Recently, INSEAD, NOKIA, and ICUS formed an Asia-Pacific consortium to pilot m-learning. The initial result of their endeavor was the development and deployment of an e-course delivered via WAP-enabled NOKIA phones. The course, eBusiness on the Move, was developed to make use of both WAP (wireless) and Web (wired) technologies, allowing participants to access content via phone and computer.
INSEAD provided the course content and ICUS applied online instructional design principles and pedagogy. NOKIA supplied technical WAP expertise and played an important role in marketing.
Tight integration of course content and dual
access for 70 percent of the course let participants experience the same
course by either access WAP or Web technology. Evaluations
tracking learner progress revealed that WAP technology delivered an
average level of coaching support and higher than average level of
The goal of the pilot course was to successfully introduce mobile technology as a delivery method. Participants were mainly senior executives with at least three years work experience in an established position. In terms of technical skills, participants were expected to be competent Internet users.
Based on an INSEAD classroom course, eBusiness on the Move offered an introductory look at current and future use of the Internet in business, including
Course objectives were to
Learning activities comprised reading material, bulletin board discussions, multiple-choice quizzes, and writing assignments. Learners linked to video clips, PDF articles, and Websites. In addition, the course required two coaches to facilitate and track learner progress. For example, one coach provided feedback on an interactive bulletin board while the other coach used email to provide direct assistance to learners about course content and procedural matters. There was significant peer-to-peer and peer-to-coach interaction via bulletin boards, direct email, and voice applications.
The course was approximately 20 hours, and learners were expected to complete it over a period of four to five weeks. Participants received an INSEAD certificate upon successful course completion.
The WAP/ Web equation
This course used two delivery formats: Web and WAP. The WAP format requires short text, additional screens, and more titles than the Web version, resulting in a multilevel hierarchical menu system. An MS Word document that cross-referenced WAP chunks and Web topics was provided as a navigational aid.
Although 10 percent of the course was WAP-only accessible, 80 percent of the overall course was accessible via phone, including links to WAP sites, multiple-choice questionnaires, and quick reminders and alerts from the coaches. Likewise, approximately 20 percent of the course was Web-only, but nearly 90 percent of the overall course content was on the Web, including digital video clips, bulletin board discussions, email, and links to Websites. Obviously there was some redundancy, with 70 percent of the course accessible to learners via both delivery methods.
Most learners accessed about 40 percent to 50 percent of WAP-delivered material and 70 percent to 80 percent of Web-delivered material. Reasons for accessing the course via the Web rather than WAP included small screen size, slow connections, and limited graphics.
Prior to taking the course, most learners believed they would make little use of the phone. In fact, only five of the 14 participants said they expected to like using WAP-enabled phones for learning. Their opinion was based primarily on the notion that the phone's screen size was too small to be useful.
Following the course, participants reported that WAP-delivered content added value to the learning experience, saying that anywhere, any time access provided a high level of convenience. According to one learner, "The reminders from the coach were useful, especially for overdue assignments!" Another learner said, "The multiple-choice quizzes with immediate feedback were excellent."
Nearly all participants were pleased with the overall course quality and technical support. Learner feedback included, "It was reassuring to have direct access to coaches for content issues and the help desk for technical issues, " and "Apart from time constraints on the discussions, the course offered maximum flexibility."
All learners reported that the course was easy to navigate whether using a mobile phone or computer. Most learners found few problems when switching between the computer and phone due to the hard copy reference chart, which linked WAP chunks to their Web counterparts. Nevertheless, without the Web alternative as backup support, only half the learners said they would deem the WAP-enabled portions of the course satisfactory.
Most learners found the Web-delivered portions easy to set up and access. Although all learners found WAP-delivered content easy to access, two learners needed assistance to configure their phones. (Please note: Those learners were absent from the face-to-face kickoff event that covered tool configuration and setup.)
The only handheld computing devices available 30 years ago were programmable calculators, which bear little resemblance to the digital handheld devices that people now use for email, phone, and so forth. Today, wireless development focuses on integrating data and voice functionality in a single device. Whether a mobile phone with Internet access or a handheld data device with phone capability, the goal is for individuals to have wireless access to data applications. Handheld digital devices are becoming more common, and their quality and capability is increasing due to technological breakthroughs in miniaturization and advancements in wireless bandwidth and data networks.
However, m-learning has been slow to grow because most wireless devices have small screens, low resolution, slow processing, and limited storage capabilities. Likewise, difficulty connecting various types of devices to the same network is a real limitation. It seems likely that m-learning is better suited to such specific content areas as sales or language skills. Also, current WAP technology makes it best suited to particular aspects of e-learning courses, such as
With the convergence of mobile computing and wireless technology, each device can extend beyond messaging and connect to the Web, providing individuals with alternative ways to access information. Rather than considering mobile access as a replacement for wired devices, companies should see it as an enhancement when planning their e-commerce and e-learning initiatives. So, as m-commerce will become a subset of e-commerce, m-learning will be a subset of e-learning.
WAP-related Items from Course Evaluation Data (n = 14)
(SD = Strongly Disagree, D = Disagree, A = Agree, SA = Strongly Agree)
American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)