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Mobile Learning

What is Mobile Learning?

The term “mobile learning” can be applied to any learning activity that utilizes a mobile device (defined here as smartphone, tablet, or cell phone), from a simple text message to a sophisticated augmented reality experience. Mobile learning seeks to utilize the near ubiquity and unique capabilities of mobile devices to make course materials available to students wherever they are, and to create new kinds of learning experiences. Mobile learning is not merely shrinking your course on to a phone--it’s about creating opportunities for students to take it with them into the world.

What's Unique About Mobile Devices?

If you own a smartphone, it’s the one connected device you take with you wherever you go. Smartphone technologies, such as Internet access, built-in cameras and GPS open up a multitude of learning possibilities. These are the five “C’s” of Mobile Learning, as identified by Clark Quinn.

  • Content: Providing instructional materials that students can access anywhere, or in specific contexts (like instructor commentary for a museum trip).
  • Capture: Using mobile devices to capture images, video, sound, GPS coordinates, and ideas (as notes).
  • Communicate: Being able to stay in touch with classmates anywhere or during specific field activities.
  • Compute: Using Devices to assist in calculating, language translating, and other computational tasks.
  • Combine: Using the previous four functions together in interesting ways, like augmented-reality experiences that capture GPS location, orientation, and images, and supply relevant content to the learner.

But Not All Students Have iPhones or Androids!

Smartphone adoption is not yet 100 percent among students, but it is quite high and growing. Two-thirds of 18-24-year-old Americans own a smartphone, and targeted surveys by the Mobile Learning Initiative Suggest that as many as 90 percent of DePaul students own smartphones. But until everyone has a smartphone, here are some strategies to make sure mobile learning doesn't leave anyone out:

  • Students can be asked to pair up for field activities.
  • Many mobile-learning activities do not require a smartphone but only basic phone features like text messages and/or a camera.
  • Alternative activities or instructions can be provided for students who don't have or don't want to use their smartphones.
  • Academic units that rely heavily on mobile learning can develop a system for lending out devices to students.

Contact MoLI for a consultation on implementing these and other solutions for your course.

Mobile Learning Experiences

Mobile Tools

Students have many types of mobile devices, and the tools recommended on this page are available on the major mobile platforms. Many of these tools are also available on the web for students who do not have a smartphone or tablet. We recommend that if you develop a mobile-learning activity that utilizes a specific service, it should be available on iOS, Android, and the Web. (Contact MoLI if you have specific questions.)

Mobile Device Tutorial Videos

These videos are intended to introduce the basics of using a mobile device to those who are unfamiliar with them. They look at the two most popular mobile operating systems right now, iOS and Android. These demos show tablets, but the smartphone equivalents are very similar.

DePaul Apps

This section contains apps and mobile-friendly websites that DePaul provides, or from services DePaul subscribes to or licenses.


iDePaul is the official mobile app of DePaul University. It allows students to find important campus information, see upcoming DePaul events and news, view course dropbox assignments and discussion posts from Desire2Learn, and more. iDePaul is free and available for the following devices:

Desire2Learn Mobile

If you visit Desire2Learn from a mobile device, you should be redirected to a mobile-optimized version after you log in. Note that this site is limited to two core functions:

  • posting to course discussions
  • viewing course content, news, and events

View the Desire2Learn Mobile Quickguide, for instructions on navigating the D2L mobile site, viewing content, posting to discussions, and switching from the mobile view to the full D2L desktop site.

DPU Library: Mobile Hacks

Mobile Hacks lists mobile apps and mobile-friendly websites available for DePaul Library's article databases, including EbscoHost.

Other Apps

Mobile applications can support teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom. The list below represents a small percentage of the apps that might be useful for faculty and students.

While DePaul does not provide support for these apps, we provide these examples as a starting point for further exploration. Note that mobile apps can evolve and change very rapidly. When using any freely available app, be prepared for possible changes to user interface and features.

In-classroom Tools and Apps

  • Socrative is a student-response system that allows faculty to engage students in the classroom through real-time polling, quizzes, and other activities. Socrative is compatible with any web-enabled device, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
  • Poll Everywhere allows you to create real-time polls with either open-ended or quantitative questions. Students can respond through the mobile web, a laptop, or through text message.

Note-taking Apps

Note-taking apps allow students to enter text notes, capture images, audio, and video, record GPS coordinates, as well as organize and tag notes. These apps sync to the cloud so students can access their notes wherever they are, and notes can be shared with instructors and classmates.

Instructors can use these apps to design assignments for students go into the field to capture images, record audio interviews, or take geotagged field notes and share them with the instructor.

Study Tool Apps

  • StudyBlue is a free tool students can use to make and organize flashcards on their mobile device or a web browser. Instructors can also use StudyBlue to make flashcards and share them with students.
  • Mendeley is a PDF manager that allows users to generate citations and bibliographies, read and annotate PDFs, import and organize PDFs, and share papers and annotations securely. (Mendeley has developed their own iOS app with compatible Android apps such as Scholarley made by third-party developers.)

