Friday, 19 December 2008

Project Update - The Last Post For 2008!

Well today has been my last working day until Christmas…and I thought it’d be an ideal time to wish you all a Merry Christmas…and give you a final project update of 2008!!

The last 7 weeks have been somewhat eventful and very informative. Highlights have included my trip to the University of Bradford and the MmIT North West AGM, lowlights have been few and far between I’m glad to say but I’d probably have to admit the lack of awareness of m-learning from some of the students has been disheartening…it’s funny in a world where these so called ‘digital natives’ thrive in the use of new technologies, yet a seamless integration into teaching and learning is still a good few years off on both sides of the coin: students and academics.

Over the last two days I have been tackling the results from the student surveys in order to present them in a journal article that myself, Leo Appleton and Will Reid are pulling together by early January next year (next year - 2009!!!) It’s been a good exercise of enlightenment and a thought-provoking process actually looking at the results in detail, discovering how the students are currently using their devices in teaching and learning, the possibilities for future use and why the support of m-learning is a good step for the university to be taking.

The abstract for the M-Libraries Conference has also been submitted today so fingers crossed over Christmas that it gets accepted – I’ll let you know as soon as I know myself!!

So I’ll round it up there, have a lovely Christmas and I’ll see you all refreshed and ready to get stuck back into the research in the New Year!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

MmIT North West AGM: Mobile Learning in Libraries

Yesterday I attended and presented at the Multimedia, Information and Technology (MmIT) Group North West AGM. The theme for the seminar was ‘Mobile Learning in Libraries’ which obviously fits in nicely with the current research project I am conducting for LJMU.

The day kicked off with some rather strong coffees and mini mince pies, which were lovely!! After half an hour of networking with the other attendees, Leo Appleton (the chair for the day) summoned us to take our seats for the first presentation.

Unfortunately one of the speakers from the first slot was ill and could not attend so Leo jumped from host to presenter to help his former colleague Sean Herbert to present. ‘Using handheld gadgets in Further Education libraries’ was an informative case study that showed how the library service at West Cheshire College has evolved over the last few years, growing with the new ways in which the students wanted to learn and embracing the new era of mobile technologies in teaching and learning.

The library service at West Cheshire College is a library with a difference. Students are able to loan hardware devices (handheld video players, digital audio recorders and digital cameras etc.) as if they were books so they can be utilised for their study.
A YouTube site containing a whole host of videos from ‘How to tie and wear a neckerchief’ which has 2,673 views to ‘Preparing vegetable cuts’ is maintained by West Cheshire College enabling their students to download relevant and informative course related videos onto their handheld devices to help them in their study. The beauty being that on a handheld device, the students have access anytime, anywhere – the trainee chefs can use the videos in the kitchens, the bricklayers on site etc.

And also hardware casualties are extremely rare – one fatality in the last year!!

The second speaker was from Blackburn Public Libraries; Angela Robinson gave an enthusiastic presentation on ‘Using games consoles for reader development’ and even though this isn’t strictly ‘mobile’ it does open avenues for the future. The use of a Nintendo Wii to improve reader development exposes how technology appeals to children and young people, public libraries can exploit this to ensure that children and young people consistently return to their local libraries. ‘But they are not reading...’ some people might argue – not whilst they are playing on a games console I admit, but during the time when they are waiting their turn, nipping to the toilet or talking to friends, they are surrounded by books which is the first step to getting children and young people who would never dream of going to the library, never mind actually picking a book up to read it, to actually do so.

Angela also spoke of a new initiative that is currently underway at Blackburn Public Libraries whereby they have invested in 10 Nintendo DS gaming devices with 10 Brain Training packs to be offered to the over 50’s, loanable in the same way in which books are. A brilliant way to bridge the gap between the older generations and the younger generations in terms of technology but also, if this initiative is a success then surely there will be similar schemes for different age groups to follow...

There was a 30min refreshment break next which we were all extremely glad for – it was exceptionally cold in the lecture theatre so a nice cup of tea was just what the doctor ordered!!

