text message, for instance. In addition, it could provide educational opportunities to reach employees that work remotely, enabling them to access their training at any time.
A disadvantage of this learning systems may be users' distraction, because generally people can get constantly interrupted with messages and notification banners. In order to solve that problem, people could disable some apps notifications during a training practice or online class. Lack of internet connection or electricity can also be a barrier for people in remote areas: if students do not have internet access or electricity readily available mobile learning could not be possible.
In addition, the members of the generation known as Millennial have grown up with digital devices practically glued to their bodies. Mobile learning is adjustable to the way millennials interact, work, and think. As cellphones could be a great vehicle for making learning opportunities accessible to lower income class children, underdevelopment countries could catch up with contents the educational systems have been missing for years. By learning what children from other cultures are learning simultaneously, students from these countries could be levered up and thus not being left behind in terms of knowledge and skills.
Access to education subsequently leads us to other current matters too. As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic imposed other forms of relationships, physical encounters became limited. In schools, both children and adults had to get used to mobile learning, where face-to-face dynamics needed to adapt its methodologies to fit a public health crisis. Students in some places have seen their educational agenda affected, sometimes spending months without access to proper learning due to the lack of access to digital tools or weak mobile learning standards, often caused by the low experience in handling distance learning.
Nonetheless, what the pandemic taught the educational sector is that adaptation is needed, and combined with the Internet and mobile devices, possibly a new learning norm will arise. Students now are more used to attending online meetings, as well as collaborating with their peers through crowd platforms. The term hybrid schooling, an educational model where students are kept out of school for multiple days, learning through online platforms, is getting more and more popular and might be implemented as a fixed standard.
Some argue that this model may bring adverse outcomes besides presenting additional forms of learning. On the one hand, working parents had to deal with their children spending more time at home. In some cases, this happened to be problematic, mostly because some families had to hire au pairs and others has to adapt their working schedule to meet their children's learning agenda. On the other —and more critically—, cases of child maltreatment increased. Recent research reported an exponentially high rate of physical and verbal conflict among parents and their children since the pandemics, caused mainly by increased stress and loneliness, as well as a simultaneous child abuse risk, produced by household unemployment and food insecurity.
In the future, together with the implementation of novel educational standards powered by emerging technologies and business models, laws and regulations are needed to prevent some of the drawbacks commented on previously. Public administration assistance and support will play a substantial role in auditing homeschooling, working similarly to labor auditing programs. Regulation solutions such as the Future Classroom Lab, an effort to draw guidelines and frameworks to both teachers, parents, and students in navigating new learning opportunities in an increasingly interconnected and digital world, may provide tools to the educational sector to adapt to future challenges and discover additional opportunities.