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Monday, August 17, 2009

M-Learning for Students - Is It Possible?

You might still remember of a TV commercial telling the story of a man going back home on foot because he missed his last bus. In the story, the man looks very calm and not too worries about the bus when he takes out his mobile phone, puts on the headset, plays some songs from the phone, and walks down the street whistling cheerfully. “I love missing the last bus home…,” he said.

Imagine when we have a different situation. A student suddenly, one day, is not able to attend classes for sick or other important reasons. Yet, he is not too restless about the lessons left behind. He just grasps his mobile phone, learning the left lessons through video streaming or video calling, downloading available learning applications in the form of java, flash, or 3GP application, and doing other teaching-learning process via his mobile phone. It probably gives a futuristic impression overmuch, but such things are possible to be done at present time since technologies are more advance currently. Mobile phones in this day and age are equipped with the capability to connect to the internet, to play and record audio, video, and picture or photo, and to run software applications such as Java, Symbian, Flash, and so forth. In addition, the development of 3G technology gives a faster data transfer with better quality and, of course, less expensive tariff. Thus, the above story is not just an overrated thought anymore considering all the advance technology that we have nowadays.

When the information and technology, internet in particular, rapidly developed, the educational sector starts to build up a new method of teaching-learning process on computer-based which later known as e-learning (electronic learning). With e-learning, a student can access materials or lessons from the internet, make a topic in a forum to be discussed together, or ask for tutor from people around the world. However, for most Indonesian people, internet is still considered as an article of luxury and not all people could gain access to it. Therefore, e-learning in Indonesia is somewhat difficult to be adopted and utilized.

It is a fact that the presence of mobile phone technology in society gives an opportunity to develop a new way of teaching-learning process considering the large number of students using mobile phone and the more sophisticated technology integrated in the mobile phone itself. A few years back, the utilization of mobile phone is still limited to be used for communication and entertainment. But now, many researchers are focused on developing the mobile phone as a tool of studying which is later known as m-learning. M-learning (mobile learning) offers many advantages for students. They can browse and pick one of the lessons they want to learn “anywhere and anytime,” and it is very cheap, even cheaper than the cost to go to school. Students should not be worried anymore about the mobile phone restrictiveness such as small screen, memory capacity, and input/output media because they can now be overcome with the advance technology we have nowadays.

Even though m-learning promises many advantages, it also has some shortcomings to be considered by the developers. Muh. Tamimuddin, a mobile application programmer and educational practitioner wrote in his blog that the variety of platforms applied in mobile phones requires the developers to develop one system which provides compatibility and interoperability. He also said that the developers must design and create school materials specifically for m-learning instead of derived from e-learning.

However, with all the advantages and weaknesses, the using of m-learning to help students in their studies will be inevitable in the next few years. They will be able to study anything, anywhere, and anytime using their mobile phone. No wonder if there will be a TV commercial telling a story of a student missing his class session and catch up his left lessons by making use of his mobile phone. Showing his big smile, he said: “I love missing my class session.”

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