6 MLEARNING ON THE COMPAQ IPAQ
The original proposal contained the
development of a didactic environment and the production of a course
for a wireless palmtop. The device listed in the proposal document
was the Ericsson MC 218. Ericsson discontinued development of this
device in the period between the submission of the project and its
The first meeting of the project Board
of Management substituted the Compaq iPaq for the MC 218. This decision
strengthens the project as the Compaq iPaq is the most popular and
wide selling Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) on the market.
This meeting also produced the project's
definition of mobile learning. It is couched in these terms:
During the course of the project to
date it has become apparent that there are several interpretations
of mobile learning. These include wireless LAN (WLAN) technologies
and the combination of mobile phone and laptop computer supporting
a learning event (a partner suggested the phrase "battery learning"
to describe these combinations). The meeting accepted that these
scenarios may be defined by some as mLearning and accepts that there
is an element of mobility in each. The meeting constructed a grid
contrasting mobility with functionality such that these scenarios
score high on functionality but low on mobility. The project places
its research at the opposite end of the grid whereby the emphasis
is on mobility and the testing of functionality with devices clearly
in the mobile technology arena. The meeting felt this would lead
to a truer exploration and evaluation of the issues, positive and
negative, of a mobile learning experience.
Thus the project definition of mobile
learning coincides with the review of the literature presented in
Chapter 4 above as considering that the term mobile learning should
include learning scenarios with mobile phones, palmtops and PDAs,
but regarding laptop computers as outside its focus.
Thus the development of learning scenarios
and distance learning courses for PDAs, like the Compaq iPaq, is
central to the project and as most of the work described in Chapter
4 is on the development of scenarios for palmtops and PDAs it would
be quite unrealistic not to have a central focus on development
The Compaq iPAQ is a handheld computer
giving full internet access and a wide range of functionality which
the project is harnessing for learning. It has a touch sensitive
screen that can be activated with a stylus and has a fold-out keyboard
that enables easy typing input.
Here is an illustration of the latest
iPAQ 3650 Pocket PC
The screen size of the Compaq iPAQ
or of any handheld palmtop or PDA is small and has inherent difficulties
for the presentation of course content in a distance learning context.
Most people using them, however, appear to be able to read data
from them with a certain amount of ease.
The concept of mobile learning has
a central relationship to mobile telephony and the absence of a
telephone contact, and the necessity to use a mobile telephone,
with them is an important consideration.
A central part of mobile learning
as detailed in the literature search presented in Chapter 4 deals
with handhelds, palm tops and PDAs. There is very little development
at this stage for mobile or cell phones. The project decided therefore
to put a major part of its development effort into explorations
of didactic constructs and course provision on the Compaq iPAQ.
of system for Compaq iPAQ
Fagerberg, Rekkedal and Russell in
their, Designing and Trying Out a Learning Environment for Mobile
Learners and Teachers describe the development of the didactic
environment system for the Compaq iPaq at NKI in Norway thus:
This paper summarises the work package
carried out at NKI Distance Education during the year 2001 of the
EU Leonardo Project, "From e-Learning to m-Learning".
Development of the wireless Compaq
The concepts, distance education, e-learning
and m-learning are discussed with reference to NKI Distance Education
philosophies, views on learning and experiences in developing learning
materials for distance education and online learning.
During 2001 NKI project team studied
International experiences concerning m-learning, analysed technological
solutions and pedagogic/didactic needs based on our internal practical
experiences and results from previous surveys and evaluation studies
among our distance students.
The technical solution chosen was to
try out the use of a Pocket PC/Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
in combination with a mobile phone for distribution of learning
content and communication between tutor and students, between students
and for students’ communication with the learning material. As technologies
develop so fast that the specific technology available changes from
one week to the next, it was important that the solutions chosen
had some generic basis, i.e. also that the specific brands of PCs,
mobile phones and keyboards etc. should not constitute any substantial
restrictions concerning generalisability of our experiences.
When we had to make our choice in late
spring 2001, we found that after analysing functionality of different
brands of PDA/Pocket PC, we chose to build our learning environment
around the Compaq iPAQ 3630 and 3660. The mobile phones chosen were
Ericsson T39 and Ericsson R580.
The next steps for NKI Distance Education
in the project will be to carry out the first experiment of a partly
real and partly simulated distance learning setting including evaluation,
and carry out a survey among distance learners on aspects of mobility
and plan and conduct a second experiment in a fully realistic setting.
