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...