Disclaimer: This article has been accepted as Long Paper (peer reviewed) for mLearn 2016 15th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning, taking place 24-26 October 2016 at University of Technology Sydney, NSW. The final version of the article will be available at http://www.iamlearn.org/ as Open Access. The version reproduced here is the accepted version self-archived by the authors. It may vary from the definitive version published in the conference proceedings. For all matters pertaining to research presented in this paper, please contact the corresponding author.
Bring-Your-Own-Device or Prescribed Mobile Technology? Investigating Student Device Preferences for Mobile Learning
Authors David Reid* Lecturer of Advertising Faculty of Health, Arts & Design Swinburne University of Technology [email protected]
Dr Ekaterina Pechenkina Research Fellow Office of the Senior DVC & Provost (Learning Transformations) Swinburne University of Technology [email protected]
Abstract This paper contributes to the growing body of scholarly inquiry into the BYOD (‘Bring Your Own Device’) versus prescribed (minimum standards) technology for learning by reporting on findings of a mobile technology trial. The study investigated student experiences with and preferences for mobile devices, depending on whether those were loaned or owned. Student participants were loaned a Samsung Tablet and instructed on how to use it for various learning activities throughout a teaching period. Data collected via online survey and face-to-face interviews revealed that students tended to use their owned and loaned devices simultaneously and in a complementary manner rather than choosing to use one device for all learning activities. As most student participants already owned personal mobile devices and used those for some learning activities of their choosing, students did not think they acquired any new skills as a result of this initiative. However, students felt that using the loaned Table had overall improved their digital literacy skills such as typing and reading speeds as well as enhanced their productivity and ability to multi-task. Drawing on findings, we offer considerations on how to fully leverage mobile learning technology in the classroom, regardless of whether mobile devices are loaned or owned. Keywords: BYOD; prescribed technology; digital literacy; mobile learning
1. Introduction Student-owned personal mobile devices might be ubiquitous on university campuses but mainly are still “hidden in students’ pockets”, remaining under-utilised in the classroom (Herrington, Herrington, Mantei, Olney, & Ferry, 2009, p. 12). The potential of mobile technology for learning remains promising: technology-enabled or enhanced learning (mobile learning, or m-learning) can give students better control over their educational experiences, help them personalise learning based on their needs, interests and locations and support their inquiries by enabling collaboration, peer review, timely feedback and authentic assessment (Jones, Scanlon, & Clough, 2013). Student adoption of m-learning practices presents an important area of inquiry (Park, Nam, & Cha, 2012). Park et al. (2012) identified such factors as students’ attitudes towards m-learning, their perception of its relevance to their academic disciplines as well as to their future job prospects as significant. However, mobile device distribution is not always uniform. According to a study conducted on a regional Australian university campus (Farley et al., 2015), students who studied on campus, those who were in their first year of study and those who were unemployed or from non-English speaking households were less likely to own a personal mobile device (such as a smartphone). The statistic that lower socioeconomic status (SES) students are less likely to own a smartphone than higher SES students (Anderson, 2014) is of importance to Australian universities where lower SES students tend to be overrepresented (Shah, Bennett, & Southgate, 2015). Addressing the disproportionate device ownership, universities introduce initiatives aiming to provide students with devices or to help educators better utilise devices their students already own. These initiatives may include BYOD and prescribed device programs or a combination of the two. While the abbreviation BYOD is relatively new (Field, 2011) – the trend itself is not. Situated within the context of the consumerisation of Information Technology, BYOD (or ‘Bring Your Own Device’), is now a common occurrence in the lexicon of organisations, including higher education institutions. As such, references to BYOD can be found in educational policies, teaching and learning plans and other strategic documents identifying an institution’s preferred approach to the use of personal mobile technologies present on campus (Afreen, 2014). Within the higher education context, the BYOD policies are articulated and adopted to facilitate the use of personal devices across learning contexts, the primary aspiration behind it being the creation of what Pegrum, Oakley and Faulkner (2013) refer to as ‘seamless learning spaces’ where learning is not fixed in space and time (Looi et al., 2010). On the opposite end of a personal technology use spectrum is a prescribed (or minimum standard) approach which indicates the institution’s drive to better monitor and control how students and other stakeholders utilise technology by prescribing what devices they can or should use on campus. In the actuality, however, universities rarely specifically commit to either BYOD or a prescribed approach but rather tend to have a non-specified hybrid approach in place as far as mobile technology on campus is concerned. Furthermore, academics who are engaged in teaching are likely already leveraging the presence of personal mobile technologies in their classrooms, whether it is for student engagement, motivation, peer collaboration or other reasons (Carroll, Diaz, Meiklejohn, Newcomb, & Adkins, 2013; J.-C. Woo, 2014; K. Woo et al., 2008; Zheng, Niiya, & Warschauer, 2015). However, what remains unclear is how either of the approaches to the use of personal mobile technology on campus impacts on various aspects of student learning. This paper contributes to the growing body of scholarship concerned with issues around BYOD and prescribed technology for learning. It reports on findings of an institutional case study of a mobile learning initiative undertaken throughout 2014-2015 at an Australian university. The project investigated student experiences with BYOD and prescribed technology approaches to the use of personal mobile devices for learning. Student participants were loaned a Tablet device and instructed on how to use it for learning activities throughout a teaching period. Students were then invited to fill out an anonymous online survey about their experiences with and preferences for technology for mlearning. Four students who filled out a survey were also interviewed to generate deeper insights. Findings shed light on the question of how students used their owned and/or loaned mobile devices for 2