The actual course chosen, ‘The tutor
in distance education’ was chosen for the following reasons:
- It is a course in the pedagogy of
distance teaching, and as such represents an ideal course for
combining the research on media, methods and technology with the
substance or content of the learning
- It is taught by internal NKI staff,
also involved in the project, thus combining internal competence
development with development work in the project
- The fact that same staff are involved
in development and teaching in the practical try outs to be carried
out opens for real field research during try out and also makes
it easier to transfer the experiences and results from the experiments
to further developments in the operations of the NKI Internet
- Students taking the course are prospective
online teachers in the NKI Distance Education system, their experiences
as mobile learners are transferred to their teaching after completing
In this section of their report Fagerberg
et al present their decisions to develop mLearning systems for the
PDA, Compaq iPaq. In the following section they present theoretical
analyses of learning using the work of the German scholar, Dichanz.
Theoretical constructs on the nature
‘Distance education’ and ‘distance
learning’ are well-established concepts (Keegan 1996). The ‘distance
learner’ is a person who, for some reason, will not or cannot
take part in educational programmes that require presence at certain
times or places.
Recently terms such as ‘e-learning’
and ‘m-learning’ have entered the scene. To us, learning
is an activity or process and shown as a change in a person’s perceptions,
attitudes or cognitive or physical skills. It cannot be ‘electronic’
(if that is what e-learning is supposed to stand for (?)).
The terms e-learning and d-learning
deserve to be analysed. For instance, the term, e-learning, seems
to be used to convince users that some supernatural things happen
with your brain when you place yourself in front of a computer screen.
This miracle is very unlikely to happen, as learning in the real
world is mainly hard work. Most examples of so-called e-learning
programmes seem to be extremely costly to develop and most often
covers low-level knowledge and facts based on a simplistic view
of what learning is (see e.g. Dichanz 2001 "E-learning,
a linguistic, psychological and pedagogical analysis of a misleading
However, as the term seems to be becoming
part of accepted terminology, it is imperative for educational researchers
and serious providers to define it and assign meaning that is in
accordance with our views on teaching and learning. Seen from a
university perspective, Dichanz, who is professor of education and
the German FernUniversität ends his critical analysis of the
term, e-learning with the following definition:
"E-learning is the collection
of teaching – and information packages – in further education which
is available at any time and any place and are delivered to learners
electronically. They contain units of information, self-testing
batteries and tests, which allow a quick self-evaluation for quick
placement. E-learning offers more lower level learning goals. Higher
order goals like understanding, reasoning and (moral) judging are
more difficult to achieve. They require an individualised interactive
discourse and can hardly be planned" (Dichanz 2001)
Even though we do not totally agree
with Dichanz that higher level learning goals cannot be planned,
we agree that such goals are much more difficult to plan, and that
most so-called e-learning programmes do not demonstrate attention
to higher level learning objectives.
Similar reflections can be raised concerning
the term, ‘mobile learning’. Again, learning cannot be mobile.
Learners are probably more and more mobile, and they use mobile
technology. In connection with this project we would describe NKI’s
main objective ‘to design and trial out a learning environment
for mobile learners and teachers’ maintaining the flexibility
of distance education for learners on the move. These reflections
are in line with Sariola et al. (2001):
"The term ‘mLearning’ has lately
emerged to be associated with the use of mobile technology in education.
It seems, however, that it is used in commercial purposes rather
than as an educational concept. We wonder if the term is a commercial
trick to market technology and educational services or if it is
an emerging concept that educationalists should take seriously."
(Sariola et al. 2001, p 1)
It should be noted that, although m-learning
is a new concept, serving mobile learners is not a new idea. Again,
distance education has a history of more than 150 years, where institutions
has offered high quality education to learners ‘free of time
and place’. This means, that if we are willing to accept the
concept m-learning, distance teaching institutions have provided
m-learning since its invention. For example, the history of Hermods,
once one of the worlds largest correspondence institutions, tells
that the original idea that resulted in establishing the institution
in 1898 came when Hermods as a local language teacher in Malmö
started to support one of his students who moved to another city
Thus, distance education institutions
have provided m-learning for many years. In fact, the ‘correspondence
courses’ of the first generation of distance education could
be studied at any time anywhere. Actually, the introduction of the
desktop computer (and other learning technologies), which required
the student to study at a certain place, often also at a certain
time, reduced flexibility of distance learning. It is the introduction
of mobile electronic equipment and communications technologies,
which reintroduces mobility to the distance learner (and teacher).