Will Reid and myself finished the day off by reporting back to the group on the research undertaken so far here at LJMU for the mobile technologies project I am conducting.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Christmas Countdown

Well it’s the final working week before Christmas – time to wind down, tie up loose ends, and leave work with everything straight and ready for the New Year – YEAH RIGHT!! It may be the last working week before Christmas but it will hold no mercy...I've got a list as long as Santa's to complete before 5pm on Friday!

Over the last couple of days I have been busy analysing the results from the student surveys, writing an abstract for the M-Libraries conference and preparing for a presentation at the MmIT North West AGM tomorrow...and after tomorrow I will be submerging myself in the construction of a journal article for ALT-J. So any chance of an easy week was squashed many moons ago!

The first examination of the student survey results has produced some interesting findings, most prominently, of all the students surveyed, 75% were keen to see some form of mobile learning made available by the university. This is encouraging as it means that there is a want and need from the students and in fulfilling our role of providing resources and services that fulfil student requirements there is an obvious gap. It also provides encouragement for the planned student focus group as it gives us the chance to find out exactly what the students want and need to help them with their learning and study. Perhaps not surprisingly, 100% of students surveyed owned a mobile phone; however it is important to note that 10% of these students did not own internet enabled devices which raises future issues with inclusion – are these students going to be at a disadvantage by the introduction of an m-learning strategy? This again rolls over to other devices without a 100% positive response rate – 86% of students own a laptop, 77% own an audio listening device and 11% own handheld gaming devices. Quite excitingly (for me and him!) one student owned an iPhone, one student owned a netbook and one student owned a notebook – no one questioned owned a PDA, some not even knowing what a PDA was. This demonstrates the playing field in which we enter if we develop a strategy for m-learning over the coming years. More in-depth results will follow in the near future.

The abstract for the M-Libraries Conference 2009 in Vancouver is pretty much set for submission and preparation for the presentation is near complete – the ALT-J article – now where to begin...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

txt msg 2 spprt...(*translated as text message to support)

During the graveyard stint of student surveys (one of the quietest days so far at IM Marsh according to the staff!) I managed to gatecrash a short meeting about the possibility of using text message technology to support learners within the Sport Development team in the Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure.

In previous studies it has been proven that text messages illicit a better response rate compared to email from students as it is their natural channel of communication; this has also been proven during the student surveys I have performed as part of the mobile technologies project. I have found so far that every student owns a mobile phone, carrying it with them almost 100% of their day-to-day life and when asked almost 100% of students preferred to be contacted via text as it is ‘instant’ – with email the students feel that they have to make a conscious effort to log on and check their inbox – and then they are faced with numerous blanket emails that they feel are totally irrelevant, important emails get lost in the midst.

So on the face of things, text message technology seems like a good move – but what about the logistics???

Well the key points to consider are:

· Students change their mobile numbers on quite a frequent basis – how will this be managed?
· Will the system be 1 way (only the lecturers can contact the students) or 2 way (the students can also contact the lecturers)?
· Cost – 4p per text is seen as an acceptable rate.
· Data protection.
· Would a package with Blackboard integration but is slightly more expensive (such as EDUTXT) be better than one that does not but is slightly cheaper (such as Janet TXT)?

From talking to the students I think text message technology is the right way forward as long as it is managed correctly. There is no point bombarding the students with the same amount of ‘irrelevant’ texts as they get emails as they will soon get fed up with them all and just end up deleting them before they have read them. Text message technology is a great way of ‘instant’ communication with the students and if it is exploited in the right ways, could seriously help the students feel supported in their learning and study.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Back In The Thick of Things

Well after having two days off (and two brilliant concert nights - Coldplay and the Kings of Leon) it's straight back in the deep end with my 3rd round of student surveys. I'm at IM Marsh LRC today, hoping that I'll be able to get a decent handful of students to take a couple of minutes out of their exam preparation time to give me their views on mobile technologies and how they see it fitting into their learning...

...Fingers crossed...