learning, what kind of skills they developed as a result and what determined their device choices. While it could be contended that the issue of BYOD vs. prescribed technology is primarily a policy question, concerned with administrative preferences and costs, we argue that it is rather the question of how to take advantage of mobile devices already present in the classroom while at the same time ensuring that access to devices for learning is equitable. While policy is indeed an important consideration in this debate, there are also direct implications for learning where students’ ownership of or preferences for devices are concerned.
taking, and audio/video recording and, as a result, an online community of learners emerged around using these apps. In regards to the theoretical models of m-learning, the SECTIONS model (Bates & Poole, 2003) and the Planning Framework which builds on it (Centre for Teaching Learning and Technology, n.d.), encourage the consideration of questions in eight key areas in regards to technology use: students, ease of use, costs, teaching and learning, interactivity, organisational issues, novelty and speed. These areas are brought into focus through a process of reflective analysis consisting of four parts: define; assess; implement; and refine. In our study based on an m-learning trial with Advertising students, a richer Blended and Flexible Learning (BFL) experience was proposed where assessment tasks and tutorial activities were given a mobile learning ‘bias’ before being implemented. Using the SECTIONS and Planning Framework template we have reviewed recent BYOD literature and, as a result, developed a conceptual model of BYOD/prescribed approach which has driven our project’s design and implementation (Table 1). Table 1: BYOD vs Prescribed: Benefits and Drawbacks Feature BYOD Prescribed Collaboration X X Portability X X Familiarity X Ease of use X X Acceptable cost X Acceptable low cost X Interactive learning experience X X 'Differential' instruction potential X X Integrated into personal life experience (ubiquity) X Connectedness - speed of learning X X Facilitates better learning X X Access to industry/professional expertise beyond X X the classroom Equity X Consistent learning experience X Security/institutional control over patterns of use X
As our interpretation of the model shows, BYOD and prescribed m-learning approaches share a number of similarities. However, the prescribed approach has a number of benefits that BYOD approach does not offer, such as a more equitable access to education enabled via mobile technologies available at a low cost or no cost at all to students, as well as a higher level of security it affords both to the technology user and the institution. Keeping in mind these considerations, we have developed our mlearning trial. Findings and considerations arising from this project are presented next.
3. The Study The university where this study was located has is an unofficial preference for a BYOD policy over a prescribed approach, where the institutional approach is guided by such principles as the ‘creation of a technology environment in which teaching, learning and research will flourish’. Academics are generally encouraged to use educational technologies in their teaching as articulated through the institution’s aspiration to foster innovative teaching practices. Whilst the university’s 2013-2020 Plan makes no formal mention of BYOD it does refer to the importance of ‘mobility and agility’ stating that ‘a strategy which takes in our desktop infrastructure, mobile access, and ubiquitous wireless’ is favourable. Arguably, this ambiguous statement neither openly supports BYOD nor encourages prescription – a sentiment further endorsed in the university’s 2020 Plan in relation to the significance of connectivity arguing in favour of ‘a flexible and consistent access to applications and resources from all devices, independent of location, wireless and wired’. 4
Located within this institutional context, our study was guided by the following questions: • How do students perceive their access to learning material, study experience, engagement, and collaboration, with and without prescribed technology? • Do students’ perceptions of the above change when they have access to a loaned mobile device? The study participants were recruited from a larger cohort of students enrolled in an Advertising unit taught by the first author during two semesters in 2014-2015. Due to a limited number of devices available for this trial (22), the recruitment was on a first-come first-serve basis. Participants were loaned a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and instructed on how to use it for various learning activities in this unit. The activities were directed by the unit’s lecturer who guided the students in their use of mobile apps (Feedly, Twitter, Google, ScoopIt, Flipboard, etc.) and other online resources. Students were also given an option to take all their quiz assessments online using the prescribed device whilst in-class as well as to engage with fellow students in online work groups. An anonymous online survey (N=22) and four in-depth interviews were conducted with participants in the end of the trial. Data, combining quantitative and qualitative elements, was analysed to gauge students’ past and present experiences with m-learning, and their preferences and perceived benefits and drawbacks of using an owned and/or loaned devices for learning. As we were limited in time and resources, we chose not to utilise observation and other ethnographic methods, instead opting out for a more time-efficient way of data collection. The combination of surveys and interviews allowed us to discern general trends as well as gain deeper insights into students’ experiences with personal mobile devices use for learning.