Kjell Askeland (2000) goes even further, and points to the fact
that, if we disregard the need for an institution to plan and conduct
teaching, mobile learning started when the printing technique was
invented, and students could learn without coming to schools and
Again, if we accept the term ‘mobile
learning’ = m-learning’, what is it? Most definitions take technology
as the starting point, e.g. Quinn (2000-2001): "...(mLearning)?
It's elearning through mobile computational devices: Palms, Windows
CE machines, even your digital cell phone. Let's call them information
Others define m-learning closely to
distance education, Chabra & Figueiredo (undated): "The
ability to receive learning anytime, anywhere and on any device",
while Harris (2001) combines technology and the flexibility concept
of distance education in his definition: "The point at which
mobile computing and eLearning intersect to produce an anytime,
anywhere learning experience".
Sariola et al. (Ibid.) discusses the
concept, m-learning, from the perspective of educational theory,
technology-based definition is obviously not sufficient, and also
tries to include aspects of technology. They introduce the characteristics,
‘portability, i.e. the equipment is so light that we can
carry the devices that we call mobile, ‘wireless’, there
are no wires in the equipment, and ‘mobility’, we are moving
when using the technology. Sariola et al. notes that it is the mobility
that is most interesting from an educational viewpoint. Concerning
mobility, they raise the question about ‘who’ is moving,
‘why’ and ‘where’. If moving is not related to the
learning activity as such, why a person is moving might be irrelevant
from an educational viewpoint.
However, it is the challenge of the
educational institution to satisfy learning needs for people on
the move (and we could add to support teachers who move to continue
their tasks concerning student support). Sariola et al. notes that
conducting educational activities while moving, might deal with
convenience, e.g. rational time management or expediency,
e.g. the person is moving to a place relevant for the subject studied.
Both situations concern NKI when designing an effective and efficient
learning environment for the distance learner, although convenience
has been most focussed till now.
In this presentation it is hard to
agree with the authors when they claim that mobile learning has
existed for 150 years and is thus identical with 'distance education'.
The advent of elearning, in which students studied the whole or
part of a course in front of a computer screen, brought a new electronic
dimension to distance learning, which cannot be bypassed. This was
a wired computer environment and what is unique and innovative about
mLearning is its elimination of the dependence on wiring and the
harnessing of the global presence of mobile telephones to training
Flexible teaching or teaching in
the ‘extended classroom’
As stated earlier in this book there
are two developments which are central to distance education;: individual
based systems, prevalent especially in Europe, and group-based systems
prevalent in the USA and China. Fagerberg et al take up this theme
in their next section:
A number of evaluation studies among
distance and online learners at NKI demonstrate that students emphasize
flexibility (see e.g. Rekkedal 1990, 1998, 1999).
In our view, distance education seems
to develop in two quite different directions. The solution at one
end of a flexibility continuum can be described as an individual,
flexible solution allowing the student freedom to start at any time
and follow his/her own progression according to personal needs for
combining studies with work, family and social life – ‘the individual
flexible teaching model’.
This model represents a generic development
of the model of distance teaching institutions and applies normally
media and technologies independent of time (and place), such as
asynchronous computer communication, video, audio and printed materials.
The model on the opposite end of the scale, ‘the extended classroom
model’, assumes that the students are organised into groups
required to meet regularly at local study centres and applies technologies
such as video conferencing, satellite distribution, radio and television
In this connection we have chosen the
philosophy for the development of Internet based education at NKI:
Flexible and individual distance teaching with the student group
as social and academic support for learning. NKI offers more
than 400 courses and over 100 study programmes by correspondence
based and Internet based distance teaching and recruits 10,000 students
every year. These students may enrol to any course of programme
or combination of courses at any day of the year and progress at
their own pace. This flexibility does not exclude group-based solutions
in co-operation with one single employer, trade organisation or
It is also clear from NKI experiences
that already many of our students and teachers have experience as
mobile learners and teachers. Till now this has been restricted
mainly to students and teachers carrying their laptops, possibly
including communication via mobile phones.
Our main objective in this part of
the project has been to extend the distribution of learning materials
and communication to lighter equipment, specifically PDA and mobile
phone. The challenge is then to develop the system and server side
to present materials in ways suitable for PDA technology, find acceptable
solutions for distribution of materials and for administration
to student, teacher to student/student to teacher and student to
It is our aim in designing the environment
for the mobile learner to extend and increase the flexibility of
distance education, that to some extent took a step backwards when
converting from paper based to online learning, where students largely
were required to study at a place (and at a time) where a computer
with access the Internet was available.
