The development and practice of m-learning courses based on tutor-directed online teaching

Jianjun Hou and Kuiyuan Zhang
Peking University
Beijing, China

Because of the cheaper price and more powerful performance of mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablet PCs, more and more Chinese learners can afford them and use them for learning. This project explores a course framework to integrate m-learning technology into online courses which are used in distance education at Peking University. This framework provides learners with a blended learning environment in which they can study a course through a PC, mobile phone and tablet PC without problems in the learning process, and get a smooth learning experience with different devices.

Based on the analysis of learners’ needs and course structure, the researchers established the following five elements in the design: (a) keeping dynamic data consistency among three kinds of platform through the server communication; (b) binding static information with the app program to save communication expenses for learners; (c) providing tutor-directed function to facilitate learners’ learning; (d) reducing the level of mobile application and providing clear learning navigation; and (e) adopting Scorm to standardize content structures and data interfaces.

This project chose three courses which are popular in the School of Continuing Education of Peking University as examples to test the framework. The early development work included proofreading the learning content, developing a mobile phone application and tablet PC application, revising the online courses procedure to match the m-learning apps, and developing synchronous programs and databases in the servers.

After completing all this work in December 2012, the researchers invited the learners on the three courses to use the blended learning platform in the spring semester of 2013. Through interview and a questionnaire survey at the end of the term, it was found that the learners were satisfied with the interface design, tutor-directed function design and cross-platform learning experience — but they also made some suggestion, such as enhancing the interactive function between learners and optimizing app performance.