Translation Apps

  • Google Translate can be a helpful tool for anyone learning a new language. Students who are travelling—whether abroad or right here in one of Chicago's linguistically diverse neighborhoods—might find it especially useful. The app allows you to translate languages three ways: by entering text, capturing images containing text, or recording sound.

eReader Apps

All popular eReaders also have mobile versions so students can access course resources such as eBooks, PDFs, and other file types on their smartphones and tablets. In general, each student can choose whatever eReader app they want.

  • Nook: File Formats supported: PDF, ePub, Microsoft Word, JPEG, etc.
  • Kindle: File formats supported: Kindle, Mobi, PDF
  • iBooks (iOS only): File formats supported: PDF, epub
  • Bluefire Reader: File formats supported: PDF, epub. Works with eBooks from the DePaul University Libraries and most online bookstores.

Staying Safe with Mobile

Some instructors have expressed concern about students using mobile devices out in the field and the possibility of theft. These are some tips you can share with students to reduce the risk.

  • Try not to look like a tourist. If you look and behave like a tourist who doesn’t know where he or she is going, you’re more likely to be targeted.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be so engrossed in your mobile device that you ignore the world around you.
  • Try to avoid high-foot-traffic areas when actively using your device. Try to find a place where people aren’t actively walking near you.
  • Be careful near doors on the CTA, especially when they’re opening and closing. Some thieves on the "L" will snatch valuables and run off just as the doors are closing.
  • Go in groups of two or three.
  • If you don’t feel safe, put your device away.
  • When not in use, put your device in a secure location, like a zippered compartment or a pocket where you can feel it against your body
  • In case your device is lost or stolen, make sure it is protected by a password/pin/pattern lock so none of your personal information is at risk.
  • Download an app that will help you find your device like Find My iPhone or Prey.

Contact MoLI

If you are interested in Mobile Learning, we'd love to hear from you! The Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) was formed to explore mobile learning and support faculty who are interested in integrating mobile learning solutions into their courses at DePaul.

For more information about mobile learning at DePaul, contact MoLI is a collaborative effort between FITS, the DePaul Libraries, SNL, and CPE.

Further Resources

  1. Designing mLearning: Tapping Into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance

Clark Quinn's “Designing mLearning” is both a reference resource and an instructional tool for successfully integrating mobile-based technology devices into a pedagogical structure. Addressing the foundations of general learning concepts, Quinn prepares instructors for the idea that mobile technology is an integral aspect of academia, enhancing and expounding upon existing educational means.

  1. The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education

Addressing areas such as administrative concerns, as well as social media, “mLearning for Higher Education” targets solutions based on practical, existing considerations that exist for higher education organizations. Quinn offers a strategic means toward strengthening existing infrastructure, while creating a better learning environment for students, teachers and administration.

  1. NMC Horizon Report - 2013 Higher Education

The annual NMC Horizon Report reviews emerging technologies likely to have an impact on higher education. This year’s report lists both mobile apps and tablet computing as technologies that will make an impact in the next year, augmented reality as having an impact in two to three years, and wearable technology as having an impact in four to five years. For each trend, the report gives real-life examples of implementations in higher education where applicable and further resources.

  1. Educause MRC12: Mobile Teaching and Learning: Engaging Students and Measuring Impact

How well does the mobile platform engage students in the learning process? Given as a presentation for the EDUCAUSE Midwest Regional Conference 2012, this overview identifies means to assess the leveraging of mobile technology within various learning environments. Assessment regarding the utilization and implementation of mobile technology resources can play a key factor in the design, execution and offering of an online or hybrid course.

  1. Infographic: The Rise of Mobile

“The Rise of Mobile” is an evocative image combining visual representations of statistical information, such as graphs and charts, with contextual facts relating to the utilization of mobile devices, worldwide. In associating aesthetics with correlating facts, "The Rise of Mobile" infographic demonstrates that the mobile communication platform is an integral aspect of current life throughout the globe.

  1. Higher Ed Tech: Where K-12 and Consumer Collide

Frank Catalano taxonomizes the general movements creating the new, mobile-based learning infrastructures shaping academia. Broadly available, compact technology is shaping education on all fronts, from teachers and students to parents and outlying, external educational realms (libraries, PTA-like boards, academic-based groups, etc.). As technology is restructuring means of learning and referencing information, so individuals utilizing newer technologies are adapting digital tools for their own varied learning environments.

  1. ProfHacker: 6 Tips for Successful Mobile Video Assignments in the Classroom

This guest post on ProfHacker is from a journalism professor who has been having his students use mobile devices to record interviews for the last three years. He offers practical tips for producing the best results when having students use their mobile devices to record and upload.

  1. IDDBlog: What Mobile Platforms Can do for Higher Ed but Aren't (Yet)

Both mobile hardware devices, as well as the software applications running on said hardware, are evolving at an exponential pace. Consumer electronics offer a myriad of conveniences for individuals seeking out such mobile utilities. That being said, much of the technology comprising mobile platforms has yet to meet the needs for educational institutions. Why? Mr. Joppie explores several key technologies found within a multitude of mobile platforms and elucidates why consumer expectations differ from education necessities.