Supporting collaborative groupwork using mobile phones in distance education

Dr Niall Winters, London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education

Research team:

Yishay Mor, London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education

TRA3 N Winters (Final Report) [pdf, 865kb]

Mobile learning and online distance education have both benefited from the increasing sophistication of pedagogical practices and technical developments over the last number of years. However, as each community has developed, there has been little research into the inter-relationships between them and what this means for course designers in both spaces.

The project addresses this issue by investigating the pressing need to develop collaborative group work activities for mobile learners in distance education courses. This is important because with the growth in both the social use and multi-functionality of mobile phones, there is a clear potential for mobile learning activities to be designed so as to support distance learners. However, this raises a number of complex educational issues around activity design, the inter-relationship between mobile and online activities, and the experience of the students and tutors with these new activities, all of which require investigation. This project takes a design-based research approach (Cobb et al., 2003) to this by working with students and practitioners across the University on piloting the integration of mobile phone based group work activities into online distance education modules at Institute of Education (IoE) and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), leveraging the existing research and expertise of both in this area.

The project will take place in four phases: phase 1 will investigate the technical capabilities of mobile phones for the needs of distance learners; phase 2 will iteratively co-design with students and pilot productive collaborative group work activities in the service of learning; phase 3 will involve the re-design, empirical testing and evaluation of further activities at the IoE and RVC and phase 4 will develop design guidelines for course leaders who wish to integrate mobile learning activities into their distance courses.

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