The authors then proceed with an in
depth treatment of the nature of learning as it applies to mLearning
and other possibilities.
Views on knowledge and learning
For NKI it was clear that the learning
aims, content and teaching/learning methods in our online courses
and programmes generally are far away from most e-learning courses.
Most examples of m-learning experiments concern e-learning on mobile
devices, often WAP and/or ‘smart-phones’ (see e.g. Kynäslahti
2001, Kristiansen 2001).
To us, learning is a change in the
student’s perception of reality related to the problem areas studied
and increased competence in solving problems in a field, ability
to differ between focal and more peripheral questions, analytical
skills and competence in using the tools within a field in appropriate
ways. This means that learning results are shown in a qualitative
change in the student’s understanding, academic, social and technical
competence. The learning is a result of active processing of learning
material and solving problems individually and/or in groups.
This view is often different from what
we can find in many so-called e-learning programmes, where knowledge
often is seen as a larger amount of information or ability to recall
and reproduce facts. In addition to cost considerations, this is
why NKI in general has put little emphasis on using fancy effects
in a behaviouristic pedagogical tradition, programmed learning and
knowledge transmission (see Marton et al 1987, 1997, Morgan 1993
on students’ conceptions of learning, deep level and surface level
approaches to learning). We also hold the view that learning is
an individual process that can be supported by adequate interaction
and/or collaboration in groups (Askeland 2001). With these considerations
in mind the NKI solution for designing and trying out a new learning
environment for online learners applying PDA and mobile communication
seemed to be a sensible one. Our considerations and decisions are
Internet based education at NKI
The authors then present the experience
of their own institution in the field of e-Learning and the transition
NKI was probably the first European
online college, and it has offered distance education online every
day since 1987. Few - if any - online colleges in the world has
been longer in continuous operation.
NKI Distance Education has today well
above 200 courses and more than 60 complete study programmes on
the Internet. October 2001 we had 3,000 registered active students.
There will be more than 6,000 new course enrolments this year (2001).
Contrary to many other educational providers where the Internet
is used as a supplement to face-to-face teaching or other forms
of distance education, we have followed the philosophy that in principle
all communication can be taken care of through the Internet, and
ideally no obligatory physical meetings should be required. (This
does not mean that the students are not free to communicate by post,
phone or fax or that study materials may include print, audio or
In connection with a previous EU Leonardo
projects managed by LM Ericsson we described the programme and distribution
system in Internet based learning as a ‘Multimedia World Wide
Web Kernel for Distance Education’ (http://www.nki.no/eeileo/)
with the following elements:
Model of the Multi
Media Kernel for Distance Education.
In designing the learning environment
with the mobile learner in mind, all these aspects and functionalities
have to be taken into account. However, in this first pilot experiment
we have not focussed on multi-media materials. Extending the functionalities
to more multi-media content adapted to the PDA should be a main
objective for another project.
Development and Design of the Environment
for the Mobile Learner Applying the Compaq iPAQ.
As mentioned above, the aim for the
NKI project team was to adapt a course so that it could be used
on a wireless handheld device, in our case the Compaq iPAQ Pocket
PC. After some discussions we have chose the course ‘The Tutor
in Distance Education’ for this project. In addition, we also
put some effort into adapting the course Spice 601, Specialization
Program in International Online Education, to the Pocket PC.
This was mainly done to demonstrate a course in English for the
Leonardo project team.
These courses were already developed
and distributed as courses from the NKI Internet College. The challenge
was to design a solution to try out for mobile learners.
Some background information on
the Compaq iPAQ
This device is a handheld pocket PC
that puts the power of a desktop PC in a sleek little to-go box
that gives access to Microsoft Pocket applications like Internet
Explorer, Outlook, Word and Excel. Among this software is also Microsoft
Reader with Clear Type, which is one of the technologies that we
wish to try out in the project. It is also possible to install third
party software. One can synchronize the device with one’s desktop
PC to read e-mail, view attachments, update the calendar and the
device can easily connect to a mobile phone via cable, infrared
or bluetooth (3870 version) for online browsing. (See http://www.compaq.com/products/handhelds/index.html
for more details.) The screen keyboard is acceptable for short notes.
