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Updated: November 7, 2011 17:18 IST

Mobile and connected? Learning becomes easy

Mohamed Nazeer
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Julia Sander, Vice-Chancellor, Riedlingen University, displaying the features of the mobile-learning programme of the university on a tablet.
Julia Sander, Vice-Chancellor, Riedlingen University, displaying the features of the mobile-learning programme of the university on a tablet.

Riedlingen University in Germany has devised an integrated mobile-learning programme that a student can use at home or while on the move for accessing academic content.

For Riedlingen University in Germany, the innovative concept of mobile learning is not just about packaging e-learning course materials into modules to be played on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. It is an efficient model that combines content and technology for achieving a high level of learner-to-learner and learner-to-trainer interaction that suits both students and the faculty on the move.

The university, which is one of the six private universities run by SRH Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Germany, has embarked on a mobile-learning programme for its MBA students, which explores the new possibilities offered by being both mobile and connected. It is an effective combination of low-level interaction involving one-way communication through multimedia tools or graphics, including slide shows, e-books, podcasting and video-casting, and a high-level interaction through virtual classrooms, streaming media, video/audio-conferences, group games, chat groups, mobile blogging, and wikis, among others. Explaining the innovative mobile-learning programme developed by the university, in association with Apple, Vice-Chancellor Julia Sander, who is heading a delegation of students and faculty of the university to Kannur University as part of a student and faculty exchange programme between the two institutions, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that mobile learning was much more than e-learning.

“Mobility has evolved from the PC in the 1990s to the laptop since 2000 and to the netbook or the tablet PC or smart phone in 2011,” Prof. Sander said, adding that development of these phases involves levels of interaction from low to high. Interaction between students and teachers and among students is crucial for the success of the programme, she added.

A partnership

The university has been so ambitious in pursuing the programme that Apple offered to support and work with it to develop the concept, the Vice-Chancellor said. Curious about the programme, Apple sent seven developers to the university campus in Riedlingen, and it now wanted the university to promote the programme in other universities, she said.

Under the programme, each student who has joined the Master's programme in business management is provided an iPad for supporting mobile content delivery. As Prof. Sander explains, the learning management system in the programme includes podcasts and quiz, assessments and tests, coaching and mentoring, web-based training, e-learning, and performance support.

“Our mobile-learning programme is an integrated system as it includes systems and applications that a student can use at home or while on the move for accessing academic content,” she said.

In her earlier presentation of the programme at a function organised by the Department of Management Studies of Kannur University, she differentiated the programme in her university from similar ones in other universities in different parts of the world, including Stanford University Medical School, Palo Alto, in the U.S. and Adelaide University in Australia. She said Riedlingen became the first university to have started a mobile and paperless study programme for the MBA course in March.

The programme is the latest phase of the e-learning process started in 1996-97 with its e-campus programmes that later evolved into virtual classrooms and e-libraries in 2007.

“The basic idea is to enrich the content we already have, by putting on new video lectures, quiz questions, links and graphics, etc.,” said Martin Knoke, Dean of Management Studies of Riedlingen University, who is also part of the visiting delegation. Mobile learning has everything that caters to students and faculties who are mobile as it allows the students to access the university library from wherever they are. There are 30 to 50 online classes every week, especially in the evenings.

Out of 25 students undergoing the MBA programme in the university now, 24 are employed, he said stressing that mobile learning is especially useful for such students.

“The mobile-learning programme allows students to remember easily and figure out what the professor says and understand the study materials,” David Krampe, one of the six students in the visiting German team, said.

Prof. Sander said the university wanted to extend this model of mobile learning to full-time students as well, as it encompassed the community, communication and content by combining e-campus activities, virtual classroom and e-publications.

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