Developing mobile learning modules for the enhancement of language proficiency

K S Yuen, Eva Y M Tsang and Belle P P Cheung
The Open University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, SAR, China

A new trend — mobile learning — is taking shape in technology-supported learning, as the use of wireless mobile technology allows learners and educators to access information ‘on the move’ without concern for time and context (Evans 2008). The use of hand-held mobile devices is found to be well aligned with strategic educational goals, including improving students’ retention, fostering personal and academic achievement, and increasing learners’ opportunities to practise (Kukulska-Hulme et al. 2005). Also, mobile learning has been shown to have a positive relationship with language learning (Lu 2008). Two years ago, a study (Yuen et al. 2011) showed that the iPad was a versatile and convenient tool most preferred for mobile learning or e-learning which happens when the learning is on the move, using unplugged learning devices. This preference is still valid now, albeit that many more tablet PCs using Android as the operating system are now available in the market.

In order to enhance students’ general language proficiency in their undergraduate studies, a team of senior staff at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) including the head of educational technology, a senior course designer, the registrar, the head of information technology, the director of research and an expert in English language studies joined together to make an application to the Government’s Quality Enhancement Grant Scheme for support to develop four mobile learning modules. The application was approved in 2011. The four modules of learning materials are: English for effective communication, English for managers, Chinese language and Putonghua. The content will be made available on mobile devices which allow students to study in their free time in addition to the wide spectrum of language courses offered at the University. The modules will be made available both to OUHK students and students in other universities in Hong Kong.

The development of the learning modules is based on the framework for the rational analysis of mobile education (FRAME) proposed by Koole (2009), in which the learning process is closely linked to mobile technologies, human learning capacities, and the social aspects of learning. Features of the learning modules which fully exploit the latest technology include interactive learning capabilities, audio and video clips, practice activities and an online forum, all of which aim to motivate learning and enhance students’ learning experience.

Through descriptive statistics, including students’ test performance and attitude calibration in their mobile learning process, this paper attempts to examine the effectiveness of mobile learning for language enhancement. It also investigates the likelihood of students using the mobile device as a supplementary tool in their learning. In addition, students’ learning experience with the mobile device will be studied both quantitatively and qualitatively. It is expected that the research results will shed light on our future development of mobile learning.