Welcome. We are Aarón Alzola Romero and Elton Barker, from the Open University's Department of Classical Studies. This blog is part of a broader research project exploring the uses (and abuses) of mobile learning in the Arts. Our aim is to examine mobile learning applications, assess their strengths and weaknesses (in terms of user interaction, contribution to learning outcomes, cost and popularity), identify areas of opportunity and challenges in their future implementation and assess the impact that mobile learning solutions have on the delivery of Arts courses.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What makes a good Arts mobile learning app?

There are many factors involved in the success of an app. Some of them are project-specific, such as subject, target audience, budget, tone and style. However, there are also some general criteria that apply to most Arts mobile learning applications. Here are just a few of them, illustrated by the Chinese Characters – First steps app. This IPhone app was developed by The Open University in order to help students practise Chinese characters in an interactive and entertaining manner.

-It can be used in short intervals
The format appeals to the “commuter learner” – a person who is on the move, making use of dead time.

-It has a pedagogical component and a clear set of learning outcomes
The app is more than just a game. In this case, it is part of an Open University language module. It contributes to the module's learning outcomes and stimulates interest among potential future students.

-It makes efficient use of the platform
The design of the app aims to make the most of the smartphone's potential. It uses a combination of features such as audio, the touch screen, the phone’s memory, etc.

-It makes use of already-existing material in an innovative manner
Most education institutions have large amounts of underutilised teaching material. Mobile learning is a good oportunity to adapt this material and use it to reach out to a potentially large audience.

-It has an element of fun / novelty
Smartphone app repositories are highly competitive environments. In order to attract attention and retain a healthy user base, mobile learning apps must be useful and constructive, but also fun and engaging. In this case, the app approaches Chinese characters as a game, with interactive elements, puzzles and various levels of progress.

-It is financially viable
This app follows a “semi-commercial” model, which allows users to download a free basic version of the app and purchase add-ons if desired. This approach strikes a balance between the University’s need to make the project financially viable and the goal of reaching out to a large number of users.