Friday, 5 December 2008

iTunes U

After a bumpy start, (my PC deciding it wanted to enjoy a long weekend and giving up the goat) this morning turned out to be a rather informative and constructive one…

I attended a meeting fronted by Paul McFadden (head of sales for Apple iTunes in Europe) to discuss a new piece of technology called iTunes U. And what is iTunes U I hear you ask? Well, iTunes U is just like iTunes but for educational content – so lecturers within the university could create podcasts/videocasts relating to their courses and make them available in a LJMU branded iTunes store. Students can then subscribe to the content that is produced for their modules. Subscriptions to playlists can either be password protected (which is synced to the universities username and password facility) or public facing; the advantage of allowing external access (ie access from non-students) is that the profile of the university is raised each time an external person accesses or downloads content that is produced within the institution. A prime example of this being Joseph Stiglitz’s podcast about the credit crunch at The University of Oxford which now occupies the number one spot in the global iTunes U top download chart thanks to its popularity – now I know The University of Oxford does’t need their profile raising any further but the idea and indication of what a successful podcast could do for an institution is there all the same!!

All the content that is produced for the store is held on campus by the university (Apple do not have a hold on any content) and there isn’t a cost to the students for accessing the material. The costing to the university comes through staffing and the time spent to produce the content in the first place but apart from that it’s plain sailing.

A prime example of an iTunes U store that’s an extremely high standard is that of the OU –check it out – it is very slick!!

So what’s for the future here at LJMU? Well as of yet I’m not sure but hopefully iTunes U will be embraced by the university enabling us to provide podcasts/videocasts to students in an easy to use and scalable way.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Student Surveys - Part 1

So the student surveys are now underway…

On Tuesday 2nd December I spent the afternoon at Avril Robarts LRC and managed to get responses from 25 students. I was surprised at how hard-going the ‘clipboarding’ actually was and I hadn’t anticipated how long I’d be spending with each student on average. I did however manage to get a good range of students (although fresher’s were the most likely candidates to stop and chat…and with such enthusiasm…is it that we have officially seen the arrival of ‘Generation C’ students or is it just that the 1st year is the least stressful?!?)

Without looking at the results in too much detail as of yet – I’ve got two more ‘clipboarding’ sessions to carry out after all – I think it’s safe to say however that the overall consensus from the students was that they could not see a connection between their mobile devices and the ways in which these devices could enable them to ‘learn on the go.’ At first I was a bit disheartened by this level of opinion but having had time to reflect on it I have come to the conclusion that the reason this response was so is simply due to the fact that the students have never really been faced with this option and therefore have never really thought about it. I had many a blank face when I asked the students “in an ideal world, what could we (the university) provide for you (the student) in terms of content that could be used on your devices anytime, anywhere?” Almost every student needed to be prompted with ideas (for which I mainly used podcasts of lectures) and I’m glad to say that the majority of students would be keen to have access to such material. This is promising when considered in relation to the LJMU Podcasting Forum and the fact that the podcasting direction is one already been experimented with across several faculties within the university.

Out of the 25 students interviewed everyone owned a mobile phone and one even had an iPhone – yes I know I was pretty excited too – and this student was particularly keen to be able to access learning objects which he could use on his iPhone ‘on the go.’ I think the idea of m-learning is one that the students haven’t been fully faced with as of yet so a big part of this project needs to be about raising awareness and getting the students excited about ‘what could be.’

I won’t analyse my findings any further just yet, I’ve got a 3 hour stint this afternoon and a further session next week…I’ll update any further important outcomes of this afternoons session and provide more in-depth results next week after I’ve finished all the student surveys.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Project Update

I just thought I’d finish the week with a bit of a round-up as to where the project is ‘at.’

The end of the week has taken a hectic turn…the fieldwork part of the project has been inadvertently coaxed along by up and coming deadline dates for a conference and journal ‘call for papers’ which will hopefully heighten the profile of the project. And not to forget an impending presentation on the 16th of December for the Multimedia and Information Technology Group of CILIP (MmIT).

Preparation to begin the fieldwork part of the project is now complete though...I will be armed and ready with my clipboard and questions next week hoping to talk to the students in and around the LRCs about their current uses/experiences of mobile devices for recreation and study and to also find out how they think the future will unfold with regards to mobile learning. If you see me out and about and are interested to see the kinds of questions I’ll be asking the students feel free to come over for a quick chat and share your views.

My brain is getting rather full after ploughing through lots of reports and journal articles which will feed into the final report at the end of the project, so I am quite excited about being able to get out-and-about next week and start talking to the students. It will finally start to put certain things I’ve read into context.