The Participants Half of students who filled out the survey were in the 18-20 age group, and another half in the 21-29 age group, suggesting an equal split between direct school leavers and a more mature cohort of learners. Gender balance was reached with 50/50 split for both survey and interview participants. The largest group of survey participants (32%) have completed 2-3 years of university studies, while another significant group (27%) was in their first year of study and have not completed a full year of studies at the time of the survey. Two groups of student participants (each comprising 18% of the total survey sample) completed 1-2 years and 3-4 years of study respectively, while another 5% completed more than four years of study. Half of all survey participants majored in Advertising, the rest split between Marketing (18%), Media Studies (18%) and Public Relations (14%), with a few students studying a double major degree. Chosen from the survey sample, four students (2 women and 2 men) were invited to take part in a follow-up interview. These students were selected based on their survey answers, deemed representative of different types of technology users. The first male interviewee had a preference for using his own device (iPad) for learning, while another male interviewee was predominantly using the prescribed/loaned Samsung Tablet; and two female interviewees used a combination of owned and loaned devices for learning.
General Experiences with Mobile Learning Survey participants were unanimous in their response that they were not familiar with the concept of m-learning prior to taking part in this trial. However, majority (86%) owned at least one personal mobile device, which in addition to its other uses was also utilised for learning. It was found that student participants tended to use an assortment of devices (desktops, laptops, Tablets and smartphones) simultaneously in a variety of ways to enable their learning. Participants emphasised that their use of all available devices was shaped by their immediate needs and technological habits: they used all of their available devices in such a way as not to duplicate but rather supplement their learning activities. For example, a male interviewee who predominantly used a prescribed Samsung Tablet for learning found that he was using the Tablet to access the apps, while at the same time he “personally prefer[ed] using [his] own laptop [for other aspects of learning] due to better functionality and time required to complete a task.” 5
Almost all survey participants (95%) found it was easy to operate a prescribed Tablet and over half (55%) did not have to spend any additional time learning how to operate the Tablet. A large group (40%) found they only had to spend about an hour of their personal time early on in the trial to familiarise themselves with the new device and its functionalities. Majority of survey participants (91%) felt they received adequate technical support and guidance to use their loaned tablets for learning. Time required to familiarise oneself with a new device (a “learning curve” as one participant termed it) was also mentioned in the interviews as an important factor when choosing one device other another. Two factors emerged as having a significant influence over student choice of a device for m-learning: student’s prior experience with same or similar device and how fit-for-purpose the device was perceived to be. A user loyalty to a particular brand or a preference for an operational system were also among key deciding points in how students engaged with mobile technology for learning. For example, interviewees who owned an Android device said they were more likely to engage with the prescribed device offered in this trial because the prescribed device was also Android. Similarly, Apple users were more likely to continue using their own device for m-learning activities as ‘transitioning’ from Apple to Android was perceived as a waste of valuable time.