However, many users would prefer to connect to Pocket PC with a
foldable keyboard for more efficient writing. At the time of writing
(December 2001) available keyboards are far from ideal concerning
supporting Norwegian characters.
Studying online and offline
In line with the above discussions
on learning and studying, most NKI courses are not designed to function
as online interactive e-learning programmes, although some parts
of the courses may imply such interaction with multi-media materials,
tests and assignments. The courses normally involves intensive study,
mainly of text based materials, solving problems, writing essays,
submitting assignments and communicating with fellow students by
e-mail or in the web based conferences. This means that most of
the time the students will we offline when studying. From experience
we know that the students often download content for reading offline
and often also print out content for reading on paper.
It should also be emphasized that we
assume that the NKI Internet students normally will have access
to a desktop or laptop computer with Internet connection. This means
that the equipment and technologies used when mobile are additions
to the students’ equipment used when studying at home or at work.
When planning for the m-learning environment
the NKI project team had long discussions whether to develop the
learning materials for online or offline study. Taken the above
experiences and also cost considerations concerning mobile access
to online learning materials, we concluded that the learning environment
should include the following aspects:
- Pocket PC
- Mobile phone
- Portable keyboard
NKI distance student reading comments
from his tutor in the garden of his hotel on business in Rome using
PocketPC, portable keyboard and mobile phone.
Learning content and communication:
- Learning content to be downloaded
on the mobile device to be studied offline. Downloaded content
to include all course materials:
- Content page
- All study units
- Resources (articles on the web,
references to other resource materials)
- Online access to the discussion
forum with the possibility of as quick as possible access for
reading in the Forum and writing contributions
- E-mail for individual communication
with tutor and fellow students and for submitting assignments.
Assignments may be submitted as text-based e-mail or as Word or
Before taking the decision on distribution
of course content to students via the Pocket PC, we analysed three
alternative solutions that were discussed in depth. The discussions
also included viewpoints on which materials and study activities
were suited for offline or online work.
The authors then describe central decisions
on the type of system they would design for the Compaq iPaq:
3 alternative solutions for distribution
of course content
The 3 main solutions for distributing
- The AvantGo Mobile Internet service
- Online access via mobile telephone
to the entire course
- ‘Download-on-demand’ version
Solution 1: The AvantGo Mobile Internet
Technically we could choose the solution
were the student easily could download the entire course content
trough ‘The AvantGo Mobile Internet Service’. From the AvantGo
"The AvantGo Mobile Internet
service provides free interactive and personalized content and applications
to your handheld device or Internet-enabled mobile phone real-time
via wireless connection or desktop synchronization. With AvantGo
you can seamlessly transition between wireless and offline modes
to browse your favorite websites on your mobile device or select
from our more than 1500 brand-name content and application channels
for up-to-date news, financial, travel, entertainment, sports information
and much more.
The AvantGo Service allows the user
to subscribe to a large number of channels of different categories.
AvantGo offers a range of products for the synchronizing of PDAs.
Including a range of hosting services. Unfortunately the hosting
services are only suitable for the delivering of typical news channel
information such as CNN headlines or stock quotes. These services
are priced according to how many users use the service each day.
AvantGo then uses advertising and revenue from the information provider
to generate income. It is up to the information supplier to generate
their own income based on these services. The hosted services also
do not cover NKI Distance Education needs of personalized content
and user interaction.
To be able to deliver content to PDAs
via AvantGo we will be required to install our own AvantGo server,
and then deliver content via this server to PDAs. AvantGo call their
server Mbusiness server. The server is capable of being connected
to our current web application (SESAM). And allow us to use our
own database of user names and passwords, via a connection to our
LDAP server for authenticating users. This would allow NKI to deliver
customized content to each user. When using the Mbusiness server
it is also possible to cater for user interactions. In that case
a user could write a submission to the forum system and the next
time the PDA was synchronized, the submission would be uploaded
to our server
The Mbusiness server is available for
many operating systems, including MS-Windows, Linux and SUN Solaris.
All communication with the server is encrypted for security.
AvantGo’s pricing policy is based on
the value the server product will add to the purchasing enterprise.
So the price is highly variable. It is not possible to get a ‘definitive’
price for the Mbusiness server without AvantGo evaluating how much
‘value’ the server will add to our organization. However, we were
able to get a general guideline. The Mbusiness server would typically
costs around 75,000 euros for a 250-user intranet. These are costs
that would not be acceptable for use with NKI Internet students.
