A Mobile Learning Literature Review

Planning a mobile learning initiative takes a lot of thought and consideration of many factors. In addition, plenty of research must be done in advance in order to have a successful technology implementation. With research we can learn from the mistakes and successes of others, what worked and what didn’t. Currently I’ve been researching mobile learning and how students and faculty are using mobile technologies and apps for teaching and learning. My research centered on research reports, articles and other mobile learning studies that included measurement strategies designed to answer some of the same questions we want to find out about our faculty and students here at Lamar. The measurement instruments others have used in the research can be tailored to fit our needs for measuring our mobile technology initiative.

During my research, I chose articles and studies that involved other higher education institutions looking to implement the same innovation plan that our university was. What I found is that there are many studies being done on mobile learning which could be attributed to the fact that mobile learning is a fast-emerging tech innovation in higher education institutions across the world. I’ve determined that our measurement strategy should focus on faculty and undergraduate students to evaluate how they’re utilizing mobile devices for learning as well as their attitudes and competency levels using those mobile devices. Therefore, I included those studies which tried to answer the same questions that I wanted to answer about our initiative. Looking at usage and ownership, The ECAR Student of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2015 from EDUCAUSE gave lots of insight into the very recent mobile trends among students. The ECAR study states that in 2015 smartphone ownership (92%) exceeded laptop ownership (91%) for the first time since 2004 (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek, & Reeves, 2015). It also states that students and faculty are really interested in using mobile devices for teaching and learning but aren’t using them much at all for these purposes. A study done by Chen and Denoyelles (2013) at University of Central Florida developed a Mobile/eBook Survey to answer questions about what types of mobile devices students owned and how they were being used for academic purposes. I was more interested in the mobile section of the survey which is mainly composed of open-ended questions that students could answer fairly quickly and easily. Although the questions are pretty well thought out and somewhat comprehensive it may be troublesome to analyze and compare the data from those types of questions and might work better as multiple choice, Likert-type scale questions. Some of their findings reflected that over 90% of students owned a mobile device with over half stating that they used them for academic purposes. In a second study done again at UCF 2 years later, “Student’s Mobile Learning Practices in Higher Education: A Multi-Year Study”, they were able to conclude that mobile device ownership is still high (more than 95%) and continues to increase among the student population (Chen, Seilhamer, Bennett & Bauer, 2015). Furthermore, their results indicated that when mobile devices and apps were required for course activities instructors provided limited technical support if it was provided at all. It was a little surprising to see that only 19% of students stated that their instructors modeled the mobile apps that students were required to use (2015). How can faculty expect students to use mobile devices and apps if they don’t use it themselves? Research by Sevillano-Garcia and Vazquez-Cano (2014) highlights the fact that professors must themselves adapt and incorporate technology initiatives into the development of their students. Even though mobile device ownership is pervasive among college students and faculty we need more insights into how they are currently using them for academics.

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Screenshot (above) from “Students’ mobile learning practices in higher education: A multi-year study.” (Chen, Seilhamer & Bennett, 2015)

Next, we need to look at faculty and student attitudes and perceptions using mobile devices for learning and teaching. How do faculty feel about integrating mobile devices into curriculum and pedagogy? Do they see smartphones as a distraction in the classroom? Do students prefer using mobile devices for learning and other educational activities?  Chen and Denoyelles survey results indicated that students feel they need additional support when it comes to using mobile technologies for learning (2013). In Pamela Pollara’s (2011, p.113) mobile learning study, which includes a comprehensive student survey, faculty survey, student questionnaire and faculty questionnaire, found that faculty believe students use their mobile devices mainly for socialization but concludes this could be attributed to the faculty’s lack of knowledge about mobile device capabilities. The faculty respondents also indicated that they feel mobile learning would be beneficial to students and could incorporate it if they had training to do so. In the ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2015, Brooks (2015) determined that faculty have positive attitudes toward technology and are motivated to develop better understanding of how to use mobile technologies in the classroom. In fact, over 52% of faculty believe that mobile technology can enhance student learning. However, about the same number of faculty agreed that they would like more professional development and/or training about effectively incorporating mobile devices into their classes for learning.

