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CHAPTER 8. MLEARNING ON THE WAP TELEPHONE R520

Proposal

The original project proposal contained a full development of mLearning for the WAP telephone R520 and considered WAP telephony as a major element in mLearning.

Illustration

R520 WAP phone

The following outline of R520 functionality is provided:

The R520 is the first Ericsson phone to support GPRS which is a data ransmission technology that provides cost efficient IP (Internet Protocol) communication between mobile devices and Internet or intranet service hosts.

GPRS keeps you permanently connected to the Mobile Internet but only uses the radio link for the duration of time that it transfers data. R520 will transfer data at approximately the same speed as a fixed line modem.

R520 has built-in Bluetooth wireless technology. This ensures there is no need to have cables running between your mobile phone and your headset or mobile computer. Using this reliable and secure connection, the R520 can communicate with your Bluetooth Headset or mobile computer via a radio link instead of a cable when the two devices are within 10 metres of each other.

The WAP functionality of the R520 supports WAP 1.2.1 the latest version of the Wireless Application Protocol. WAP 1.2.1 is more secure as it supports digital signature technology allowing you to transact m-commerce in a secure environment.

The R520 supports the GSM frequencies used on five continents and in over 120 countries. When you turn on your R520, the phone automatically scans the network to determine if it is GSM 900/1800 or a GSM 1900.

With R520, your e-mails are never far away. R520 has a built-in e-mail client for sending and receiving e-mail. This allows you to connect to the e-mail account normally used on the corporate network, or another e-mail service as preferred. You can have more than one e-mail account in the phone, for example one for your business e-mails and one for your private e-mails. R520 also lets you have e-mail attachments, such as a photo from a digital camera transferred to the phone via an infrared connection.

The advanced calendar contained within R520 is central to its communication abilities. It has different views; month, week, day and a "tasks" list. It also supports week numbering and lets you create, edit and delete both appointments and tasks. Automatic synchronisation to a PC via WAP/Internet, Bluetooth™ or infrared technology is also possible

R520 features a hierarchical phone book in which you can save up to 511 contacts. For every contact placed in the book, you can store their name, home, work and mobile phone numbers, their pager number, their e-mail address and other information.

The R520 supports nine different input methods including three Chinese. This ensures that you can store names in the phone book and send and receive SMS messages in your own language: Latin, Arabic, Stroke. Pinyin, Bopomofo, Greek, Hebrew, Numeric, Cyrillic.

R520 features the very latest developments in voice

recognition. Itís no longer necessary to press a key to activate

voice recognition. You can simply programme in a "magic word"

(which can be any word of your choice) and then whenever you

say this word the voice recognition function will activate

automatically. With R520 you can use voice commands to

change profile and answer and divert calls.

This innovative feature is found on the keypad and has the same functionality as the right button on a computer mouse and enhances usability by offering instant short cut menus.

This is predictive text input software that suggests words when you type in the first letter of the word you intend to write. It makes writing short messages easy and fast.

Limitations

The small size of the R520 screen is a major limitation. People are used to a computer screen and therefore have no objections to eLearning courses sitting in front of a computer screen. The small size of the R520 screen with just a few lines of text is a definite limitation.

The use of simulations, graphics both still and moving, and colour have become major features of both CR-Rom and eLearning courses and the inability of the R520 to reproduce these is another drawback.

Restrictions of memory and bandwidth will limit the downloading of course content in mLearning systems.

Almeida in her The advantages and disadvantages of using WAP in developoing an mLearning course gives these limitations for the development of a learning environment for the R520

The main limitations of WAP today are related to the devices used and the mobile networks. The limiting factors of the device means that large amounts of data, especially graphics and animations are not recommended. Although, WAP supports images today only black and white images are possible. Colour Images and Animations will be supported in future releases of WAP.

Other limitations that the user perceives are not really WAP limitations but restrictions due to the mobile networks. Many users identify that WAP is slow and that it can take up to 2 minutes to access content Even with today's limitations it is possible to design applications well so that the best use of the scarce network resources are made. A well designed application can be accessed via WAP in less than 10 seconds.

The cost of using WAP is another disadvantage. The cost to upgrade to a WAP device and the additional cost to access content has limited WAP very much to the corporate user rather than the mass market.

Decision

The project Board of Management at its first meeting decided to maintain system development and courseware development of the WAP telephone as a major component of the project.

Development of system for the R520

Almeida in her The advantages and disadvantages of using WAP in developoing an mLearning course gives these directions for the development of a learning environment for the R520:

Today there are more than 50 million mobile handsets that are WAP enabled. It is expected that all mobile handsets will be WAP enabled by the end of 2001. It is also predicted that by 2003/ 2004 there will be 1 billion handsets in the world.