Solution 2: Online access via mobile
telephone to the entire course
This is perhaps in principle the preferred
solution. However, it requires higher speed and lower prices than
we could find in Norway in 2000. It is also the most complex solution.
An online version requires that we would have to redesign the entire
site to fit the Pocket PC format. Before doing this we would have
to make a cost-benefit analysis in front to see if the solution
really is worth the effort. The other important issue is the availability
of mobile communication technology and pricing. In this project
we are using the Ericsson R520 and Ericsson T39 mobile phones connected
with the PocketPC. These phone supports GPRS, General Packet Radio
Services, and HSCSD (higs-speed circuit switched data). So far in
the project our experience with this technology is mixed. It proved
quite difficult to set up and connect via GPRS, and the prizing
policy chosen by our Norwegian GPRS providers makes it all to expensive
to use. One pays no subscription fees, however, the amount paid
Mb of information transferred is presently not acceptable. For data
up to 1Mb one pays 0.10 NKR pr. Kb and 0.025 NKR pr. Kb for data
Solution 3: ‘Download-on-demand’
We have developed two different "download-on-demand"
versions. The first one consists of a set of zipped HTML files,
which one may download to the desktop PC, unzip and synchronize
with the PocketPC. The second consists of a set of ready to use
Microsoft Reader files, which also are synchronized to the PocketPC.
These files are available from within the web course.
At this stage of the project we focused
on this alternative. The HTML version is using Internet Explorer
to browse the course material offline. The other version is also
an offline version, using the software, Microsoft Reader with
The choice of solution 3 was partly
a result of limited time and resources available at this stage of
the project. Solution 1 needs more research to ‘the most ideal’
solution for the future, i.e. to offer a complete PDA adapted version
based on the same learning materials available in the web course
for standard PCs. The principle of ‘one file many versions’ (html,
pdf, reader, etc.) is achievable trough the use of XML). Presently,
through our preliminary analyses we found that explore opportunities,
limitations and cost/benefit. Solution 2 would perhaps be there
were too many limitations in mobile technology regarding transfer
capacity vs. cost to be able to carry out the experiments that we
wished to do. Solution 2 would also, as mentioned above, require
a complete site redesign of the NKI Distance Education website.
The reason for supplying two alternatives
of content is that we as part of the empirical testing are interested
in examining attractiveness and user friendliness of the different
solutions for the student. The student can manipulate the Microsoft
Reader content by the possibility of bookmarking, adding highlights,
notes and drawings and look up words directly in the PocketPC Dictionary.
This means that the students can use the materials actively in ways
that we recognise from students’ use of print materials and their
personal notes. The student is, in other words, able to ‘make the
materials his own’ while studying. It is reason to believe that
these functionalities may help students organising the materials
cognitively and support learning and remembering.
The decision to go for the choice of
downloading content for offline study was based on previous experiences
and also the following considerations: NKI Internet students study
mainly offline. Communication concerns discussion with fellow students
in the academic forums, cooperation on projects and group assignments,
and individual communication with other students – and, most important,
according to our evaluations (see e.g. Rekkedal & Paulsen 1997),
communication with the tutor including submission of assignments
with correction and feedback. All our analyses concluded that the
students will have all these possibilities available on their desktop
or laptop PCs, including online interaction with the learning materials.
When mobile – and using mobile technologies
– it is generally satisfactory for the student (and the tutor) to
have the course content available to study on the PocketPC. In addition,
the following communication possibilities are necessary. When mobile,
the student must be able to:
- Access the course forum to read
- Access the course forum to submit
contributions to the discussions
- Send e-mail to fellow students,
to the teacher and to administration (study advisor)
- Receive e-mail from fellow students,
from the tutor and from the administration
- Submit assignments by e-mail including
- Receiving assignments corrected
and commented on by the tutor including attachments
To access e-mail and discussion forums,
mobile phones will be used. We plan that in future versions it will
be possible to synchronize discussions via the student’s desktop
or laptop PC.
This software/technologies chosen are
described in more detail below.
of courseware for the Compaq iPaq
The authors now describe the choice
of courseware for the m-Learning development on the Compaq iPaq
and the methodologies used in the development of this courseware.
We chose a course previously developed
for Internet/web based learning, ‘The Tutor in Distance Education’
as courseware for this project. This course is one of our many ongoing
Internet courses and therefore already available in a HTML version.