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Screenshot (above) from “Students’ mobile learning practices in higher education: A multi-year study.” (Chen, Seilhamer & Bennett, 2015)

In the EDUCAUSE Educational Technology and Faculty Development in Higher Education, it uses the data from the CDS survey, ECAR Faculty Study and ECAR Student study to provide a comprehensive look at how students experience technology, how faculty use it, and how institutional practices can support educational technologies (Dahlstrom, 2015). This report was able to measure how students feel about their instructors’ integrated use of technology in the classroom, types of support associated with positive faculty attitudes toward tech integration, and what motivates instructors’ use of technology for learning in the classroom (pp. 10-11). I think a valuable part of this report identifies faculty professional development interests and opportunities for integrating various technologies into their courses. The figure below also shows what technologies students want faculty to “use more” and the percentage of institutions that provide support for each. (pp. 18-20). These questions can help us determine why or why not faculty are integrating these technologies as much as they could or should be. It also gives insight into how we can optimize technology in teaching and learning, which technologies are the right ones and whether they are effective (p. 3).

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Screenshot (above) from “Educational technology and faculty development in higher education” (Dahlstrom, 2015)

A study was conducted at Asia e University (AeU) in Malaysia to determine students’ needs, acceptance and readiness level in order to select the appropriate media and technologies for teaching and learning with regards to their mobile learning plan (Karimi, Hashim, & Khan, 2010). This study the adapted the Mobile Learning Attitude and Interest survey (Croop, 2008) to use as their measurement instrument. The survey consisted of Likert-type scale items as well as multiple choice items in order to measure the participant’s level of interest and their attitude toward mobile learning and current utilization and mobile activities for learning. The results from the study helped answer the necessary questions about the learners’ mobile learning perceptions in Asia and Malaysia so that they could go forward making informed decisions and the necessary changes to their mobile learning plan.

The research from Chen, Seilhamer, Bennett and Bauer (2015) provided several practical implications that they felt would be beneficial for those wanting to have a successful mobile learning initiative. After their initial survey they began a faculty focus group to discuss usage of mobile technologies in the classroom. Next they developed a mobile app checklist that helped guide instructors through features, cost, and support when selecting apps. They also suggested creating a professional development modular course which provides pedagogical support that will contribute to faculty collaboration and sharing of ideas of mobile technologies for learning. These are important considerations as we continue planning and begin implementing mobile learning at Lamar.

We want to know…?

  • Although mobile device utilization is high it is not necessarily being used most of the time for academic or learning purposes.
  • Faculty and students agree that technology can enhance learning but there isn’t much evidence that it’s being used necessarily for education.
  • Faculty imply that if they knew how to integrate the technology they would do so more often.

We can find out if we ask the right questions.

In closing, there are plenty of reports, studies and surveys out there available for those involved in mobile learning initiatives and wanting to measuring its success. Most importantly, when it comes to measurement we should focus on asking the right questions in order to fill the gaps in the existing literature. All of the studies that I researched showed that surveys, observations, and focus groups can provide a plethora of valuable information and data that point to a baseline of activities happening within a student and faculty population. These observations are vital for reducing our uncertainties and making better, informed decisions in order to have a successful technology implementation. For our measurement strategy we could adapt the survey from Pollara’s  mobile study, focusing first on the faculty. I think a version of her faculty survey could be a good option to answer a lot about what our faculty and students are doing with mobile technology on campus and how to move forward with our initiative.

 Hubbard (2014) said that we can truly measure anything that has observable effects and in this case it is certainly true. We should always continue researching and measuring along the way so that we can further reduce our uncertainties and make better decisions for tomorrow.



Hello! I am currently an eLearning Support Specialist at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I just completed the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar to earn my M. Ed. degree. Thank you for visiting my site!

Posted in Measuring Digital Learning and Instruction
3 comments on “A Mobile Learning Literature Review
  1. […] a little since the initial measurement outline presentation, especially after looking to the research and giving the measurement plan more thought. The research suggests that surveys and focus groups […]


  2. […] the facts I learned: Information Technology Trends in Higher Education: A Literature Review and A Mobile Learning Literature Review. The research helped me make informed decisions on what disruptive innovation should look like on […]


  3. […] valuable insights into how feedback can reduce uncertainties and improve plans. The mobile learning literature review guided my choice of appropriate measurement methods and tools to use in our measurement strategy […]


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