The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

Three trends of mobile learning state-of-the-art research

Cloud created by:

John Cook
18 October 2013

The Ideas in Mobile Learning symposium invites papers around the broad themes of ‘innovation, creativity and sustainability’ for mobile learning. However, we have a strong preference that papers address at least one of the following three trends of mobile learning state-of-the-art research (*). Please take these as thematic guides but extend them as you see fit. For example, your state-of-the-art view, or ideas, on mobile learning could focus on their pedagogical affordances, barriers, how to overcome them, and other emerging trends in mobile learning, society, media and/or culture. The following three trends are articulated individually below as questions/issues/assertions/arguments (you decide which is which) but note that of course they overlap.

Focus on new patterns of connected social learning and work-based practices.

Is a key evolving pedagogical affordance of mobile devices the ability to use social media and apps to enable new patterns of connected social learning and work-based practices (e.g. see Cook and Pachler, 2012)?

There is dearth of research into social-cultural, mobile learning. Why is this? Is there still a focus on content and information? Is a key theme for the future of m-learning augmentation (e.g. Cook, 2010)?

There appears to be considerable potential for mobile devices and social networks in terms of sustainability in the integration of informal and formal institutional dimensions of learning. Is a new educational paradigm is emerging? But, in Universities "entry rates have increased over the last decades but unequal access to university still persists, with entry rates reflecting the background of the students" (OECD, 2013). Is there a need for more debate and further research, particularly around notions of equity of access to opportunities to build social and cultural capital (e.g. see Cook et al., 2012)?

Mobile devices are reconfiguring the relationships between spaces, between public spaces and private ones, and the ways in which these are penetrated by mobile virtual spaces. Will location-based learning be able to take advantage of the affordance of mobile devices to monitor where a learner is located and deliver information/augmentations/scaffolding that is time-and-place-relevant (see Cook, 2010; Santos et al., 2011)?

Personalisation, is another key affordance of m-learning?

Are we yet to recognise the importance of the human body as the key interface in the ‘interpenetration of physical and virtual spaces’?

Focus on designing for ‘mobile learning’ at scale.

Does Design Research allow us to engage in inquiry surrounding the transformative possibilities for mobile learning? And particularly, is designing for mobile learning at scale a big challenge (e.g. see Cook et al. 2013)?

Carmean et al. (2013) point out that ‘features’ oriented affordances of mobile devices are not enough as a way of characterising m-learning. They propose we need to examine the deeper affordance of mobile devices, particularly the immediacy and the connection natively built into such devices. Do these researchers have a point? Do you agree with Carmean et al.’s assertion that Design Research allows us to bring out ‘never-seen before possibilities’?

Can designing for mobile learning help unlock the web of individualized choices that are available by encouraging us to design for access to small chunks, and to make these customizable to individual’s needs, experience and agency?

Is designing for ‘mobile learning’ at scale, beyond pilots and content-centric approaches, a big challenge?

Where should we situate ourselves in terms of current state of cross-platform development techniques? These falls into two broad approaches: cross-compilation (“native” apps) and mobile web applications (“web apps”).

A trend which could significantly help scale learning is Learning Analytics or LA, this is one of the promising techniques that has been developed in recent times to effectively utilise the astonishing volume of student data available in formal education. But will it work and what about personalisation?

While some describe MOOCs (massively open online courses) as a fad possessing poor quality, lack of student engagement, lack of business model, and high drop-out rates, others, think that MOOCs will soon become the de facto way to remediate and educate a broad swath of students in a wide variety of areas; i.e. to assist in scaling. Does MobiMOOC provide an example of how a mobileMOOC or mMOOC’s would work?

Focus on the boundaries of learning that the ‘m’ in m-learning forces us to explore.

When does the experience of personal electronic devices change the nature and affordance of learning? Perhaps it is not the m of m-learning, is it rather the nature and boundaries of learning the topic forces us to explore?  (Carmean et al. 2013, p. 191).

How does the topic of m-learning enable us to examine the boundaries of learning? Are we breaking boundaries here?

LMLG (e.g. Cook et al., 2011) have suggested that we are seeing is the emergence of ‘user/learner-generated contexts’. Participants in new mass communications are now actively engaged in generating their own content and contexts for learning. User/learner-generated context for the LMLG is conceived in such a way that users of mobile digital devices are being ‘afforded’ synergies of knowledge distributed across people, communities, locations, time (life course), social contexts, sites of practice (such as socio-cultural milieus) and structures. Of particular significance for us is the way in which mobile digital devices are mediating access to external representations of knowledge in a manner that provides (equity of) access to cultural resources. Are these helpful concepts? How can we extend them?

Not only do the twenty-first-century structures of mass communication provide a wide range of augmentations to communication but in addition, through the agency of users, the context within which communication takes place is being augmented by users to suit the needs of the individual and/or the conversational community.

Are key boundary objects or artefacts / trends: tablets, Bring your own device (BYOD), Bring Your Own App and mobile games? What is missing?



Carmean, C., Franfort, J. L. and Salim, K. N. (2013). The Power of the Personal  (pp. 187-195). In Berge, Z. L. and Muilenburg, L. Routledge (Eds.), Handbook of Mobile Learning, Routledge: New York.

Cook, J. (2010). Mobile Phones as Mediating Tools Within Augmented Contexts for Development. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 2(3), 1-12, July-September.

Cook, J., Pachler, N. and Bachmair, B. (2011). Ubiquitous Mobility with Mobile Phones: A Cultural Ecology for Mobile Learning. E-Learning and Digital Media.  Special Issue on Media: Digital, Ecological and Epistemological. 8(3), 181-195.

Cook, J. and Pachler, N. (2012). Online People Tagging: Social (Mobile) Network(ing) Services and Work-based Learning. British Journal of Education Technology, 43(5), 711–725. 

Cook, J., Pachler, N. and Bachmair, B. (2012). Using Social Networked Sites and Mobile Technology for Bridging Social Capital. In Guglielmo Trentin and Manuela Repetto (Eds.), Using Network and Mobile Technology to Bridge Formal and Informal Learning, pp. 31-56. Chandos.

Cook, J., Bannan, B. and Santos, P. (2013). Seeking and Scaling Model for Designing Technology that Supports Personal and Professional Learning Networks. Workshop on Collaborative Technologies for Working and Learning (ECSCW meets EC-TEL), 21 September, Cyprus.

Santos, P., Pérez-Sanagustín, M., Hernández-Leo, D. and Blat, J. (2011). QuesTInSitu: From Tests to Routes for Assessment In Situ Activities.Computers & Education, 57 (4), 2517-2534.


(*) The above notes on "Three trends of mobile learning state-of-the-art" research are taken from a book chapter written by Cook in: Pachler, N., Cook, J. and Traxler, J. (due 2014). Key issues in M-Learning Research and Practice. Continuum.


Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.