In 2010, the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, MMU Cheshire, decided to completely revamp its existing Sport Science distance learning (DL) degree. After a lengthy investigative process, it was decided to deliver the new resources using the iPad and the iBooks app. While other institutions are also beginning to use the iPad to deliver their DL provision, to our knowledge, we are the only undergraduate programme to offer DL provision in this way. In a forward-thinking move, the Department supplied students with iPads free of charge. Development of our pedagogical vision over the time of creating the eBooks has lead us through the 4 stages of Puentedura’s (2006) SAMR model, where we are now firmly in the ‘transformation’ stages. Additionally, the focus has moved away from content delivery and towards interaction, with the emphasis on students rather than staff (Salmon, 2011). In fact, as Cochrane (2012) highlighted, the underpinning factor leading to success in mobile learning environments is an ontological shift by instructors from traditional ‘deliverers’ of information, to ‘facilitators’ of learning.
The iPad platform was chosen for its interactivity and ease of use. eBooks were created using Apple’s iBooks Author where we embedded in-house videos, web links, formative quizzes, Apps, and links to summative assessments on the University’s VLE. Furthermore, to minimise the reliance on Wi-Fi and to increase the flexibility in the mobile learning, many of the resources were embedded in the eBooks. This was particularly important for our Armed Forces students who are posted overseas; this feature maintains the usability even in extreme situations.
Students evaluated the first unit in Physiology by completing an online survey. Using a five-point Likert scale, 58% of students rated the quality of the eBook as a learning resource in the highest category. Nearly 90% of respondents rated embedded videos, for example from the Khan Academy, as features of the eBooks that aided their learning the most. Students also commented that the eBooks suited their style of learning. In 2013 the unit was assessed by three MCQ tests and grades for these were 5, 11 and 17% higher compared to 2012. Interestingly, tutors noticed that since students began studying using the iPads, email communication reduced.
The development process has been lengthy, with each eBook taking approximately 1 year to produce, with the design and writing being on top of the normal workload model. The department employed an eLearning Technologist for the project who filmed and edited material and constructed the eBooks. The first unit development started in 2012 and will be completed by 2016, after which, there will be a continual (re)development of the eBooks as new apps, technology and inspiration appears. To facilitate this, on-going staff development is important. Creating transformative learning activities, as in the SAMR model, is difficult and only until you explore the affordances offered by the device, can you create stimulating and interesting activities. As a result, staff developing eBook material receive an iPad. It is hoped that by integrating iPads into everyday life, the development of transformative activities will be facilitated and staff education becomes a ‘bottom-up’ process. Presently, staff often need inspiration and guidance when first producing activities.
Our experience of transforming DL provision is one that many can learn from. Given the pressures in HE on staff and students, innovative delivery methods that maintain academic rigour and satisfy the wider sector issues, are important to consider. Our journey can help to inform others looking to innovate their practice.
Cochrane, Thomas (2012). “An mlearning journey: mobile web 2.0 critical success factors.”International Journal of Handheld Computing Research 3(2): 44-57.
Puentedura, Ruben R (2006). “Transformation, Technology, and Education.” [online] Available at: <http://hippasus.com/resources/tte/> [Accessed 14 April 2014].
Salmon, G. (2011). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. New York: Routledge.
|Affiliation||Manchester Metropolitan University|