Key players in Mobile Internet market support WAP. These include the Network Operators, Hardware Manufacturers, and Software Application Developers.

All the major handset manufacturers are committed to WAP and future mobile devices will support multiple technologies including WAP, GPRS and Bluetooth. As 3G (WCDMA, UMTS).is launched WAP will also evolve for these future networks.

Network operators are behind WAP and their support is clearly demonstrated by the deployment of WAP world-wide. There are more than 200 Operators that have WAP applications and services available to their customers. This is a huge investment in infrastructure, equipment and software applications and services.

Thousands of software application developers have been behind WAP and have created the applications and services for WAP. This commitment to WAP is clearly shown by the many thousands of WAP sites available in the word today.

Features of WAP (Personalisation and WTA)

When comparing the mobile network to the fixed network there seems to be many limitations, as already discussed. The mobile network also provides unique advantages or features such as the position or location of the device and personalisation (both user preferences and device capabilities).

The WAP language supports these features of Positioning and Personalisation. A WAP language component supports User Profiles which contains information on the user preferences and the device capabilities.

In addition, Telephony Integration is provided by the the Wireless Telephony Application, or WTA component. This allows a developer to easily integrate a telephone call in any WAP application. Thus the user can select a link e.g. Make Call to call a number from the application rather than exit the application and enter the telephone number.

Optimisation of WAP languages

WML is Wireless Markup Language. It is based on HTML, but is optimised for mobile networks and small handheld devices. WML is used to create static content such as text to be displayed on the screen of the mobile device. WML, like HTML is a tagged based browsing language. However, WML has a limited number of tags and because of the limitations discussed earlier, these tags are sufficient for the purposes of creating mobile internet applications.

WML allows the developer to create the user interface which will be displayed on the screen of the mobile device. WML is straightforward and an easy to learn markup language. The type of content displayed on the mobile device screen such as text, links, images, data entry fields and selection lists are all easily created by the developer using the appropriate WML tag.

WMLScript is based on JavaScript, and is used to add intelligence to the static WML content. WMLScript is used for dynamic content such as data checks and error detection. When WMLScript is used together with WML it is possible to create powerful applications.

WML Script also provides the developer with access to standard libraries which offers re-use and efficient code. These libraries contain functions that are already coded, that can be called from WML or WML Script. They include conversion of string types, browser access and dialog access directly from WML Script.

The WAP languages, WML and WMLScript are supported by the WTA (Wireless Telephony Application) Libraries. These public libraries allow the use to build into the application easy access to telephony functionality. This telephony integration means that the user can select a link e.g. Call Tutor to contact the tutor from the application rather than exit the application and enter the telephone number.

The efficiency of WML and WML Script is further enhanced by the binary encoding of the application sent over the Mobile Network. This means that a series of 0ís and 1ís is sent instead of text. This makes it very efficient over a narrow bandwidth.

Development of courseware for the R520

The course material for the R520 was designed using WML and WML script.

Almeida in her The advantages and disadvantages of using WAP in developoing an mLearning course gives these directions for the development of learning material for the R520

The application developer needs to consider the following areas of limitations when designing applications for WAP.

Network Challenges

The Bandwidth and Delay factors are the main network restrictions. For the optimisation of the application using WAP is an advantage, as WAP already takes these limitations into account. The developer, in addition, can design the application so that data to be sent over the mobile network is kept to a minimum. In the case of mLearning content, this can be achieved by structuring the content into useful pieces of information or snapshots. Summary type of information as opposed to pages and pages of text. Also images and graphics must be kept to a minimum or avoided as these take up a lot of memory usage on the devices.

Using the WAP design concept of ĎDeck of Cardsí encourages the developer to redesign the structure of mobile learning training material. A Card is the amount of data that will be displayed on the screen of the device, including any scrolling the user may do. A Deck consists of a number of Cards, that the Device will download from the mobile network. This is used appropriately can give a very positive user experience as navigating the cards is the deck is very fast, less than a second as the data is already stored on the device.

Device Challenges

The user interface and the memory and processing power are the main limiting factors of the device. The developer can overcome these by ensuring that most user interaction is via the navigation of links. Thus the user can access different modules of the course and related information via an Index of Links. When the user needs to enter data, this can be handled by the Select Lists which allows the user to make a selection on a number of options rather than type in large amounts of data (not recommended for mobile phones).

All of the design principle talked about in the previous section are also relevant, as the conciseness of information and the ĎDeck of Cardsí structure will help render the course content on the small screens of the devices to the userís satisfaction.

Usability Concepts

The application developer needs to consider the user when designing the mlearning course content and structure.

The only confirmation of usability is to test the application on sample users for ease of use, before the application is launched.


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Last update: August 2002
Editor: Paul Landers