In both higher education and K-12 schools, we are seeing an increasing number of schools and districts adopting digital course materials. Many schools are opting for BYOD (bring your own device) policies in an attempt to leverage this inevitable transition to mobile as part of the educational enterprise, but the numbers paint a larger picture: Mobile learning is catching on fast, and schools need to prepare for a more digital future.
The shift from entertainment to education
Personal ownership and access to mobile devices have been a part of even our youngest students’ lives for years nearly since birth. The way they use these devices has continued to evolve as a result. Those phones and tablets are no longer simply toys or devices to surf the web and access entertainment. They’re tools for learning, giving them access to endless amounts of information at any given time.
This means that the way students learn needs to evolve to better suit this new way of learning. One of the biggest changes ushered in by mobile computing is the transition from print to digital content. If that digital content is dynamic, it will be all the more engaging to students today than if it is merely static content on a digital “page.”
And students are not only able to, but also expect to take their learning content with them wherever they go. This means a big increase in eBook usage and the need to offer digital media for mobile consumption.
Platforms like the VitalSource Bookshelf® — through which all of MBS Direct’s digital titles are available — facilitate collaboration and make learning more dynamic. Students using VitalSource can take notes and highlights directly onto the content, share those notes with other students in their classes or study groups, cite their work automatically in the citation format of their choice and more. VitalSource is device-agnostic, so students can take their titles wherever they go, regardless of operating system or manufacturer.
The mobile revolution forces educators to reevaluate the traditional model of “centripetal” learning. Centripetal learning describes the current, popular learning model in which students are pulled into a central place for learning, and in which most of the formal learning activity takes place.
The proliferation of mobile devices is changing the prevailing flow of education, however, and pushing it outward with “centrifugal” force. With smartphones and tablets, students are increasingly picking up information and learning outside the traditional learning center.
The question for educators and course designers is how to create new assignment and activity models that embrace this natural, centrifugal learning. In other words, we are being called to blend informal learning into our formal learning models. This new curriculum must be divided into content consumption versus creation activities, while reorganizing learning content into micro-segments, which provide increased support for mobile learning.
Notions like the flipped classroom are also gaining traction, where students partake in their instructional time outside of class through streaming video sessions or other tech-assisted means and use class time for completing assignments with access to an instructor in person. The prevalence of mobile devices in students’ lives has made this idea more viable.
What the numbers tell us
According to Pearson’s Student Mobile Device Survey 2015 for K-12 and Higher Ed, college-level institutions have a bit more time to embrace mobile learning. About 50% of college-age students still prefer laptops for doing homework and collaborative projects compared to just 9% who prefer both on smartphones. About the same proportion of students say they learn best on a laptop over a smartphones.
But a change is coming. In the K-12 space, 72% of elementary students, 66% of middle schoolers and 54% of high schoolers want to use mobile devices in the class more than they do now. Meanwhile, about 90% of K-12 students agreed that tablets will change the way students learn in the future, and will make learning more fun. A whopping 84% expect to use digital books instead of traditional print books to both reduce the weight they have to carry between class and engage more with their learning.
Each year, more and more students bound for higher education expect to engage more deeply and regularly with their mobile devices in their educational career. When that smartphone rings, will you be ready to answer the call?