Learning New Skills Majority of survey participants (77%) did not think they learnt any new skills during this prescribed technology trial. However, most commented on the usefulness of having a ‘prescribed’ device for learning: some noticed an improvement in their typing and reading speed, while others appreciated the guided learning process the lecturer used to familiarise them with appropriate social media language. All students felt that having an extra device helped them multi-task better and overall improved their productivity and efficiently. Both survey and interview participants emphasised how they tended to use their multiple available devices simultaneously and in a complementary manner. For example, they used smaller mobile devices for reading, accessing social media and apps while devices with larger keypads were preferred for typing and submitting assignments. In fact, the convenience of larger keypads (and external keyboards) for typing emerged as a key deciding factor determining which device was uses for such activities as writing and submitting assignments. An interviewee who mainly used a prescribed Tablet but who also owned a personal Android device felt that technical and practical skills (such as setting up the wireless Internet and user profiles, as well as linking up all online accounts and identifying useful apps) were main skills gained during the trial. This interviewee also insisted that students would naturally use a device they were the most comfortable with and this was in turn defined by their previous experiences with technology and preferences they had developed over time (such as a preference for a particular typing method, like touch-typing, using external keyboard or a stylus pen). In fact, a preference for a particular typing method appeared to be among the main deciding factors in a student’s choice for a device for learning. On another hand, a device that offered the best functionality and compatibility with the institutional LMS was also more likely to be chosen for any tasks performed within the LMS, such as assignment submission. Another advantage of having a prescribed device at their disposal was that participants felt the more versatile they became in using technology, the more beneficial it was for their future employment and professional prospects. This versatility was also perceived useful in students’ academic endeavours outside of this unit of study: students felt that post-trial they became more comfortable with using technology for learning, especially where digital assessments (quizzes), apps and social media were concerned. Over half of survey participants could see a relationship between what they have learnt during this m-learning trial and their performance in other units as digital skills they were required to demonstrate in their studies were virtually the same across all units. However, distractions brought on by the mobile devices’ 24/7 connectivity and the easy access to social media were found to be drawbacks by participants who felt their attention was redirected from 6
learning to entertainment: in one interviewee’s words, “Facebook in particular [was] frustrating in that it [was] such a distraction, but all of the group projects… at university, it has also been used as a collaboration tool. So it very much is a double-edged sword… Anecdotally… people don’t want to have Facebook but they also don’t want to miss out on events and messages and stuff. It’s almost like a burden for some people.” This issue is in line with studies finding that using personal mobile devices can indeed distract students from learning (Kobus, Rietveld, & Van Ommeren, 2013; Salmon, Ross, Pechenkina, & Chase, 2015). Further, a Charles Sturt University based study found that most discrepancies in student use of mobile devices for learning were due to a lack of guidelines and relevant resources (Charles Sturt University, 2014). Our study participants also expressed a general need for guidance and instructions on how to use their devices most effectively for m-learning. Most survey participants (82%) felt that the guided use of mobile devices for learning – regardless of whether a device was prescribed or BYOD – helped them better integrate knowledge from the unit; while 86% believed using a mobile device enhanced their learning experience in this unit. As a rule, students “tend[ed] to use what… they need[ed]” for various learning activities, recognising that with “any technology, specific aspects are designed for separate purposes.” In this regard, students felt that personal mobile technology’s main benefit was in enhancing their learning experiences by enabling quick access to the institutional LMS, apps, e-textbooks and PowerPoint slides. Students valued the personalisation of learning personal devices afforded, specifically acknowledging such mobiletechnology enabled features as bookmarking, search and annotation in e-textbooks used for clarification and revision purposes. Access to PowerPoint lecture slides was also appreciated as it allowed students to review the study materials later on if the instructor moved too fast or if they missed a lecture. This ability to learn with a mobile device “anywhere, anytime”, including on a busy commuter train or in between classes was highlighted as a major positive aspect of m-learning.
4. Conclusion: Designing an Effective Mobile Learning Experience A university –adopted prescribed device approach has a potential to address issues around equity, access and digital exclusion. However, as a result of our m-learning trial we have found that whether a device is BYOD or prescribed did not have a significant effect on how students engaged with m-learning tasks. In fact, students’ device choice was dictated by other factors, including previous experiences with technology, brand loyalty and preferences for a device and operating system. Hence, understanding students’ device preferences prior to embarking on a m-learning initiative is important. In regards to a desired guidance around the effective use of mobile devices, student wished for more examples on “how and where” to use technology in the course of their study. Students also wanted their “[learning] outcomes [to be] tied to mobile devices” use rather than “just doing it for the sake of doing it.” Hence, it is not only important to outline tasks and learning activities students are required to do on their mobile devices, but also to draw clear links of how these tasks are related to students’ overall outcomes in this unit. Another important consideration arising from this m-learning initiative is concerned with how students decide which device to use for each learning activity. While a Tablet or smartphone might prove useful in surfing the Internet for information or answering a quick online quiz, it may not be a student’s preference for typing and submitting their assignments. In this regard, functionality of the institutional LMS and its device compatibility must also be taken into account. These key considerations – technology user preferences, guidance and structure, and how fit-for-purpose a mobile device is – are the main contributions our study makes to the BYOD/prescribed technology discussion. With benefits specifically associated with prescribed (minimum standard) mobile technology approach limited, further research is recommended to evaluate the impacts of BYOD versus prescribed technology on student learning.
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