Thus it was relatively easy to adapt the existing version of the
course to the iPAQ since MS Internet Explorer is the browsing tool
used. The main part of the adaptation was to create directories
and file structures that insured that all content were present and
worked as intended.
Some modifications had to be done,
e.g. the table of content had to be changed, so that all links to
introductions, study units, articles etc. could be placed on one
page. The Content Page also contains links to examples of course
pages such as class list, forum page, the student’s personal NKI
college page and others. Students can also a link to the presentation
of their tutor with contact information. The course includes reference
links to many external resources, which also are available on the
PocketPC, but accessible only when online through the mobile phone.
The course also includes a number of articles available at the NKI
Internet College Pages. We chose to include the whole library of
distance education research reports, articles, conference papers
etc. available on the NKI pages. This was done mainly because the
course content concerns distance education pedagogy and didactics,
thus as the storing capabilities of the iPAQ was sufficient, we
considered this as an extra academic service.
As mentioned, the HTML version applies
Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer that is a web browser with far
less functionality than the full scale PC version.The other version
developed for the project uses Microsoft Reader on the Pocket PC
as ‘browsing’ tool.
Microsoft Reader with ClearType is
one of the programmes available to read e-books or content in the
*.lit file format (MS Reader file format). Microsoft has developed
Microsoft Reader with ClearType that enhances display resolution
by as much as 300 percent by improving letter shapes and character
spacing, making them appear more detailed, more finely crafted,
and more like printed fonts. This gives powerful digital advantages
like integrated dictionary support and electronic annotations, while
honouring the best traditions of typography to ensure proper kerning
and leading, correct margins, and line justification, to name a
few. The software also gives the opportunity to read e-books, Pocket
Dictionaries etc. to downloaded from the Internet and synchronized
to the PocketPC via the PC.
There are several methods to produce
materials in the Microsoft Reader format. One may create on-the-fly
Reader files via publishing websites like eBookExpress: i
It s possible to outsource the entire
or parts of the converting process. Several e-book consulting and
content conversion services are available and offering services
ranging from document conversion to complete e-commerce solutions.
Overdrive is one example of a firm that offer ePublishing solutions,
.The software builds the e-book, page-by-page, according to individual
preferences to suit the device one is using.
One may also download software that
converts publications into Reader files/e-books according to individual
preferences. One of these is ReaderWorks. This is a third-party
software recommended by Microsoft developed by OverDrive Inc. ReaderWorks
is available in three versions, Standard, Publisher and Professional.
The Standard version is freeware with less functionality than the
Publisher and Professional versions. OverDrive and Microsoft also
provides a software development kit (SDK) that software developers
can use to build tools that generate Micorosoft Readerfiles. Microsoft
also offers an add-in functionality for Microsoft Word that makes
it possible to convert a Word document to Reader format.
We have in the project produced a version
of the learning materials for Microsoft Reader using the Standard
version of ReaderWorks from OverDrive Inc. This version is a freeware
application with some limitations regarding commercial sale and
distribution. It also lacks the opportunity to provide cover pages
and marketing information.
ReaderWorks Standard includes tools
to convert html, text and image files to Reader format. It also
allow for making a table of content based on heading formatting
of HTML documents. Our experience so far is that this is a very
well functional tool that also is quite easy to use. It has an intuitive
user interface with many different options and functions. We had
some problems with empty meta-tags that made the conversion fail.
The software also showed some problems with documents containing
internal style-sheets and script language. These errors caused the
conversion to fail. The HTML code causing these errors had to be
manually corrected. The software supplied good reports on what kind
of errors arising and where they occurred.
The Solutions Exemplified
In this important section the authors
describe the differences in presentation of the wired version of
the course for e-Learning and the changes that are met in using
the same materials in a mobile learning environment.
As described before all NKI Internet
students, whether studying a course with a mobile supplement or
not, will access the course materials and communication solutions
via their ordinary PC at home, at the workplace or elsewhere. Course
content for the mobile supplement is downloaded to the PC and synchronized
to the PocketPC, while all the communication activities can be carried
out through the PocketPC and the mobile phone when on the move.
After logging into the NKI Internet
College with user name and password, the user (tutor or student)
opens the person’s individual ‘Personal page’. This page contains
general information and lists the courses and programmes the person
has access to. On the screen above the tutor has access to ‘m-learning
lærer’, which is the course developed and to be tried
out during the first phase of the project. The course title links
to the Course Front Page.
