Mobile technology as a learning tool for health students

Banner image indicating mobile technology tool

 

The use of mobile technology in the form of smart phones, tablets and laptops is thought to be ubiquitous.  Pedagogical trends often aim to exploit the perceived marriage of students to their ‘tech’ in order or to make pre-lecture activities (e.g. flipped) and off-campus learning both more enjoyable and more convenient.  There is a place for mobile solutions to take advantage of in-placement down-time, travel time and to capitalize on point-of-use learning. While the possibilities are as wide as imagination and funding allow, the premise on which success is based is that the majority of students can and will make use of it.  This project sought to establish the proportion of health professional students who use tech, what that tech tends to be, the types of applications that are popular and what the students preferences for new resources are.

The project found that students used their smartphones in lectures to access information, create records, or communicate with others. Information gathering was conducted in Canvas (the University's virtual learning environment, the library, and the internet.  The students also used their smart phones for non-learning related activities in the lecture theatre or classroom.  The most common non-learning related activity was the use of social media platforms.  Photographs were also taken of lecture slides and in practical sessions as a form of note taking.  The students also used their devices on placement.  Smart phones were primarily used to access information rather than to communicate.

Students had a lot of praise for their mobile devices; the convenience of having them, and their portability.   Because of the device information is rapidly accessible, and the amount of information available is vast.  Having a mobile device means that the student doesn’t have to carry textbooks or papers, or print out lecture notes.  Instead they can access documents, papers, search databases, the timetable, the VLE and other learning resources. Students also liked to be able to take notes quickly and be able to organize and retrieve those notes. The device was noted to improve efficiency by one student, and a number used the camera to record slides or practicals.

However, small screens were seen as a problem by the students –in particular reading journal articles and using the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE, Canvas). Students liked to look up the answer to questions, definitions and additional information to help them understand lectures but at the same time felt that having such easy access to the internet led to them being ‘lazy’ and not working out an answer for themselves. Students felt that mobile devices were a distraction, or were concerned about appearing rude when using a device as the lecturer might assume they were using social media or texting. Some students suffered from headaches that they attributed to screen time, and one student mentioned lack of sleep because of screen time. Students identified a difficulty with knowing what is available and would like better communication and support to use devices and programmes.

Project Category:

Education

Funding Allocated:

£1,593

Funding stream:

Education Enhancement Fund

People:

Amelia Swift, Health and Population Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences (a.swift@bham.ac.uk)

 

For more information, contact the projects office on hefi.projects@contacts.bham.ac.uk, quoting reference CSLP106.