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.


  1. you might be interested in talking to Richard Vickerman, who ran a similar project here at LJMU in the education department. 30 trainee teacher were given PDAs. the big issues were around interface design, keyboard is small, battery life was a problem, but mostly students found it difficult to see a major benefit in using them.

  2. Thanks Jim - he's already forwarded me the paper for this that was presented at the British Educational Research Conference in 2006.

    One of the things that came up during the conference yesterday was that using mobile devices in learning is context specific, a 'one size fits all' strategy is not the way to go and I think that this is proven by the differing feedback between the ALPS project and the LJMU one.

  3. This is fantastic presentation which captures what technology is all about. Thank you for sharing and may you have many thought provoking conversations.

  4. It’s great to see good information being shared.Such a nice post, it is really interesting,Thanks.

  5. Nice post. I really liked it.. Don't forget to update it regularly. I am looking for new updates dying to read more stuff from you.