The course front page links to:
- The course content on the server
- Study Unit 1
- Study Unit 2
- Study Unit 3
- Information about copyrights
- Tutor and class list
- The course forum
In addition the m-learning version
has a link named ‘Pocket PC’, which links to a page containing
all necessary information for downloading the content in the two
versions, HTML format and Microsoft Reader format.
Learning materials and communication
on the PocketPC
The learning materials downloaded and
synchronized to the PocketPC are presented as complete HTML files,
and are, according to our subjective opinion, satisfactory for reading
on the PocketPC screen. This will be evaluated during the try out.
The screen shots of the PocketPC are
photographed using a digital camera. The results are not perfect,
but give a reasonably good impression of how they look.
Below is presented the course content
files as they appear downloaded in the HTML version:
The Table of Content Page on the
The hyperlinks brings the student to
the course content files. The last link seen at the screen, ‘Kurs
i e-bokformat’ (Course in e-book format) opens the Microsoft
Reader with a second full version of the course. The Content Page
also has links (not seen on the screen) that opens the PocketPC
e-mail programme or connects directly to the course online for reading
and contributing to the course forum.
While the course content is presented
in formats adapted to the screen of the PockePC, the pages above
are shown as they appear with the present solution (without having
redesigned the materials on the server to fit the PocketPC). However,
with some scrolling the pages are readable.
The authors then proceed with their
conclusion on the provision of mobile learning environments for
learners so far.
Conclusion course presentation and
At the present stage and with present
technological limitations the NKI project team decided that we had
found an acceptable solution for presentation of course content
and facilities for studying the learning materials, for solving
assignments and submission of assignments to the tutor. Sending
and receiving e-mails also functions satisfactory.
It is the empirical try out that hopefully
will give answers to how our solutions actually are accepted in
practice. In connection with the second phase of the project, we
will parallel to the empirical research look at possible solutions
for redesigning the site to make the learning materials better adapted
for online access and interaction from mobile equipment.
In this paper we have described the
preparatory work, internal discussion and analyses and the development
work concerning preparing for trying out a learning environment
for mobile learners within the teaching and learning system of NKI
Distance Education. The NKI Internet College is defined as the total
system for Internet based distance education courses. The work during
2001 is carried out in close cooperation with the other partners
in the project.
The solution is based on the assumption
that students defined as ‘mobile learners’ have access to
the NKI Internet College through a standard PC and Internet connection,
and that the mobile part is seen as a supplement for students when
on the move. Our technical requirements was that the mobile learning
platform had to allow more advanced presentation and communication
possibilities than possible through the WAP phone, concerning storing
capabilities, use of colours and graphics and size of files. The
decision was taken to develop learning materials, i.e. complete
courses for handheld PDAs/PocketPC and mobile phone for connection
to the Internet. The solutions are supposed to be generic and based
on state of the art technology and also representing technologies
that would give experiences of value for future assumed probable
developments in software and hardware. The actual equipment used
as basis and trials during development was Compaq iPAQ and Ericsson
T39 and R580.
One course, ‘The tutor in distance
education’ was chosen as the first practical case in developing
materials and communication solutions for the mobile learner. Before
starting actual try outs, the project group feels that the technical
solutions chosen constitute a good basis for experimenting and evaluating
an environment for mobile learners in NKI Distance Education.
The authors then proceed with an indication
of the next development of their provision of mobile learning environments
Planning the Try Out
We plan to try out the solution from
early January 2002. Originally we wished to try out the course among
ordinary students at NKI. We have found that access to equipment
among our ordinary students for the time being is too limited. Thus,
the fist trial will be carried out in a partly real and partly simulated
situation where one member of the project team will teach the course
to an internal group of NKI employees, some members of the project
team and some participants working in other projects and related
areas. For the try out we have purchased 10 PDAs and a few mobile
We will evaluate the results through
the process applying qualitative research methods, such as diaries,
interviews and discussions in the academic Forum focussing on the
aspects of the mobile learning environment. Aspects to be evaluated
Technical problems concerning downloading,
synchronization, communication with forum and e-mail
Studying on the move with the learning
materials on mobile equipment (PDA and mobile phone)
Use of learning materials, usefulness
of HTML solutions and e-book
Technology, such as use of screen and
The participants will be required to
log experiences from the first experiences with the PDA and downloading
till end of course, to study the materials and communicate with
fellow students and participating in forum discussions via mobile