I also had an interesting meeting today with a lecturer from the Faculty of Science about their use of virtual fieldtrips, it’s nice to see how different departments deliver their teaching and support student learning.

Next week will be an interesting one – I’ll keep you posted…

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Laptop Loans Revisited

I can’t believe it’s the fourth week of the project already; time has flown since I originally posted ‘Laptop Loans’ and I finally have some useful information to update you all…

The general consensus with this element of mobile learning is it is regarded by students as an extremely beneficial service; it allows for greater flexibility, portability and privacy. A study at Colorado State University even found that students preferred to wait and queue for a laptop loan, even when desktop PCs were available, proving how popular such a service can become and really re-enforcing the importance of providing flexible working environments for the 21st century student.

Previous laptop loan studies (namely by Browning and Cunningham in 2006) have found that implementing such a scheme is a cost effective way of providing greater access to computers without any major redevelopment of the physical space within libraries/LRCs. Obviously in some cases a certain amount of savings will be counter-balanced by inadvertent damage due to the high usage of such a scheme and the vast numbers of students handling the laptops in any given week, and this comes through in a study that Holden and Hseih conducted in 2007. Interestingly 30% of participant’s surveyed highlighted anticipated costs as a deterrent for implementing a laptop loan scheme, whereas 21% had figured cost as a favourable factor to implementing a laptop loan scheme.

Here at LJMU, a laptop loan scheme runs at our IM Marsh campus. Supply regularly does not meet demand, reinforcing how valued the laptop loan scheme is for students based there. So far the laptop loan scheme has not produced any casualties as of yet (in loss or damage to the laptops) which I think once again reinforces how valued the scheme is by the students. At the moment wireless printing has not been put into practice but the facility to do so has been trialled and will be starting imminently which will greater enhance the flexibility to the students.

A key them can came through in the literature and is also a factor here at LJMU is that of laptop loans supporting group work and social learning. This notion will be even greater enhanced through the Aldham Refurbishment Project and the plans to allow students to display work from their given multimedia through small screens provided in open plan group areas. Also a point for consideration is Colorado State University’s presentation kit loans, allowing students to loan a laptop, projector and portable screen.

A topical point to finish on: is a laptop really a mobile device? Considering the term ‘mobile’ in its truest form, exploiting ‘mobile’ technologies is about the exploitation of ‘anytime, anywhere’ access, through devices that are carried day to day i.e. mobile phones, MP3s, PDAs. These devices are carried in the same sense that someone carries their wallet or keys, it is picked up when leaving the house without a second thought…do people really just carry their laptop around ‘without a second thought’? Or is it a pre-determined action to pick up your laptop when leaving the house?

It’s food for thought for the current ‘on-the-go’ lifestyles of not only students, but people in general today.

(See: CLAUDILL, Jason. G. (2007) The growth of m-learning and the growth of mobile computing: parallel developments. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol 8 (2) pp 1- 13, for further discussion).

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Mobile Devices for Assessment in Education

Exploring the benefits, barriers and essential specifications of mobile devices used for learning and assessment purposes with disabled students.

1 Day Seminar – University of Bradford – 19/11/08

Yesterday I attended the University of Bradford to take part in a 1 day seminar that explored mobile technologies in education from the angle of accessibility issues for disabled students. The focal point of the day was upon the Assessment and Learning in Practice Settings (ALPS) Assessment Tools and Supporting Technology and the support provided by the Mobile Enabled Disabled Students (MEDS) team.

The ALPS project was funded and orchestrated by one of the countries Centre’s for Teaching and Excellence (CETL) consisting of University of Bradford, the University of Huddersfield, the University of Leeds (lead); Leeds Metropolitan University, and York St John University.

Nine hundred students were given T-Mobile MDA Varios (see for info: which they were to take out into the workplace during work placements (the project was centred on students studying in the Health and Social Care profession so for example, nurses) in order for ‘on the spot’ referral to learning objects (such as videos) to be facilitated and ‘right here, right now’ assessment to be performed. The students were able to assess their interactions with patients immediately through the device ensuring that they recorded all relevant information whilst it was still fresh in their mind. These assessments were then automatically uploaded into their e-portfolios, which could be viewed from a Web browser, so over the year, they had a measure of their skills and competencies.

