Handheld technologies and their role in supporting distance-learning study

Lunsford, Vanessa Jane (2010). Handheld technologies and their role in supporting distance-learning study. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d580


Distance education institutions have always employed a variety of technological media, and developing technologies are incorporated into the learning blend as their advantages are identified. Modern distance learning has, therefore, become linked implicitly with the latest media and handheld communication technologies are now being used to communicate with members of the educational community, share information and resources, and enable investigation, discussion and learning.

The use of similar mobile technologies for the purposes of student support is under-represented in the literature. This action research study explored the limitations and benefits of handheld technologies for supporting distance learning students, and the drivers and barriers that might affect their use by students. The literature review helped to identify the attributes and limitations of m-learning and handheld technologies, and the aspects of student support that might be enabled through mobile options. The research design included a questionnaire, a year-long study in which associate lecturers developed mobile-accessible resources to use with their students, and interviews with study support experts. The research data was collected in a UK distance education institution.

The study showed that handheld technologies can be used to support students for a number of different purposes: to provide an additional informal means of communication with staff and other students; to prompt participation oraction; to suggest resources or personalise the support for students; to enable access to advice and guidance; to offer factual information for study and administrative purposes; to encourage revision and review of learning.The research also suggested that students felt that increased group cohesion was promoted within the learning community through using their personal mobile technologies within the student support framework.

A model of this potential method of support is presented, giving examples of the types of communications, resources and services that could be implemented within a distance education institution.

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