The MEDS team carried out a focus group exercise with a number of disabled students, aiming to discover what they wanted and needed from a PDA, even asking them to write a ‘wish list’ of the ideal components in order for the MEDS team to understand the direction they should take. They also had a follow up exercise (which was quite time intensive), five students participated. This exercise consisted of the disabled students actually using the T-Mobile MDA Varios and each time they found it particularly helped them, hindered them or was useful in a particular function, the students would be expected to upload their views to an online blog. The MEDS team could then access this and create an action plan of issues to be resolved, finally resulting in the accessibility and usability of the devices and software being improved.

The overall consensus from the students was positive; the devices aided their learning, helped them to manage their time and enabled them to keep online records of their experiences. Negativities occurred around the size of the device and slow network connections (due to budget constraints the devices were operating on the 2G network).

One of the key themes yesterday was the notion that if you make devices and software accessible to disabled students you make the devices and software better for all students, and as we take the steps to a more mobile future here at LJMU, this needs to be at the forefront of all new initiatives.

Monday, 17 November 2008

To Podcast Or Not To Podcast

In the dynamic field of mobile technologies in learning, a common trend is that of podcasting. Of all the new tools and technologies now available to be exploited in teaching and learning, the world of the podcast is the least intimidating and least expensive but also one with immediate results.

Podcasts can be made with relatively little investment, a microphone, a software program (such as Audacity which is free to download, see: and a willing lecturer, and you're pretty mcuh ready to record your first show.

This particular Web 2.0 technology is currently used by a number of Schools and Faculties here at Liverpool John Moores University allowing students to experience learning 'on-the-go' at a time and in a format that suits their lifestyles. Whether they are travelling home from lectures on the bus or holding out for a more subliminal method of learning and listening to a lecture as they drift off to sleep, podcasts are an interesting way to tap into the student mind and make the most of the odd 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, when the traditional textbook method isn't wholly appropriate.

One particualr lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University converted half of his lectures for one particular module to podcasts and informal feedback from his students proved positive. Obviously a more formal approach needs to be taken to evaluate this new use of technology in learning in order for us to gauge the appropriateness and success across different Schools and Faculties throughout the University.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Flat-Panel Displays

As part of the Aldham Robarts Refurbishment Project at Liverpoool John Moores University (, I have been commandeered to do some research into the possibility of providing a number of small flat-panel displays in planned open area, group study spaces without SMART Board technology, and, the possibility of adopting larger displays with the technology for use in student seminar rooms. See: This will further enhance the 'flexibillity' of student learning and falls in line with the imminent introduction of the library supporting mobile technologies and m-learning.

This will be an exciting avenue to follow, allowing the students the flexibility to 'hook up' a variety of multimedia to one of the screens, enabling them to share their work visually with other students. It is hoped that laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras and PDAs will be jsut some of the devices compatibile with this venture.

I received interesting feedback from the University of Nottingham who have adopted a similar approach in their 'Learning Hub.' They facilitate flexible learning by having plasma screens with SMART Board interactive overlays mounted onto moveable trolleys to add portability in open areas.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Laptop Loans

So far my research has uncovered a massive divide in the ways in which laptop loans schemes are managed within university libraries across the UK.

For example, at the leniant end of the scale you see laptop loan periods of up to 4 weeks, late return charges of just 50p per hour and a full charge for lost/stolen/damaged laptops of just £170.

On the opposing side of the spectrum you see laptop loan periods of just 2 hours, late return charges of £5 per hour and a full charge for a lost/stolen/damaged laptops of up to £1922.39.

I am awaiting some in-depth feedback from an academic library that has been running laptop loans for over a year now so hopefully I will soon be able to ascertain the most justified way of offering laptop loans...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


Well this is my first ever here goes...

My name is Vicki Owen and I am currently researching 'M-Learning' and 'Mobile Technologies' within universities, with a specific focus on their uses and exploitations in libraries for Liverpool John Moores University.

Any useful articles/sites/links will be welcomed with open arms!!! And in turn I will try and keep you up to date with my research as it unfolds (this is only day 2 of a six month research project so just remember paitence is a virtue!!)

My 1st port of call today is to look at the logisitcs of 'Laptop Loans' - I'll let you know what I uncover...